Lifelong Learning in Social Work: A Qualitative Exploration with Practitioners, Students, and Field Instructors

  • Pauline Jivanjee
  • Kimberly Pendell Portland State University
  • Laura Nissen
  • Charlotte Goodluck
Keywords: Social work education, workplace, lifelong learning, motivation


In the context of rapid change in social work practice related to policy, research findings, and theoretical developments, faculty are challenged to prepare students to engage in lifelong learning, a concept that has not been well-articulated in social work education. This article reports on an exploratory study of students,’ social workers,’ and field instructors’ perspectives and experiences of lifelong learning. Based on focus group discussions, findings reveal the multi-faceted nature of lifelong learning, the personal characteristics and motivations of lifelong learners, and the roles of social work faculty and workplace environments in supporting learning. Implications address the roles of instructors and social work programs in giving students and social workers tools and opportunities to engage in continuous learning and professional growth.

Author Biography

Kimberly Pendell, Portland State University
Social Work and Social Sciences Librarian, Assistant Professor