Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

The Ethics of Lifelong Learning

Richard G. Bagnall.

Contemporary lifelong learning theory calls for learners to be responsive to the learning opportunities and expectations in all of life’s situations. Learning, in other words, is to be both ‘life-long’ and ‘life-wide’. Particular lifelong learning contexts – ‘lifelong learning organisations, communities, cities, etc. – are valued as such to the extent that they facilitate such responsiveness. So understood, contemporary lifelong learning theory is argued here to presuppose a situational approach to morality and ethics. Such an approach calls for the exercise of ethical skill in a manner that is sensitive and responsive to its context. It is thus action-based and it tends to be outcomes-oriented, but only to the extent that is appropriate to a given cultural context of social action. It is a matter of technique, in which traditional moral or ethical concepts tend to be of secondary concern or may be counter-ethical. Contemporary lifelong theory thus has important implications for the development of ethical expertise in lifelong learning and for the professional development of educators.


Richard G. Bagnall  (Australia)
Head of School
School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education
Griffith University

Richard G. Bagnall is an Associate Professor in Lifelong Education at Griffith University. He is currently serving as Head of the School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education. His scholarly work focuses on the ethics of educational policy, management. He has published over 60 research papers in that field. Recent publications include Discovering Radical Contingency: Building a Postmodern Agenda in Adult Education (New York: Peter Lang, 1999) and 'Locating lifelong learning and education in contemporary currents of thought and culture' (In D. Aspin, J. Chapman, M. Hatton & Y. Sawano (Eds), International Handbook of Lifelong Learning. Dordecht: Kluwer Academic, 2001). He has recently completed a book of 21 fables, each with an accompanying scholarly commentary, focusing on ethical issues raised by contemporary trends in post-compulsory adult and higher educational policy and management (to appear shortly as Cautionary Tales in the Ethics of Lifelong Learning Policy and Management: A Book of Fables. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic). His research work has been supported by various research grants, including grants from the Australian Research Council.

  • Lifelong Learning
  • Ethical Practice
  • Situational Ethics

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)