Lifelong learning in obstetrics and gynaecology: how theory can influence clinical practice
Lifelong learning refers to the systematic acquisition, renewal, updating and completion of knowledge. It is synonymous with the term 'self-directed learning'. This is a new educational strategy meant to consolidate knowledge in a fashion that is reproducible for a lifetime with successful application to both known and unknown clinical exercises. The development of lifelong learning is based on the principles of andragogy (autonomy and independence in one's learning activities), reflection and learning from experience. This paper deals with the development of these theories culminating in the advent of self-directed learning. Evidence to support experiential, reflective and self-directed learning is provided, including the use of rating scales. An example from obstetrics is used to highlight the application of these principles. There are barriers to adopting a new educational paradigm, however, lifelong learning remains an excellent tool for continuous professional development.