Oral Health Group

Life-Long Learning

October 31, 2019
by James Yacyshyn

Have you ever thought about the process of learning? How we learn, why we learn what we do, the mechanics of learning? What does learning mean to you? How does it impact you? What opportunities will you have because of what you’ve learned, how will it change you, and who will you become?

Lifelong learning embodies a notion of perpetual change and ongoing development. It is as much a discussion of the journey, as it is about the content that we experience along the way.


When we are students in grade school, a lot of foundational material is defined for us. We learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also socialization, interaction, and how to learn. For us all, this is a period that is critical to our development as individuals. But, have you ever asked yourself, why do we like certain subject matter versus others? Is it the content, the way it is delivered, or by whom? When you think back, who was your best teacher? Have you ever thought about why you feel they were the best?

While I was working on my Bachelor of Science degree, I took a history of the English language course as part of my prerequisites. It was one of those side courses you take to boost your GPA for your admittance qualifications to Dental School. It wasn’t necessarily a course I was seeking out based on my own interest. As such, I went in with little appreciation for the content I was about to learn, or even how this course might change me. What I discovered was a professor who brought this material to life. His passion, his means of delivery, his ability to convey this information in a way that resonated with me, and this class, has stuck with me. This experience is one that I think about when I am lecturing, or setting up courses for my continuing dental education participants.

We all have experiences like that with educators, for good and bad, where it’s important to reflect on the learning process. It’s important because we can learn a lot about ourselves. When learning isn’t prescriptive or forced, how do we like to learn? What are our learning preferences? Do we learn better in big groups, small groups, or on our own? Do we like scheduled, live, interactive, visually stunning, or from a text, or self-reflective? Should the learning be tied to experiential or hands on? These are just a few of the questions we can use to delve into our preferences, and figure out more effective learning strategies for ourselves. We also need to know our goals and objectives; what and why do we want to learn? It’s important to think about this as a student, but also post-graduation when there is no shortage of lifelong learning and continuing educational offerings to consider. As one reflects on these questions, we can start to look for course offerings that align with our goals and learning styles, to help us realize our potential and passion. Self-actualization is the realization of ones talents and potentialities, which the right education can help you accomplish.

About The Author

James Yacyshyn Dr. James Yacyshyn obtained his Bachelor of Science degree, with honours, from the University of Alberta. He then obtained his Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree, with Distinction, from the University of Alberta. Upon graduation, he went on to pursue and complete a Masters in Applied Science Engineering, from the University of Toronto. Dr. Yacyshyn joined the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, as an Assistant Clinical Professor. He was appointed Director of Continuing Dental Education, and had cross appointments to the Alberta Research Council and Faculty of Medicine.

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