Learning to learn in the European Reference Framework for lifelong learning

Anne Pirrie, Ernst D. Thoutenhoofd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the construction of learning to learn that is implicit in the document Key Competences for Lifelong LearningEuropean Reference Framework and related education policy from the European Commission. The authors argue that the hallmark of learning to learn is the development of a fluid sociality rather than the promotion of fluent task-oriented behaviour. They also make the case for greater attention to the embodied, situated, affective and creative dimensions of learning to learn. These are considered in the context of the main trends in EU lifelong learning policy over the last two decades, which indicate a narrow instrumentalist approach to learning situated firmly within the human capital paradigm. The authors focus on the internal coherence of the Framework, and on the tensions inherent in learning outcomes' that emphasise personal fulfilment and wellbeing, social cohesion and economic competitiveness respectively. This article is the first step in clarifying the epistemological basis of learning to learn, and wresting it from narrow identification with self-regulated learning and meta-cognition, and ultimately challenging a narrow reading of human capital theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-626
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


  • key competences
  • learning to learn
  • self-regulated learning
  • lifelong learning


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