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Should learning be continual or continuous?

Should learning be continual or continuous

Continual is often confused with continuous. However, the meanings of these two words differ significantly and they cannot be used correctly as synonyms. Continuous refers to an action that continues in an unbroken fashion, as a continuous hum or buzzing sound. Continual refers to a repeated action that is periodically interrupted, as continual complaints about the dog from the neighbors. (Grammar Ramblings)

My first thought was that were I to describe ongoing learning to others, it should be continual - learning that is regular, but broken by non-learning periods.

But then I wonder if we aren't learning continuously anyway - processing our environment, reflecting, planning. Except, of course, when watching sit coms or Fox News.


I love this question from Leigh Ann Jones "Shelf Consumed" blog:

Conventional wisdom says the rich get richer while the poor continue to struggle.  Physics says a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

So does it follow that people who are motivated tend to get more motivated while the unmotivated generally stay that way? 


I love it when an unmotivated student finds his or her passion. It makes an otherwise grim week memorable. 

The mark of a great teacher is not one who imparts knowledge, but who motivates. 

But yes, Leigh Ann, some people are definitely harder to motivate than others.

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Reader Comments (5)

I think once you find a passion/flow in life, learning becomes continuous. When I was focused on becoming a varsity baseball coach, reading, watching, thinking in my free time was all about baseball. Now that I've moved on to other endeavors, my continuous learning has shifted. I still enjoy watching baseball...I really enjoy watching our 2-year old hit on a tee, but it's not all-incompassing anymore. Now it's writing by Scott McLeod, Tony Wagner, Doug Johnson and Miguel Guhlin that holds my attention, not Wade Boggs on hitting or Jack Leggett on fielding.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Mielke

And the reverse it true as well - it's hard to be excited about what doesn't know much about!


April 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Doug, thanks for your mention and for being a driving force in motivating librarians everywhere to think in new ways. As always, you are appreciated!

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh Ann Jones

I think the key word is "generally". Isn't it similar to this:

Good readers read more and become better readers while weaker readers read less and, over the years, fall farther (further?) behind - generally. And, often, the reading "reward" is intrinsic. Is it the same with motivation?

As you can see, I don't know.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob F.

Hi Bob,

I don't think any of us "know." It's just that that little fact doesn't keep some of us from writing as though we do!

Anything truly motivational is intrinsic if it is to be sustained. I wish more educators "got" that.

Thanks for the comment. Sorry for the delay in responding. Work is busy!


Thanks, Leigh Ann.

I always enjoy your Shelf-Consumed posts, even when I don't get the chance to comment.

All the best,


April 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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