Transformations Through Teaching and Learning: The Story of Maine’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

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Journal of Transformative Education


The history of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at University of Southern Maine (USM) presents a microcosm of lifelong learning institutes in the United States. These grassroots, largely volunteer-managed organizations providing educational opportunities for adults older than 50 started at the New School for Social Research in 1962. Recently, OLLI at USM conducted two research studies, one on the experience of peer teaching in lifelong learning institutes and another on the nature of the learning experience for students in such an organization. Both provide evidence of transformation possible for older adults through engagement in the learning process either as teacher or student. The next research, still in progress, looks at service learning as part of institute curricula. And finally, the authors pose questions about the future of lifelong learning institutes and the changes that may come as a result of the philanthropy of the Bernard Osher Foundation.