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Posts Tagged ‘formal vs. informal learning’

I’ve been going back to find out where the statistics came from about the percentage breakdown between formal and informal learning.  It seems the origins go back to a 1995 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  But as I looked at that study and some of the more recent ones, I discovered that there really isn’t a uniform agreed upon definition of informal learning.  The line between formal and informal learning is blurred even more as new forms of delivery are developed.

I think it might be more useful to exchange the terms formal and informal for structured and unstructured.  You also might considered learning by design and learning by trial and error.  Take something like on-the-job training.  It can be done in a highly structured way or as informally as go work with Joe for the day.  When you go work with Joe for the day, it’s often highly unstructured and different every time.  It become informal learning.

Interestingly, when you start to add structure to informal learning such as identifying and guiding practice and experience, it’s really more like formal learning.  We think this is one of the fastest ways to accelerate learning.  We like to put all practice and experience on a learning path and then write directions on how it should happen.  This helps eliminate the waste of trail and error learning, and takes time out of the process by eliminating a number of wrong turns.

So what’s the point?  I say dump the terms formal and informal because they are too vague to be helpful and substitute structured and unstructured.  Then try to eliminate all the unstructured learning.

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