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All a bit of a Blur.. Formal or Informal Learning? November 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauraduff @ 7:37 pm

So 80% of Learning is meant to be Informal Learning. What does Informal Learning mean? To me it means Learning outside the classroom, outside of the “typical educational setting.”


Informal learning (2) is the learning that comes from being in a learning situation but which is outside the formal learning and teaching settings, including learning from casual conversations over coffee and use of new technologies to access information.
Merriam & Caffarella (1999, p.21) defines formal learning as: formal learning takes place in educational institutions and often leads to degrees or credit of some sort.

Facebook, im sure most would agree is an informal learning tool as is most social media…yet what happens if this is brought into the classroom?

If I learnt something on Facebook during a Seminar does this count as Formal or Informal Learning? For Example, for my E-Learning Module I have had to use this blog, yet I have learnt through facebook how to use it through speaking to other students (Yes, some of this has been in the classroom) and hopefully it will lead to me passing my degree!!!

Another example of social media is these blogs. Yes, Our Lecturer encouraged us all to start a blog and I must admit I have now found it very useful and have learnt a lot reading around different peoples blogs! So is this Formal Learning? As Im guessing our Tutor had an intention at the beginning to get us all reading and writing blogs to enhance our learning, yet we are doing it through an informal learning tool..and outside of the classroom but with direction from our lecturer? Confusing isn’t it!

My project to researh into Video online sharing tools.. I am wondering, when a teacher brings this into the classroom is this counted as Formal or Informal Learning, or maybe a bit of both?! Any input or links to other blogs would be great!!





7 Responses to “All a bit of a Blur.. Formal or Informal Learning?”

  1. Colin Steed Says:

    I am not a fan of compartmentalising learning – formal, informal, blended for example – and the unscientific 80% informal 20% formal that everyone is talking about. Learning is learning whether it’s in a physical classroom, live online, or doing what you and your readers are doing, sharing and learning, collaborating, questioning, debating etc.

    Just my view Laura. Keep up the good work here, your blog is rocking!

    • lauraduff Says:

      Thankyou for reading my blogs Colin.

      I agree… Learning is Learning and I dont really see why it has to be boxed and put into a subject yet a lot of things I seem to be reading talk about how great social media is because it is Informal Learning. If its brought into the classroom i assume it would be called Formal – that word just seems to take the fun out of it!

      • I agree with Colin! I HATE this idea about different types of learning and different types of learners (VAK makes me angry!). Aren’t we learning all the time in a hundred different ways? If social media helps us learn then surely it’s because it is used in an engaging way not just because it’s ‘social’?

        I really really don’t like hearing pupils say “I’m a kinaesthetic learner so I won’t learn by talking, sir” – they’re being trained to switch off the moment they aren’t using ‘their’ learning style … in my opinion VAK has a lot to answer for! And this idea about ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ learning is even worse! I can imagine it now: “Sir, I don’t understand this because I’ve already learnt my 30% in class today!”

        … Maybe I’m a cynic?

      • lauraduff Says:

        I was taught in a strict school where we had lots of tests to see what types of learner we were and what way to learn and revise was best for us! At the time seemed great…looking back it wasn’t!!!

        I don’t really like the idea of Formal and Informal learning – it all seems a bit pointless to me.. Why does it need a label!

  2. David Price Says:

    None the less, labels are useful for challenging the status quo of ‘howo things are done around here’. For an example of how informal learning practices can be brought into the classroom check out
    And there’s the concept of ‘school as basecamp’ in the Learning Futures project. Worth checking out.
    Good luck with the blog!

    • I think we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet here. Labels are sometimes helpful for clarification, but the idea that learning is not a continuum is daft. Unfortunately, ever since others took on the 18th Century Prussian model for education (the USA was an early adopter) with its curriculum and set subjects we’ve been locked into the idea that education consists of a series of formal events – and that what happens in classrooms is ‘learning’. Of course both of these are bunk. Learning is a continuous process and most of what happens in classrooms (especially in corporate and adult education) is more information transfer than ‘learning’ – which better people than me describe as ‘behaviour change’. That comes about through experiences, practice, conversations and reflection…..

      The recent focus on ‘informal’ learning (a terrible word in my view – ‘informal’ learning is neither haphazard nor random) has tended to reinforce the misplaced idea that learning is compartmentalised. That’s a pity. I find it even amongst academics, who sometimes kick against the 70:20:10 Framework that I do a lot of work with. 70:20:10 is a case-in-point for useful ‘labelling’ – approx 70% of adult learning occurs in the workplace as part of experience and practice; approx 20% through ‘others – conversations, informal mentoring and coaching, having the right networks etc. etc.; and 10% through formal training. Of course these percentages are contextual and will vary, but the framework is useful – it’s a reference model, not a recipe and of course there’ll be overlap and muddy areas..

      ‘Informal’ learning, in my eyes, is all development that is self-directed and undirected (see slide 29 here

      That said, I absolutely agree with Colin and Dan – using labels inflexibly has a lot to answer for, not just VAK, but Learning Styles, NLP approaches etc. etc.

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