11 Sep 2006 ............... Length about 600 words (6,000 bytes).
(Document started on 10 Sep 2006.)
This is a WWW document maintained by
Steve Draper, installed at http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/~steve/best/informal.html.
You may copy it.
How to refer to it.
Web site logical path:
Department of Psychology,
University of Glasgow.
Formal learning is doing a course for accreditation in an institution.
What is informal learning? Several dimensions.
List 2: Independent dimensions?
- Intention. Does the learner intend to learn (formal)? We learn our first
language unintentionally (informal); and our first maths in the sense of the
Piagetian conservations. N.B. deep learning is characterised by learners
saying they are not trying to learn but trying to understand
- Teacher intention or learner intention? Is the topic one required by the
teacher (formal), or desired by the learner regardless of the teacher
(informal)? (Is the choice of content intrinsically or extrinsically
[The two dimensions above are in fact independent. You can have cases of
learning that is not intended by the learner, but is intended by the teacher,
who conceals the intention fromn the learner. In fact, probably most
professional kindergarten "instruction" is of this kind.]
- How far is the learning scripted? i.e. are the learning activities formally required, or informally and perhaps unconsciously chosen. A course
- Have a certificate but nothing else fixed e.g. a PhD.
- Certificate and curriculum (and exam): no other activities required
- Some learning activities required e.g. compulsory lecture attendance,
but most time spent individually in the library etc.
- All learning activities organised, no homework required.
- How much is the learning connected to the learner's own experience?
Formal = disconnected, abstract; informal = connected to existing personal
experiences. In Laurillard's model, formal would in this sense be an
incomplete, unsatisfactory learning process compared to informal.
- Implicit pre-requisites. All courses assume things, usually never
articulated e.g. that the learners understand English, that they can read,
that they can write, that they can write essays. That they are skilled in
group interactions neither talking all the time nor being quiet all the
time. That they spent thousands of hours tinkering with mechanical things in
their childhood. These pre-requisites are often acquired informally: there
are no courses on them.
Thus these things are learned, and are essential to formal learning; yet are
informally learned in every sense. If we implicitly assume these things,
we exclude students without them [
but if we don't assume and build on them, then we a) get enormously less
learning done; b) patronise students; c) fail to connect to their own
experience and prior learning.
- Mending cars: a childhood spent doing things mechanical.
- The learning is assessed or not. (Cf. extrinsically or intrinsically
- The learning is assessed in a fixed way e.g. unseen exam, vs. "informal"
learning with much more open kinds of assessment.
- The learning is accredited or not.
- Learning objectives are fixed, vs. negotiated, vs. invented by the learner.
- Learning activities are fixed, vs. negotiated, vs. invented by the learner.
- Teacher does exposition OR teacher doesn't (but just sets objectives,
structures/supports activities by learners to find materials). [Betty Collis
- Teaching has an informal atmosphere, in the hope that learners will bring up
their relevant personal experiences that relate to the subject. [Christine
- Formal = accredited. Informal = intentional but not accredited. Non-formal
= what we all do in picking up information as a side effect of other
activities. [Peter Sloep definition]
- Intentional learning, or not.
- Discussion over coffee: not organised by teachers, but important contribution
to officially set objectives. I.e. the learning activity is informal, the
learning objectives are formal.
Web site logical path:
[Top of this page]