Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

As we draw to the end of what has been (for me at least) an eventful year, and look forward to whatever 2010 will bring, I'd like to wish my family and friends, colleagues and associates, and everyone who reads this blog, a peaceful and prosperous new year.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Informal and non-formal learning

I’ve just returned from an international exchange meeting in the Netherlands, discussing validation of informal and non-formal learning (through volunteering). It’s a big subject, not least because the terms of reference are open to a wide range of interpretation.

Informal learning is usually taken to mean learning that takes place inadvertently, even subconsciously, and is rarely planned. Non-formal learning is usually considered to be planned learning that takes place away from the classroom, and does not follow an accredited programme or lead to a qualification.

However, these definitions are set from the perspective of educationalists who see only classroom-based and certificated learning as “formal”. I beg to differ.

Surely any planned learning intervention, especially any that is subjected to summative assessment and confers some sort of award, ought to be regarded as formal? I certainly see organised work-based learning in this category.

My organisation offers a range of competence-based qualification programmes, involving assessment of evidence generated from work experience, with tutorial support mainly at a distance, and just occasional workshop events as milestones. Barely a whiff of the classroom, no educational institution, and no exams, but surely that’s still formal learning?

Next year, we plan to add e-learning to the mix, making it an even more sophisticated, multi-dimensional, learning experience. We don’t really stop to worry about how formal it is. But if I were to classify it, I certainly wouldn’t regard it as informal or non-formal.

What do you think?