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?
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