1.4.1 Formal and Informal Learning
Karen, Levene, and Shehnaz show that learning can happen in many different situations. These include work and family life, and not just places like school and college where more formal learning takes place. Much of the learning we do as adults happens because we want to, or have to, learn something. Karen’s way of coping with the filing is an example. At other times, we can learn without realizing it, and we may have little control over what happens. An example of this sort of learning could be when Shehnaz was caring for her mother-in-law.
When learning takes place with no formal teaching, it is often called “informal” learning. Karen experienced informal learning in her workplace, as she did not learn to file as a result of being taught by someone. In the same way, Shehnaz was not taught by an “expert” about how to look after her mother-in-law or her children. Both Karen and Shehnaz have learned through the experiences they have had, rather than being formally taught by a teacher.
Your learning on this course is midway between formal and informal learning. It is partly formal because you will be working through a course that is structured and asks you complete activities in a set order. However, part of our viewpoint on learning is that we do not think of you as an empty container that this course is going to fill with knowledge. To us, this is an important point, because for many people school-learning seems just like this—especially when it comes to learning lots of facts to pass exams. We believe that this sort of learning can make learners feel that they have very little to offer and that what they have learned in their own lives counts for very little. This feeling can be a formidable barrier to involvement in learning for many people.
Pause for a second and think whether you have experienced this sort of learning and what effect it has had on your life.
We approach your learning very differently, valuing your existing knowledge, skills, and experiences, and encouraging you to draw on all that knowledge and those skills and experiences when working through the course activities. In this way, the course combines both formal and informal learning. At various points in the course you have the option of sharing your learning with others in order to get some feedback from them. This is a form of informal learning that you probably have plenty of experience of already.
In the next unit we will step away from the process of learning to consider the skills that may be gained as a result of that process. In particular, we will look at the different ways in which the word “skills” is used in this course.