Formal, informal and non-formal learning

18 December 2006

I have been musing around the nature of formality in learning and reading some interesting angles eg from Stephen Downes and Graham Attwell. Their arguments, respectively that informal learning is not formless and that informal and formal learning are equally valid, make good sense to me. In the context of my study what a students learn at school about ICT and what they outside of ICT lessons both contribute to their learning. Whether the formal can ever keep up with the informal though is a matter of conjecture. Formal means tested, assessed according to some external criteria (at least it tends to include those things, if not mean them exactly). These take ages to develop and standardise. They cannot keep up. Where is the GCSE that looks at use of wikis?

Anyway… I would like to add that there is a third way. Non-formal. That which is learnt in school but not in formal lessons. And then there is the argument… is that different to the informal learning out of school? I believe it is. In ICT I would categorise ot as the learning to use ICT to support learning (eg in learning English one might use ICT) but which is not assessed. It is incidental to the formal learning. It is not part of the learning objectives framework for the lessons, subjects, students. This comes from reading Michael Eraut from way back in 1994. But it is still relevant today. This is shown by the OECD’s website on the terms. Which is non-formal and which is informal is an interesting semantic sideline. It is interesting to note the OECD placing certification (ie assessment) at the heart of this divide.

Update (21/12) – literature review… and again on 14/01/07… see this blog post.