7.3 Non-formal and Informal Learning
Learning of course also happens outside a formal classroom and without the aim of gaining a certain qualification. When learning is organised and there is the intention of extending knowledge or skills, it is called non-formal learning. Its main goal is to inform the learners, not to add to their professional or scholar qualification, for example in a hobby class or in a company internal training.
But most of our main learning processes happen without us even noticing or making a conscious decision to do so. This is called informal learning. We learn in everyday life for example by practising our skills maybe by cooking a meal, working with a specific software or playing football, by observing others through role model learning for example how they approach a situation and the consequences they experience, by communicating in social situations, and when we are reading a book, watching TV or playing a game. There is hardly a situation that does not have the potential to teach us something about ourselves, others and how the world works. This kind of informal learning is hard to grasp, because sometimes we have this “Aha!” moment and we consciously know that we have learned something, but many more times the learning happens under our radar, completely unconsciously. What is extremely important is to be aware that these informal learning experiences and life lessons learned in such settings can be made more visible.
Reflective questions for the reader:
- Think about your own learning experience – how much of what you know today did you acquire in formal, non-formal, or informal settings?
- In which ways do you think that personal hobbies and everyday “life lessons” can be useful professionally?