It's that time of the week again when we add more edtech jargon to our vocabulary. This week's special: Formal, Non-Formal, and Informal Learning.
At first glance, it's seems easy to differentiate and define what all three are. Common sense dictates that formal learning equates to classroom and schooling. Things get a little complicated though while non-formal and informal learning merit anything outside the classroom.
Formal learning consists of a set agenda, non-negotiable objectives, and carefully planned activities all designed to bring out expected learning outcomes. Formal learning can also be called 'structured learning.' Perfect examples of formal learning are classroom instruction and workshops wherein there are expected learning outcomes after the session. Training/facilitator guides, grades (GPA), certifications, and evaluations are the usual measuring tools for formal learning.
Non-formal learning, on the other hand, also consists of a set agenda and objectives; however, the approaches and activities are done outside the classroom environment. Non-formal learning can also be called 'semi-structured learning.' Examples of such are field trips, meetings, conferences, symposiums, team building activities, and such. It may seem that these activities are done mostly for fun - something to distract the learner (and teacher) from the monotony of the classroom. Look at them more closely and you will see that there's a structure, and there are still objectives (but are negotiable based on the learner's experience), and expected outcomes - though the means to attain them are more 'relaxed'.
Finally, Informal learning is the exact opposite of both. Also called 'unstructured learning,' there are no set agendas, there are no learning objectives (or are based on what the learner demands to know), and the outcome is, more often than not, immeasurable -only determined by the learner's understanding of the subject matter. Examples of such are asking an expert in online communities, watching Youtube videos, asking a friend a question, reading newspapers, or watching television.
Here's a video from Jeannie Crowley to further explain the difference between formal and informal learning approaches.
If you have anything to add to our definition or lists of activities feel free to do so through the comments section below. Cheers!