between formal and informal learning
An issue we discussed many times is the linkage between formal and informal
learning. Yet in many of the concepts I hear it is very institutionally
tied to notions like the electronic classroom.
companies are demanding a better match between formal and informal situated
learning arrangements in supplier networks, with customers or clients or
in value chains. At the same time, the nature of skills demand is changing
in firms with closely integrated business strategies. Business and services
are in a process of continuous renewal. Learning is not only a process
of the acquisition of codified knowledge, but also a process of creating,
recreating and discovering new knowledge for the as yet unknown and unimagined
business of tomorrow. The institutional classroom, whether electronic or
not, cannot cope with that new learning and knowledge scenario. Future
scenarios point towards situated learning communities" (Shapiro
The Australian expert Stephen Billet has argued that the distinction between
formal and informal learning is not helpful. Work is formally organised
so that the learning that occurs through work is actually formally organised.
We just label it, perhaps unhelpfully, 'informal learning'.
There is a space between formal and informal settings: a lot of learning
is taking place in between there, in organisations or in class rooms. This
is happening due to some other factors which are not necessarily seen initially
as learning factors, and it's a question of trying to capitalise on them.
When people go out to talk to firms they can hear 'we learn a lot in our
work'. And you then have to go more in depth with what this actually means.
In a lot of contexts it means 'I learn to use this particular technology
or machinery or routine'. But there is not, within that organisation, any
time or space for discussing or reflecting upon this, in the sense of transferable
skills, for example by asking 'could it be done in some other way?', 'is
it appropriate or not?', 'in which context?'. So we need to look closer
what this informal learning is about, because it has such a variety of
applications when firms talk about it.
In our knowledge resource centre network, training organisations and trainers
are asking for programmes which they can share. This modifies our concept
of service: formally we had a lot of products in support of learning and
knowledge, nowadays we try to construct with our clients the solutions
for their programmes. First we identify their problems and needs, then
we design with them a programme for supporting an individual informal process
of developing competences; and after that we try to establish a contact
for monitoring this individual process. So we need to change from a product
oriented solution to a service oriented solution, and we are learning ourselves
how to achieve this.
Brussels Nov 01