Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning (Infographic)

January 16, 2018

A few years ago I started exploring the differences between formal, non-formal and informal learning. The result was a couple of research reports and blog posts, including this one which has been viewed over 250,000 times. For those who like their information in bite-sized pieces, here is a quick synopsis of some of the key points for you in a handy infographic:

Formal, non-formal and informal learning.jpg

Here’s a free, downloadable .pdf of this infographic that you can use for your own research or teaching purposes: Formal, non-formal and informal learning.compressed

It is important to note that this infographic is intended to give a quick snapshot of some of the most basic differences. A quick snapshot like this gives you a quick picture, but not the whole picture. There are more differences than what one infographic can show. Also, the lines between formal, non-formal and informal learning can be blurry sometimes. Understanding the differences deeply will probably require more reading. To help you learn more, I’ve included a number of other posts, some of which link to full-length reports.

Check out these related posts:

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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How will Alberta’s second language students ever achieve proficiency?

March 11, 2013

SLIC logoLate last year I had an article published in the peer-reviewed journal, Notos, which is published by the Second Language and Intercultural Council (SLIC) of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. With permission of the publisher, I am sharing the abstract and article with you:

Abstract

Students of second and international languages in Alberta do not receive sufficient hours of instruction through formal classroom time alone to achieve distinguished levels of proficiency (Archibald, J., Roy, S., Harmel, S., Jesney, K., Dewey, E., Moisik, S., et al., 2006). This research study uses a constructivist approach (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Twomey Fosnot, 2005) to explore what is meant by proficiency and expertise in terms of language learning, by applying what has commonly become known as “the 10,000-hour rule” of expertise (Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R., & Tesch-Romer, C.,1993; Ericsson, K. A., Prietula, M. J., & Cokely, E. T., 2007; Gladwell, 2008).

Alberta’s French as a second language: Nine-year program of studies (Grade 4 to 12) is considered as an example. This paper argues that dedicated, self-regulated informal learning is necessary to supplement classroom learning in order to achieve 10,000 hours of dedicated practice necessary to develop high levels of proficiency or expertise, according to the definitions offered by American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Recommendations are offered to help learners and parents understand critical role of self-regulated, informal learning in achieving language proficiency.

Keywords

second language, international languages, Canada, Alberta, 10,000-hour rule, expertise, proficiency, ACTFL, Common European Framework of Reference, CEFR, expert, self-regulation, formal learning, non-formal learning, informal learning.

Citation

Eaton, S. E. (2012). How will Alberta’s second language students ever achieve proficiency? ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, the CEFR and the “10,000-hour rule” in relation to the Alberta K-12 language-learning context. Notos, 12(2), 2-12.

If you are interested in a copy of the full article, please contact me.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


10 Characteristics of Informal Learning

February 28, 2012

Before you ever go to school or take part in a Mom-and-tot program, informal learning starts the day you are born and continues on until the day you die. Here are the characteristics of informal learning:

1. Informal learning is never organized.

There are no set formulas or guidelines. Examples of informal learning include activities such as teaching your child the alphabet, or how to brush his or her teeth. There is no prescriptive program of study for this.

2. Informal learners are often highly motivated to learn.

Unlike the formal learning environment of school, informal learners are often eager and attentive. A teenager showing a friend how to find an “Easter egg” in a video game is an example of informal learning. The gamer really wants to find out how to achieve his goal, so he embarks on a journey to figure out how. His friend becomes his teacher.

3. Informal learning is often spontaneous.

Learning happens anywhere, any time. The learner is inspired to learn because of an immediate desire to know how to do something or understand a topic. Or an informal “teacher” sees an opportunity to share their knowledge or wisdom with someone else. For example, we were recently standing in line at the airport waiting to go through security. There was a family in front of us. The father, who was holding the hand of his young son, who was about seven or eight, used the posters on the wall of the security area to teach the boy to read new words. The boy sounded out the words and they talked about the content of the poster. This not only helped to pass the time during a long wait, it was a great example of spontaneous informal learning.

4. There is no formal curriculum.

There is no program of study or prescriptive methods. Whatever methods used are the one that the person teaching knows how to teach… often based on their own experience.

5. The “teacher” is someone who cares – and who has more experience than the learner.

Even the word “teacher” here is a bit of a misnomer because professional teachers all have credentials, certificates or a teaching license. In the informal learning context, those leading the learning are likely to be emotionally close to the person who is learning, such as a mother, father, grandparent or other caregiver. An adult child teaching an older parent how to use new technology is an example.

6. The world is your classroom

It is a myth that learning happens in a school or in a classroom. With informal learning, there is no classroom. Your home, the neighborhood park, the community and the world are the classroom.

7. Informal learning is difficult to quantify.

There are no exams and informal learning is difficult to quantify.

8. Often dismissed by academics and skeptics as being worthless.

Informal learning is often overlooked and not regarded as particularly valid learning. Some researchers and academics (though not all of us!) have the opinion that informal learning is less valuable than formal, prescriptive learning (due, in part, to the fact that it is difficult to quantify… and they believe that if it can not be quantified, it has no value).

Sarah Elaine Eaton education educator presenter keynote researcher Canada Alberta informal learning9. Essential to a child’s early development.

Learning your mother tongue is an excellent example of informal learning. Imagine if a child were not exposed to any language for the first 5 years. How difficult would that child’s development become? It is an experiment that, as far as I know, has never been done. It would be considered too risky and unethical. Everything a young child learns at home is informal learning, from how to brush their teeth to how to say the alphabet to good manners. Without informal learning, we would never be able to cope in a formal learning environment.

10. Essential to an adult’s lifelong learning.

Informal learning is a lifelong process. It does not end when a child enters school and the formal system “takes over”. On the contrary, children continue to learn at home. As we get older, we learn from our friends. As we enter the workforce, we learn from our co-workers. Into retirement, we still learn from friends and also from those younger than us. An adult learning to read and write from a volunteer literacy tutor is one example. A retired office worker learning from her grandson how to use an iPad is another example.

Informal learning is what keeps us vibrant, mentally active and interested in the world around us, as well as our own development. Just because informal learning can not be quantified easily does not mean that it is not worthwhile – or even essential to our development and growth as human beings.

Related posts:

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning (Infographic) https://wp.me/pNAh3-266

New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment

Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada

Formal, non-formal and informal education: What Are the Differences?

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: A podcast

Breathtaking Impact of Volunteers’ Contribution to Non-formal and Informal Literacy Education in Alberta

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning in the Sciences

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Family Literacy in Canada: What it means in terms of Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Learning

September 24, 2011

In March I was invited to speak on a Family Literacy Panel at the National Metropolis Conference. The conference focused on “the role of immigration in connecting Canada with the rest of the world.” Our panel looked like this:

Family Literacy and the New Canadian

Description: This Workshop will bring together a panel of language experts from across Canada that will outline the importance and value of heritage / international languages and illustrate how schools, academics, community organizations and government policies can assist in maintaining and developing the multiple literacies of all Canadians.

Organizer | Organisateur
Bernard Bouska, Canadian Languages Association
Khatoune Temisjian, Québec Heritage Languages Association / Association québécoise des langues d’origine

Participants

Sarah Eaton, University of Calgary
Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Learning: The Case of Literacy, Essential Skills and Language Learning in Canada

Maria Makrakis, TESOL International and International Languages Educators’ Association (ILEA), Ontario
Language and Literacy for New Canadian Families

Constantine Ioannou, Government of Ontario
Ontario Schools and Communities Can Reflect the Languages of our Families

Khatoune Temisjian, Québec Heritage Languages Association / Association québécoise des langues d’origine
Literacy and Heritage/international Languages in Quebec: An Overview

Michael Embaie, Southern Alberta Heritage Languages Association (SAHLA)
Successful Implementation of Heritage / International Language Programs in Canada: Selected Strategies and Case-Studies

Chair | Modérateur
Marisa Romilly, Society For The Advancement of International Languages (SAIL British Columbia)

Discussant | Commentateur

Bernard Bouska, Canadian Languages Association

I promised to post the paper once it was available. It’s now been archived in the ERIC database. Download a copy here.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Lifelong Learning (life map)

September 19, 2011

I’ve given a number of presentations this year on formal, non-formal and informal learning and how these concepts relate to lifelong learning, literacy and adult education. Here’s an infographic on how the average North American (if there is such a thing) might experience these three contexts for learning throughout their lifetime.

View this document on Scribd

Download your own .pdf copy here: Characteristics of Non-Formal Learning (.pdf)

Related posts:

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


7 Ways to Maintain or Improve Your Foreign Language Skills Every Day During the Summer

June 13, 2011

Build your learning skillsSchool’s almost out! How are you going to retain all the language skills you’ve learned over the school year? Or better yet, build on them?

Formal language programs (the kind delivered in classrooms around the world) are often highly structured and follow a prescribed curriculum. We know that language learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom! The summer is a fantastic way to build on that by incorporating informal learning and exposure to authentic language.

Here are some ideas to help you maintain — and even build — your abilities in all four skill areas (reading, writing, speaking and listening) in the languages you love to learn. There are seven suggestions for weekly activities. If you do rotate through them, committing to doing one every day, by the time you’re at the end of the list, you can start the list over the next week.

1. Learn a song a week

Think about a song you really love in the language you’re learning. Look it up. Find the lyrics on the Internet and print them out. Listen to the song and sing along with the words. Then, challenge yourself to try and remember the words without looking at the lyrics sheet. Play the song every day at least once. Listen to it while you’re driving, waiting for the bus, making breakfast or out for a run. Listen to it over and over again until you can sing it all the way through without looking at the lyrics.  The next week, choose a new song and repeat the process. By the end of the summer, you’ll have a decent repertoire of songs in your target language! (Skill area: listening)

2. Watch a movie a week in the target language

Watching movies is a great way to get exposure to authentic language. Turn on the sub-titles if you need to. If you’re up for a challenge, leave the sub-titles off and just enjoy the film. Set yourself a goal such as: Watching movies by the same director or watching a different genre of movie every week. Watch an action movie one week and a comedy the next, for example. Keep notes about the movies you watch and any new words or phrases you’ve picked up. (Skill area: listening)

3. Read one news article a week once a week in the target language

News is a fantastic way to get exposure to authentic language – and learn what’s going on in the world. There are a few different ways to read the news. You can buy a foreign language newspaper and choose one article a week to work on. Or once a week, you can go on line and find a news article on a topic you’re interested in and read it through. Read for content and meaning, trying to get the gist of what it is saying. Then read it again to get the deeper meaning and the details. If you prefer a more structured approach, dissect the article to find the “5 Ws” (Who? What? When? Where? Why?) in the article and write them down on a separate sheet of paper. Find one or two new vocabulary words an add them to your list. (Skill areas: reading and possibly writing, if you choose to incorporate it).

4. Volunteer an hour or two a week for a language exchange with a native speaker

Language learners really benefit from working with native speakers. Check out programs at your local library or immigrant services organization to see if they have language exchange programs. These programs match people of two different languages so they can enjoy informal conversation and learn from each other. You spend an hour with that person speaking your native language in order to help them learn it. They, in turn, spend an hour with you teaching you their native language. It’s a great way to meet new friends and build your conversation skills. Having a regularly scheduled weekly appointment helps to ensure that you’ll commit to each other and to learning. (Skill area: speaking)

5. Once a week, use a self-directed activity book or online exercises

To help you practice your skills in a more structured way, get yourself a self-directed activity book or find an Internet site that has free online activities. (One of my favorites is Spanish Now.) Be sure to look for a resource that includes answers so you can check your own work. Once a week, sit down with your work book or at the computer, complete one unit in the activity book. Check your answers. If you made errors, challenge yourself to figure out what they were and how to build on those areas. It’s OK to review concepts you already know and it’s even better if you try to build on your current skills by delving into new areas such as more complex verb conjugations or sentence structures. (Skill areas: Reading and writing)

6. Build your own vocabulary list

Many of the activities listed above give you the chance to pick out new words, write them down and learn them. You can write them in a notebook, create your own flash cards or do whatever works best for you. It is important to write them down, say them aloud and try to incorporate them into your speech. If you’re stuck for ideas, look around your house. Do you know all of the words for household items? Food? Clothing? You can build your own theme lists, if the idea appeals to you. Take the time to learn words that may not appear in your course textbooks. Chances are, those words will come in handy some day! (Skill areas: Reading and writing)

7. Once a week, check out a new restaurant, store or cultural event that specializes in your target culture or language

Choose one day a week, say, Thursday, where you make a point to try a restaurant you’ve never been to where they serve authentic food from someplace where your target language is spoken. Try to speak to the staff in the target language. Ask questions about the menu. Alternately, find the shops around your city that import food an other goods from the countries where your target language is spoken. Find out where they are located and go there. Explore the store and find one or two new products to try. Talk to the staff and tell them you are curious and want to learn. Chances are, they’ll be pleased to help. Finally, make a point to find out about cultural events such as festivals, concerts, dance performances or plays in your target language. Go. Have fun. Soak it all in. Experience authentic sounds, smells and tastes and make these part of your language experience. Find out what’s going on in your local community and become a part of it. This may be easier to do in urban areas than in smaller towns, but it may be worth a trip into town, too. (Skill areas: Reading, writing, speaking and listening.)

We know that the more time we invest in learning, the more successful we’ll be over the long run. This summer, make your language learning experience your own. Have fun with it!

Related posts

How Long Does it Take to Learn a New Language?

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: What Are the Differences?

The many faces of non-formal learning

Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada

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Share this post: 7 Ways to Maintain or Improve Your Foreign Language Skills Every Day During the Summer http://wp.me/pNAh3-K7

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment

June 9, 2011

Thanks to the Ontario Literacy Coalition (OLC) for inviting me to be part of their webinar series. In case you missed the program this week on “New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: Implications for Evaluation and Assessment” you can watch the recording here:

Here’s the link to program, too: http://youtu.be/6iH_ikNmn9I

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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