Monday, December 11, 2017

Why Should L&D be the Champion of Informal Learning?
Although we tend to recognize learning that takes place in formal settings and within structured learning environments, we all participate in valuable learning informally in everyday life. We are constantly learning everywhere and at all times whether we are driving on the road, sitting in a classroom, attending a conference, participating in remote work, engaging with our community or spending time with our family. We learn from our experiences and we learn by reflecting on those experiences.

However, learning that happens outside formal settings is generally not understood, recognized, shared or made visible. Therefore, it is typically not valued. 

Why is it important that as adult educators and learning designers WE recognize that learning happens in so many and varied places in the lives of adults? Why should L&D be the first to recognize informal learning?

1. Firstly, people need to understand and appreciate these settings and broaden their own definition of learning and become more aware of how much they learn outside a ‘training room’. In our role as L&D and enablers of learning, we need to provide people with guidelines, frameworks and methods to become more aware of their informal learning accomplishments and help them recognize their learning across different settings. This is perhaps the best way to empower people to be more self-directed in their efforts and a way to give them more autonomy and control. We need to remind people about all the informal learning that takes place outside the training room and help them make their own informal learning more visible by recognizing it, assessing it and encouraging them to share it with others.

2. Secondly, as professionals who conceptualize, design, facilitate and sponsor learning, we need to acknowledge that there are many ways to learn and therefore many ways to teach. In all of this, it is critical that we create methods and processes that recognize prior learning and utilize varied opportunities to assess new learning. We cannot rely on formal, structured settings as the only way to create learning opportunities. In fact, we need to pay more attention to what is really happening in between these formal settings and how people are truly learning. We must curate and share meaningful and relevant resources including websites, blogs, videos and a community of other individuals who are keen to learn and share.

3. Finally, it is important to understand that participant interest and motivation may be very different in each learning setting. Therefore, as learning designers, we need to design learning interventions keeping in mind the desired outcome and level of motivation required. For example, for a given topic, if given a choice between learning in a formal setting versus learning in an informal setting via social learning, when are people likely to be more motivated? 

Understanding the concepts of setting (formal, informal, social, organizational and lifelong learning) helps create the right context for both adult learners and learning enablers. 

In our roles as educators, trainers, facilitators, L&D, HR, managers, leaders, etc we need to be the champions of informal learning.

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