Informal education



Informal education is a general term for education that can occur outside of a structured curriculum. Informal education encompasses student interests within a curriculum in a regular classroom, but is not limited to that setting. It works through conversation, and the exploration and enlargement of experience. Sometimes there is a clear objective link to some broader plan, but not always. The goal is to provide learners with the tools they needs to eventually reach more complex material. It can refer to various forms of
alternative education Alternative education encompasses many pedagogical approaches differing from mainstream pedagogy. Such alternative learning environment The term learning environment can refer to an educational approach, cultural context, or physical setting ...
, such as
unschooling Unschooling is an informal learning that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curios ...

homeschooling Homeschooling or home schooling, also known as home education or elective home education (EHE), is the education of school-aged children at home or a variety of places other than a school. Usually conducted by a parent, tutor, or an onl ...
, autodidacticism (self-teaching), and
youth work Youth work is community support activity aimed at older children and adolescents. Depending upon the culture and the community, different services and institutions may exist for this purpose. In the United Kingdom youth work is the process of cre ...
. Informal education consists of accidental and purposeful ways of collaborating on new information. It can be discussion-based and focuses on bridging the gaps between traditional classroom settings and life outside of the classroom.


People interpret information differently, and therefore a structured curriculum may not allow all learners to understand the information. Informal education is less controlled than the average classroom setting, which is why informal education can be so powerful. Informal education can help individuals learn to react to and control different situations and settings. In addition, it combines social entities that are important for learning. Informal education may be viewed as the learning that comes as a part of being involved in youth and community organizations. This type of education is a spontaneous process, which helps people to learn information in a new way. It helps to cultivate communities, associations and relationships that make for a positive learning environment.


Some characteristics of informal education are: # Informal education looks to create or deepen situations where people can learn, explore and enlarge experiences, and make changes. # Provides an environment where everyone can learn together and can scaffold off of one another. # Understanding that the activity can be based on any form of learning, the teaching does not have to be deliberate, more so implied. We give students the tools to do complex materials over time, rather than teaching the complex material and then giving the tools. # Focuses on the social aspects of learning, and how important collaborative learning is. # The tools students are given are tangible for the processes in which they will be applied. #Bridges the gap between school and life. # Allows students a choice in learning, and how to approach the material. # Make learning accessible in every day life and in the future. # Informal education is driven by conversation and interacting with others.


# Responsiveness when interacting with the environment. # Possibility to act freely in unknown situations. # Possibility for an individual to learn without any obligations or restrictions. # Allows for free choice and changes in interests. # Ability to create ones own # Bridges gap between theory and practical


# Work for the well being of all. # Respect the unique value and dignity of each human being. # Dialogue. # Equality and justice. # Democracy and the active involvement of people in the issues that affect their life. (Jeff and Smith 2005:95-6) #Informal education focuses on values. There is no curriculum or guiding plan for a lot of work.

In indigenous African communities

Informal education has been the practice of indigenous communities in Africa as long as people have lived there. The tradition of African education has long been closely intertwined with the daily life of the African people with the idea that children "learnt what they lived". The philosophy of traditional African education suggests that one’s education cannot be separated from the everyday life and the "curriculum" is thus considered "a way of life" with the ultimate goal being to create a "complete individual, a lifelong learner". The knowledge and practices that are important to the community are generally passed down through the sharing of memories and participation in cultural activities. Their education system serves as "the information base for the community, which facilitates communication and decision-making". Similar to other indigenous communities such as the Chillihuani in Peru, African education is created with goals in mind but is not limited to typical classroom settings; students continually participate in various learning activities as they grow in the community. The culture within traditional African communities contain methods of learning. Through song and dance children learn more about their language as well as how to read and write. Oral traditions are used to teach children about history and morals as well as other forms of culture and practical skills for survival. In northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, the children of the Maasai pastoralists learn skills such as "where to find water and green shrubs that can be fed to young calves" in case of drought. Children are encouraged to show respect to their elders and through this, children learn how to show respect through their actions and words. A child can even learn the circumstances of their birth through their names. ''Onipede,'' a Yoruba name in Nigeria, suggests that the child was born soon after the death of a family member. Through their traditional science, children learn how to contribute to health and food production. everything that is a part of their life is used as a means to learn about themselves, their communities, and their culture.


If a person masters a skill by becoming deeply engaged in solving a problem, then giving students real world issues or opportunities to solve problems in their own lives and communities would significantly motivate and help them to master new concepts. Teaching students new scientific concepts by using cultural tools could eliminate the time spent trying to figure out whether concepts are useful or not. This may motivate learners and help them to master what we teach from the start. If we applied English and grammar lessons to effectively communicate with others in the community, students would be more inclined to effectively master these concepts since they would be using them for individual or group purposes. Finally, formal schooling, unlike an informal school setting, discourages students from learning and problem solving on their own.

See also

* Nonformal learning *
Formal learning Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits. These aims may include the development of understanding, rationality, kindness, and honesty. Vari ...
Informal learning Informal learning is characterized "by a low degree of planning and organizing in terms of the learning context, learning support, learning time, and learning objectives". It differs from formal learning, non-formal learning, and self-regulated le ...




*Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. 18(1), 32. * Blyth, C. (2008). The Art of Conversation. London: John Murray. *Callanan, M., Cervantes, C., & Loomis, M. (2011). Informal learning.2, 646. doi:10.1002 * Dewey, J. (1933). How We Think. New York: D. C. Heath. * Kahane, R. (1997). The Origins of Postmodern Youth: Informal Youth Movements in a Comparative Perspective. Berlin: De Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110817188. *Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. NY: Oxford University Press. * Sennett, R. (2012) Together. The rituals, pleasures and politics of cooperation. London: Allen Lane. * Zeldin (1999). Conversation: How Talk Can Change Your Life. London: Harvill Press.

External links

Formal vs.
Informal Education
National Academy of Sciences The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a United States nonprofit, NGO, non-governmental organization. NAS is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, along with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the ...
Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings
National Science Foundation The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent agency of the United States government that supports fundamental research and education Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitti ...

National Science Foundation
Moving Beyond Broadcast and Traditional Pedagogy: Making a Children’s Documentary for the New Media Landscape
Master of Fine Arts Thesis, Science and Natural History Filmmaking, Montana State University. What is informal education?
Alternative education Learning