Informal learning—such as learning from peers and colleagues (including OJT), learning by trial and error, and individual reading and research in order to be able to perform better—are important aspects of on-going development (Stehlik et al. 2003). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, informal learning is by far the most prevalent form of adult learning. Lominger™ refer to this as 70:20:10 where 70% of learning is learnt through work, 20% through coaching and mentoring and 10% through formal “training”.
See here http://www.learningcafe.com.au/2011/09/blended-learning-whats-in-a-name-2/ for a useful visual representation of the spectrum of structured/formal and unstructured learning.
Given the high incidence of unstructured or informal learning in the workplace what are the implications for L&D? How can we ensure that informal learning is “good learning”—not just the absorption of bad or out-of-date habits in the workplace? As “work” and “learning” are so closely entwined how can we extend the impact of what we do in a formal context to maximum the impact back of that skills/knowledge in the workplace? What is our role regarding creating an environment that fosters sharing, collaboration and “learning reflection” or is that the responsibility of line managers within business units?
As pragmatic and effective L&D professionals I would like to consider our role in the arena of informal learning – do we create it? Do we actively manage it? Or do we simply encourage it?
Andrea McDonough, Manager, National Technical Training & Development Unit, Internal Revenue, NZ. Andrea is an experienced learning professional and has worked for Pricewaterhousecoopers and IBM
- What can L&D do to create an environment that encourages learners to “acquire and accumulate knowledge, skills, attitudes and insights from daily experiences” (Coombs and Ahmed 1974: 8) ?
- What is the role of Knowledge Management and Organisational Development teams/units in informal learning? Who takes the lead on enabling this work or is this partnership across functions?
- What part does technology play (especially given the current trendiness of “social media”) and are we as L&D professionals well enough informed, equipped and competent to add value here?
- Is it ever going to be possible to “measure” informal learning? And to achieve what outcome and/or change?
- Should “informal” learning ever be quantified and recognised e.g. continuing Professional Development, Accreditation programmes, recognition of prior learning etc.?
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