The idea that all learning activities may contain elements of formality or informality to a greater or lesser degree. Informal learning at work involves the processes by which people learn in their workplaces outside the realms of formal education and training. Whilst informal learning still recognizes the social significance of learning from other people, it does not go so far as socialization; there is still great scope for individual agency. A useful conception of this informal learning is as a complementary, but distinct, partner to learning from experience; the distinction lies in the emphasis that learning from experience places in personal over inter-personal learning.
In all cases the majority of the learning in the workplace itself was informal and involved a combination of learning from other people and learning from personal experience, often both together. The paper utilizes two different theoretical frameworks to understand and investigate informal learning in the workplace researched in these projects. One facilitates the deconstruction of the key concepts of informal learning, learning from experience, tacit knowledge, transfer of learning and intuitive practice which in turn discloses the range of different phenomena that are embraced by these popular terms. The second allows three questions central to learning research to be addressed; what is being learned, how it is being learned, and what are the factors that influence the level and directions of the learning effort.
The formality of learning is a continuum informal learning is simply learning that comes closer to the informal end. Characteristics of the informal end of the continuum of formality include implicit, unintended, opportunistic and unstructured learning and the absence of a teacher. In the middle come activities like mentoring, while coaching is rather more formal in most settings.
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