Traditional educational methods are frankly outdated. As time passes, it becomes obvious that new approaches should be introduced to increase the efficiency of academic activities. Many people pin hopes on informal learning. Experts from ProPapers have analyzed the key characteristics of this system and outlined them below.
There is no clear plan
Young people often feel depressed because of strict rules and regulations, the heavy burden of educational duties. Informal learning allows them to enjoy greater freedom of action, while professors can use authorial methodologies and not stick to generally approved curriculum.
Since educators show lively interest in students’ ideas, impressions, and emotions, informal learners are eager to participate in academic activities, often ask questions and show increased enthusiasm. They are not afraid to be punished for mistakes since there is no strict grading system. Professors appreciate their in-class activity and daily efforts as highly as final results, in contrast to the traditional system based on tests and pass/fail exams.
There is no established learning place or time. The borders of a physical classroom expand, and academic sessions may be held in any environment. Educators seek inspiration for compiling curricula everywhere, explore the surrounding world to find something useful for their learners. For example, a touristic trip may become a great source of knowledge, inspire learners to find out more curious facts on historic and cultural topics.
Even at school, it is not obligatory to wait for a bell to start the educational process. Educator can communicate with kids on breaks, in informal environment, deviate from a standard lecture plan, pay attention to social and practical skills young people would need in everyday life.
Strong interpersonal bonds
Informal learning does not boil down to in-class communication between professors and students. Everyone who cares for a person may act as one’s mentor, for example, parents and other relatives. Emotional closeness is regarded as something much more important than certificates, degrees, and academic titles. There is no use in all these insignia if a kid feels lonely and unhappy in a class.
There is no age hierarchy in informal learning. A son or a daughter teaching one’s parent how to use technology is a great example.
Harsh criticism from academics
There is a heated controversy around this approach. Some educators claim that it is useless, undermines discipline, creates a fertile soil for mess and underperformance. It seems that students would not learn if there is the opportunely to do nothing, while inexperienced professors would make many mistakes without detailed instructions.
Since academic results cannot be quantified, it is rather difficult to assess learners’ performance, understand whether they grasp tricky concepts or no, informal learning is perceived as ineffective methodology. Well, there are no ideal things. The middle ground may be found on the junction between formal and informal strategies.
Learning by example
In a traditional class, educators talk much but rarely show how real-life problems may be addressed. An informal teacher is always a good practitioner who knows not only theoretical but also practical side of one’s discipline, often holds experiments, prepares research projects jointly with learners, helps them to get hands-on experience, develop decision-making and problem-solving skills.
Informal educational methods are used by all parents showing their kids how to brush teeth, make a bed or tie shoelaces. Repeating mentor’s actions, a kid quickly understands how different tasks should be performed, realizes that even the trickiest assignments are not impossible if other people can cope with them.
The educational process does not stop when a person graduates from a university. One constantly finds out something new from friends and colleagues, gets useful information from media. It is believed that we move backwards if we do not go forward. There is no such thing as standing on one place. The planet rotates around its axis, the world undergoes constant transformations, and we should keep up with this movement.
Thanks to the Internet, information is accessible for everyone today. Materials on topics of interest may be found without attending a college or a university. When seeking answers to some questions, we just visit Wikipedia or other online sources. Constant learning trains our memory, expands horizons, helps to revel new talents, shows how amazing and diverse is the world we live in.
Examples of informal academic activities
Here are the several options for supplementing traditional lessons:
- Mentoring. Pairing educators and students allows making learning more personalized and engaging, create trusting relationships. Newbies can see how real pros work, copy their behavior, act as assistants and gain valuable experience, while professors know their students better, determine their strengths and weaknesses, help to reach full academic potential.
- Social media. Educational institutions should consider creating their own websites, forums, online communities where learners can exchange course materials, negotiate on group projects, share ideas and get professors’ support.
- Volunteering. By participating in volunteer projects, young people can boost practical skills, see the industry they are going to work in from within, help vulnerable social groups, look at the world from other people’s perspective and nurture noble moral values.
- Competitions. Quizzes and Olympiads make learning exciting, awaken the passion for victories, develop leadership qualities, confidence, and purposefulness which are very important for success in an adult life.
- Extracurricular clubs and sports sections. Many young people spend their evenings with smartphones in hands or watch TV. Schools should offer useful and healthy extracurricular activities, encourage informal communication in a peer group, create a comfortable environment in which learners may relax and have fun.
- Gamification. Video games should not be perceived only as distractions. There are many worthy educational options. They are interesting and bright, raise learners’ mood, help them grasp complex concepts presented in an entertaining form, pose challenges, allow choosing individualized strategies, and bring the joy of victory.
- Online learning. Educational videos, webinars, electronic textbooks which may be downloaded and used at any convenient time are increasingly popular now.