02 SES 08 C, Informal Learning
Lifelong learning at work means that skills, knowledge and competence should be dated continuously. Work life changes set challenges to develop one´s competence throughout the career. It is not realized only by doing professional work from day to day, but it needs flexible opportunities to express experiences, reflect on them and give them meanings. Informal learning, learning from experience, tacit knowledge, transfer of learning and intuitive practice are key concepts which embrace a range of different phenomena. When informal learning is set in the framework of formal learning, it involves processes which take place inside and outside the realms of formal education.
In vocational education, the placing of informal learning processes within the formality of learning makes it flexible. It can include implicit, unintended, opportunistic and unstructured learning and the absence of a teacher as well as simply formal learning that comes closer to the informal end like apprenticeship education. In the middle of the both ends come activities like mentoring, while coaching is more formal in most settings. (Eraut 2000.)
Generalized knowledge can be adopted directly from the others, as well as the event knowledge stored in episodic memory can influence directly on behavior (Horvath et al 1996). Consequently, tacit knowledge is not a side-product, but central in important daily actions.
Four main conditions of learning are placed around the central concept of learning: practice, community, meaning and identity (Wenger 1998). The first two clearly relate to the social context, while the latter two reach towards the individual dimensions, although seen from a social perspective. They are explained as participation in the social process of learning and knowing, and characterized as a way of talking about learning individually and collectively (meaning), to experience it and the world as meaningful. Identity, again, is a way of talking about how learning changes who we are and creates personal histories of becoming in our social contexts.
Learning presupposes action and participation and converts them into experience and development. In this paper community and practice are stressed, still understanding the significance of meaning and identity.
Interaction in learning is important in vocational education and in the feeling of presence. It is also meaningful in the communication between educational institutions (formal learning) and the informal learning in work life. (Tiilikkala 2004; Sinclair 1994). A professional´s personality is construed of professional experiences and their reflection. Vocational identity is strongly tied to the respective field of science or skill and its culture.
The questions referring to informal learning were: 1) What was being learned 2) How was it learned and 3) What were the factors that influenced the level of the learning outcome?
Eraut, M.2000. Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 113-136. Horvath, J.A., Sternberg, R.J., Forsythe, E.B., Bullis, R.C., Williams, W.M. & Sweeney, P.J. 1996. Implicit theories of leadership practice. New York: Aera conference. Sinclair, C. 1994. Looking For Home – A Phenomenological study of home in the classroom. New York: State University of New York. Tiilikkala, L. 2004. Mestarista tuutoriksi. Suomalaisen ammatillisen opettajuuden muutos ja jatkuvuus. Jyväskylä: Jyväskylän yliopisto. Wenger , E. 1998. Communities of practice. Learning as a social system. The Systems Thinker, Vol. 9, No 5.
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