What is informal education?

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What is informal education?


So what is our understanding of informal education? Here at YWN, we explore the subject matter.

We shall mainly focus on informal education as a process of helping young people to learn.

It is a process that happens and takes place on a daily basis without being conscious or learning. This may happen with friends, families work as colleagues and as you as a parent. For example, sometimes as friends, we may give advice and encourage them to talk about a situation that has happened in their lives. This helps them to get their feelings, emotions out and find ways to deal with the situation with the help and support given by you.

As you may know that if you are a parent your children are the students in your life. As with all children growing up, they have an enquiring mind full of questions filled with how do I do this? and why is this not working? you get the idea.

So you are constantly teaching your children how to do things and showing/teaching them how it’s done. In some cases you may not know the answer to the question but what do you do? You go and do your research on the topic, go online read books to find out more information about the subject.

“Others may view informal education as the learning projects that we undertake for ourselves.” (Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. K. (1997, 2005, 2011). For gaining knowledge on a particular subject or topic.

In youth work, we view informal education as youth workers involved in delivering a variety of educational programmes which is designed to engage young people in their personal and social development. This is undertaken by working in youth and community organizations.

As youth workers or in general if we asked the question ‘education’ and ‘learning the first thing that pops up in our mind is school, classroom, university and not to mention teachers.

“Informal education is the wise, respectful and spontaneous process of cultivating learning. It works through conversation, and the exploration and enlargement of experience.” (Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. K. (1997, 2005, 2011)

As youth workers, we have to be aware that we are constantly teaching on a daily basis. This is done through our conversation with young people or watching television, reading newspapers. This interaction provides us youth workers to be reflective and learning in the process.

Youth workers start from the belief that learning can take place in any settings between the young people

We are constantly engaged in learning whether we are giving advice or sharing thoughts with other practitioners. how we absorb and take in information and knowledge is a topic in its own right, however, As informal educators, we should be intentional and purposefully creating opportunities to engage young people with the “aim of fostering learning” (Jeffs and Smith 1999: 13). For example, this is done by undertaking or joining;

  • Conversations

  • activities

  • asking meaningful questions

This in return fosters deeper conversations and dialogue with young people with a few of being reflective of the values, behaviour and beliefs which may guide our discussions and build stronger relationships with young people.

“These ways of working all entail learning – but informal education tends to be unpredictable – we do not know where it might lead – and spontaneous.”

In the discussion above we can come to an agreement that whether we are parents or specialist youth workers, educators, we are constantly in the teaching mode. for example when we are engaged in learning new things involved in a project we are in the process of teaching ourselves others consciously and unconsciously.

So what are your thoughts on this topic leave your comments below

If you found this article or blog useful please share with others.

Further reading

Hemmings, H. (2011).  Together: How small groups achieve big things London: John Murray

Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. K. (2005). Informal Education: Conversation, Democracy and Learning

, Ticknall: Education Now.

Blyth, C. (2008). The Art of Conversation: Change Your Life with Confident Communication

. London: John Murray.

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