Informal Learning Matters


When developing workplace training and development programs, we have learned that good training design in based on the principles of adult learning. Adult learning, otherwise known as andragogy, differs from child-centered learning, known as pedagogy. Child-centered learning is perceived as traditional education which is structured and relies on external sources for motivation. Andragogy, relies on the principle of self-motivation and the application of past experience in the learning process for adults.

As we move though childhood into adulthood one of the major markers is the transition from school to work. For many Canadians, formal education begins with pre-school, at age 3 or 4 and extends well into young adulthood and post-secondary education. Following a school based education system provides most of us with at least twenty years of structured, formal learning. As we leave childhood, pedagogy and formal education may move behind us, but the need for learning does not stop. Learning happens differently once we move into adulthood. What was once filled by structured education shifts to the application of increased informal learning methodologies for adult learners.

According to recent research, the need for informal learning for working adults is on the rise. Brian Kessel explores the relationship between formal and informal learning in the workplace based on the statistics provided by the Conference Board of Canada.

Click here to read the article.

As noted in the article, as adults we may not have abandoned the concepts of formal learning completely.  Perhaps our need for formal learning is based on the fact that, for many of us, education was provided in a structured way for so many years and the imprint of those long-term processes are ingrained into our adult brains.

The good news is that that those brains continue to adapt and look for ways to keep learning alive both formally and informally as we progress throughout our adulthoods.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much time per week do you spend on informal learning in the workplace?
  2. As an adult, which learning environment is more comfortable for you – formal or informal? Explain your rationale
  3. Why should workplaces differentiate or categorize learning as formal or informal?


Leave a Comment