Education Vs Informal Learning (by Panos Vlachopoulos)

I share a socio-constructivist belief that interaction happens all the time, and contributes to our learning.  This blog post may encourage readers to interact with my thinking, to interact with me or other members of the project team by leaving a comment or sending an e-mail, and some things become a little clearer to readers while they do so.  That is learning through interaction.  But it’s not education.  Education is when someone or some system sets out to arrange for learning – and may partly do so by arranging for interactions of certain types and with certain purposes, between learner and learner, or learner and teacher.  I suggest it’s important to keep that distinction clear in our minds when we design Open Educational Learning Opportunities. Here are some of  my thoughts on what might take for an informal learning opportunity to be considered as ‘educational’ and perhaps become eligible to warrant certification of some sort:

1. Education, as compared to adult informal learning, is a process in which teachers play an important role.

2.  The more autonomous the learner in such processes, the more the teacher exerts an influence for effective and worthwhile learning in two distinct but allied ways.

3.  The first of these is in the creation of a task, or a structure which might include a learning contract, in which it is clear to teacher and learner the nature of the activity in which the learner is expected to engage; and where the teacher has deserved expectations that this activity should prove profitable for the learner, in the area and at the level of study which brings teacher and learner together.  Notice that the emphasis here is on the nature of the activity, and the area of study.  Particular content, and particular activity, is left to the learner, who should have been properly prepared to exercise that autonomy.

4.  The second of these ways of the teacher exerting influence is in the facilitative efforts of the teacher, within the arrangements agreed at the outset, to push the learner to be the best that they can be – either meeting expectations, or going right out into their Zone of Proximal Development.

5. In all of this, there needs to be some way of judging whether or not both sides have honoured the agreement into which they entered.  For the student, it may be assessment, or some other way of “signing off” the contract; for the teacher, it should be evaluation of the learning experience and of the standard of learning development which ensues from satisfactory completion of the agreed.

What are the implications of the above for both motivation to learn and expectations to be rewarded for doing so?  If the latter is not important, then why all these ‘noise’ about accreditations, badges and other forms of recognition for learning?

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