Informal learning best practice

If your organisation is an advocate of 70-20-10 then informal learning is not a new practice to you. For those new to this principle, informal learning can be a great tool to promote a culture of learning in your own organisation.

What is it?

For the purpose of this article we’ll use the definition provided by the elearning guild’s Patti Shank in her paper  ‘Smart companies support Informal learning’ as it appropriately reflects how informal learning happens in the workplace and is also aligned with the 70-20-10 principle.

‘Informal learning includes situations where the learner determines some or all of the combinations of the process, location, purpose, and content and may not even be aware that instruction has occurred.’

Learning happens every day and on the job through conversations, observation, and social interactions.

How does it happen?

Adult learners need to recognise when they are learning so they retain and apply the knowledge of what they have learnt. Informal learning happens in a number of ways within the working environment:

  • Team-based learning
  • Collaborative working within teams
  • Professional networks and communities in house as well as external such as LinkedIn and Twitter
  • General conversations and meeting with people
  • 70-20-10

Informal learning occurs on the job through trial and error, reflective practice of what has worked well and what hasn’t worked well and sharing that knowledge within the team.

Informal learning is demand-driven; the worker chooses to learn an activity or to improve.

Best practices

1. Resist micromanaging the learner; don’t tell them how to learn, or how to perform the task. Encourage and support them. Give them the freedom to initiate their learning.
2. Don’t control informal learning; learning is an organic process, making it compulsory takes away its flexibility.
3. Help employees to support their own self-paced learning. Encourage them to develop self-study and research skills; knowing how to find the information they need will help them develop their own knowledge.
4. Encourage collaborative working (this can be through social technologies such as discussion boards, social networking, wikis).
5. Encourage reflection after learning. Identifying what you learnt will help you retain and apply the knowledge.

To promote informal learning within your organisation you may do a number of things such as encourage conversation within teams, allow time for reflection after learning, use well-designed infographics to explain your organisation’s processes, foster social networking to share information.

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