Linking formal and informal learning - Bryan Hopkins

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Using formal training to promote informal learning

People learn in many different ways, perhaps through formal means such as attending workshops or studying on-line courses, or through informal means such as talking things through with colleagues or reflecting on their own practice.

But in many organisations learning is seen to be the responsibility of a training department which limits its remit to providing formal courses. Of course, by definition informal learning is hard to organise, but there is much that training professionals can do in designing and delivering formal training events which can help to encourage informal learning: for example, through helping to develop informal learning networks or communities of practice.

During 2015 I carried out research with five different international organisations to explore what factors within the delivery of traditional training workshops could help to promote the establishment of subsequent social learning networks amongst participants. The key factor turned out to be trust: that if you design a workshop in such a way that participants can come to trust each other, then it makes it more likely that they will stay in contact after the event to share knowledge and learn from each other.

Of course, there is more to developing informal learning networks than this, but anyone interested in learning more is invited to contact me for more information.
This diagram is a sociogram, which is a graphical representation of connections between items, in this case, between people attending workshops.

Surveys carried out at the beginning of the workshop and several months after allowed me to construct before and after sociograms showing the nature of relationships.

Specialist software can calculate quantities shown by the sociogram, such as density (how many of the possible connections are in existence?), and closeness (how many people does each individual know?).

This analysis made it possible to develop a quantitative assessment of how relationships changed as a result of meeting at the workshop.
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