What’s the biggest advantage of informal education? It’s fun! There’s no being bored behind the desk, waiting for the lecture to end. It’s all about engagement, creativity, and participation. We all know that huge benefit of informal learning, but is there something else we’re not seeing?
The concept of informal education is much more complex than we anticipate. It brings essential changes in the way people of all ages learn. Let’s bring the unseen advantages to light.
1. It’s driven by conversation, but doesn’t intimidate the students
Informal education works through conversations. The teachers are not lecturing. They are inspiring the students to find information, ask questions, and join the collective process of learning. The best part is that these conversations are not intimidating.
Think of it this way: according to the traditional educational system, the teachers are giving lectures and then they ask questions. Do you see all students raising hands? No. Most of the class stays quiet and we’re seeing the same students participating in the process every single day. This is not what discussions are supposed to look like. Informal education, on the other hand, triggers real discussions through conversations.
2. Informal education is great for students with special needs
Through informal conversations that lead to learning, teachers can pay special attention to students with special needs. This type of education gives everyone a chance to learn, since it can easily be customized to suit the learning requirements and preferences of individuals.
3. It reveals talents
The teacher throws in some facts about the chemistry lesson and asks everyone to search for relevant information online. Then, the teacher asks everyone to present what they know. There’s one particular student who can’t talk very well in front of an audience, but draws a beautiful presentation of an atom on the board. The teacher sees that, despite the student’s ability to express knowledge through words, they understand chemistry. Plus, this student has an awesome talent for realistic drawing.
4. Informal education is not bound to the classroom
It can take place anytime, anywhere. It starts with parents, who are informally teaching us many things from a very young age. It continues in the classroom, through modern teachers who accept the current trends. We continue nurturing the urge for knowledge throughout our entire life. We want to know more about the Universe? We check out some online courses at our own pace and we support that knowledge by exploring numerous other online resources. That’s informal education, too. It’s a beautiful lifetime process.
5. It’s close to natural learning
Do you remember the way you used to learn when you were a kid? You watched TV shows and documentaries for kids. But, you also explored the environment and asked questions. Informal learning is very close to this natural process of gaining knowledge. It’s close to the nature of human beings. That’s why it’s so effective.
6. It’s great for socially anxious students
Social anxiety is a huge issue for some students. Imagine this situation: a teacher asks question and no one knows the answer. In fact, there’s one student who knows, the one who never speaks. Can you imagine what’s going on in the head of this student? She knows the answer and she wants to speak up, but her body is giving up on her. Her heart goes crazy and she starts blaming herself: “You’re no good. You’re such a coward!” Yup, that student was me and I still haven’t managed to deal with social anxiety.
No one talks about this issue at schools, but it reveals everything that’s wrong with the traditional system: it doesn’t help students overcome their struggles. Informal education, on the other hand, inspires them to make progress in small steps. Conversations are not as pressuring as questions that await answers. With time, socially anxious students learn to blend in.
7. The students are willing to share!
In an informal setting, the learners are willing to share their knowledge more than ever. They gain confidence when they realize that every single piece of information they have may be valuable for others. Educators inspire them to start blogging, and we’re slowly seeing the progress from students to influencers to leaders. Students are becoming aware of the responsibility they have as digital citizens, who are shaping the future of our society.
Education surrounds us! It’s no longer bound to authoritative teachers and classrooms. We’re so lucky to be living in a time when we have unlimited access to knowledge. Are you seeing the ways informal education benefits your future? What advantages have you noticed?