ALW 2013 – Informal learning resources

ALW 2013 – Informal learning resources

ALW 2013 – Informal learning resources

Date posted: April 10, 2013

Canadian Adult Learners’ Week is about all kinds of learning. In the Literacy and Essential Skills (L/ES) field we talk about formal, non-formal and informal learning, which roughly correspond to course-based learning, loosely structured learning (usually non-credit), and experiential learning (everyday learning by doing). While we tend to focus on the stories of learners who have enrolled in a program or successfully completed a course, it’s equally valid to celebrate learning any new skill (quilting, driving, propagating fruit trees!) or upgrading your abilities.

Lindsay Kennedy,
President and CEO, Canadian Literacy and Learning Network

A large number of Canadian adults are involved in non-formal and informal learning activities. Today’s resources focus out of school learning.


Informal learning basics.
Saul Carliner. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press, 2012.
This resource looks at the principles underlying informal learning, how to promote and facilitate informal learning in an organization, and how to use informal learning to improve performance in an organization.

Informal learning: rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance.
Jay Cross. San Francisco: Pfeiffer/Wiley, 2007.
This book provides a working definition of informal learning, identifies the skills and attitudes that make for a successful informal learner, has stories of workplace informal learning in practice, and offers advice on how to support, nurture and leverage informal learning in an organization.

Learning at not-school: a review of study, theory, and advocacy for education in non-formal settings.
Julian Sefton-Green. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2013.
Also available online.
After-school programs, music lessons, Scout, summer camps, on-the-job training, and home activities all offer out-of-school educational experiences. This report explores studies and scholarly research on out-of-school learning, investigating what is distinctive about learning in these ‘not-school’ settings. It focuses on organizations and institutions that have developed parallel to public schooling and have emerged as complements, supplements, or attempts to remediate the alleged shortcomings of schools.

Recognising non-formal and informal learning: outcomes, policies and practices.
Patrick Werquin. Paris: OECD, 2010.
This report, based on an OECD review in 22 countries, explores the advantages of recognizing non-formal and informal learning outcomes, takes stock of existing policies and practices, and recommends how to organize recognition of these learning systems.

To borrow any or all of these titles, email



Formal, non-formal and informal learning: the case of literacy, essential skills and language learning in Canada – Sarah Elaine Eaton explores the differences and similarities between these 3 types of learning. The interplay between formal and informal learning for low skilled workers – This website contains the documents of a two year project that looked at the learning paths of workers with low literacy skills. It examined different types of workplace education programs in 7 innovative companies in Canada and the kinds of informal learning that their workers undertook at work. Work-related informal learning: research and practice in the Canadian context – This resource looks at different types of informal learning and informal learning situations. Canadian practices supporting and/or assessing work-related informal learning are discussed. Includes Canadian case studies.

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