Training and development process can be described in two dimensions:
- Degree of Formality.
- Balance between self-directed and other-directed learning.
Formal and informal learning may be similar in terms of what is learned and the purpose of the learning, they differ in terms of when learning occurs, how it occurs and where it occurs.
- Degree of Formality.
Formal learning is structured in terms of place, time and methodology. It involves training that is structured, i.e., purposefully designed and scheduled. This would include such training as:
- Classroom sessions
- Pod-casts, and
- E-learning courses
Informal learning can occur 24/7, anytime, anyplace. refers to the wide variety of unstructured ways in which learning can occur, for example:
- Coaching and mentoring
- Reading (of all kinds)
- Debates Internet/database searches
- Feedback sessions (e.g., performance evaluations)
- Questioning colleagues
- Asking for assistance with a specific problem
2. Balance between self-directed and other-directed learning.
Self-directed learning, on the other hand, has everything to do with the responsibility and accountability for learning, i.e., who drives the learning, who is responsible for what is learned, when it is learned and how it is learned.
There is a greater affinity between self-directed learning and informal learning. This stems primarily from the fact that informal learning supports and encourages Self-directed learning. Informal learning is problem-oriented, time sensitive, and highly specific to a given situation or circumstance.
This form of learning occurs where someone other than the learner drives what training activities will occur. Other-directed, informal training includes, e.g., supervisors sending employees to training about diversity, policies, sexual harassment in the workplace.
Other-directed, formal training includes where someone other than the learner specifies the training goals will be met in training, how those goals will be met and how evaluation will occur to verify that the goals were met. This form of learning is probably the most recognized because it includes the approach to learning as used in universities, colleges and training centers. This form of learning typically grants diplomas and certificates. Note that this form of training, although readily available in universities, etc., is usually somewhat “generic”, that is, the program is geared to accommodate the needs of the most learners and not be customized to any one learner.
Another form of “other-directed’, formal training is employee development plans. The plans identify performance goals, how the goals will be reached, by when and who will verify their accomplishment. “Other-directed’, formal training can be highly effective for helping learners gain desired areas of knowledge and skills in a timely fashion. A drawback is that learners can become somewhat passive, counting on the “expert” to show them what they should be doing and when. The learners become dependent on the coach or expert and there is a lack of confidence in taking decisions.
A eminent psychologist, Carl Rogers, founder of self-directed therapy, asserted that “Anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential, and has little or no significant influence on behavior” He adds, “The only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning”