Out of the box thinking by allowing it in: an explorative research on the occurrence of informal learning within formal adult education.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


Lifelong learning contains both formal and informal learning processes that overlap as well as interact. In contrary to actual educational practices, research and policy tend to separate both learning processes. Whereas formal learning processes are commonly studied within school contexts, informal learning is usually expelled to extra-curricular activities and the work and social environment. Informal learning encompasses self- directed, incidental and tacit learning and tends to be overlooked because of its ordinariness and taken-for-granted nature.
As schools are primarily committed to people's learning, this paper questions why they would only pay limited attention to the enormous amount of students' informal learning. Hence, this study aims at enlarging the insight in informal learning within formal education by conducting in-depth interviews with 15 students, two teachers, and two program coordinators of an adult education program. The above-mentioned operationalization of Schugurensky into three different types of informal learning was applied as a sensitizing concept guiding the inductive data collection and analysis.
Students displayed a diverse array of informal learning outcomes and ways of learning, such as the informal and hidden curriculum, spontaneously teaching one another, observations, experiences, and small talks. Moreover, informal learning in the program enriched and complemented formal learning and eventually supported formal adult education to reach its objectives, since the engagement in informal learning processes facilitated certificate achievement and personal, social, educational and professional improvements.
Although informal learning should and cannot be manipulated, the results of the present study suggest including it within formal education. Recognizing one's own informal learning processes proved to be an empowering experience and influenced formal education. Furthermore it encouraged further learning, moving lifelong learning one step closer to reality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Learning Odyssey: New Horizons in Learning and Instruction.
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventUnknown -
Duration: 1 Jan 2012 → …

Publication series



Period1/01/12 → …


  • Informal learning
  • adult education
  • lifelong learning
  • hidden curriculum


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