Informal Learning

We know humans are learners… students sometimes do not learn in the way teachers want them to learn, but that is a problem with the structure of school, not with students as learners.

“How do humans learn in informal or ‘real-world’ settings?“ is an interesting phenomenon to study. Scholars are actively studying it, but it is also interesting to speculate on how we do it and to consider what we can observe. Consider these strategies for learning:

Create a setting in which you get feedback. This is the basis, of course, of science, but trail-and-error and design cycles are other examples.

Practice. This is especially important when learning skills.

Apply and modify skills. The adage “to someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail” is grounded in the (inaccurate—at least for active learners) assumption that we do not stop and understand the problem and have the capacity to adjust what we do in response.

Chunk large tasks into smaller ones. This is useful both when learning information and when developing complex skills.

Ask others to show us. Notice the actor in this strategy is the learner. Learners pay closest attention to the teacher when they ask the question that is being answered.