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The interrelationships between informal and formal learning

Malcolm, Janice and Hodkinson, Phil and Colley, Helen (2003) The interrelationships between informal and formal learning. ISSN 1366-5626

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This paper summarises some of the analysis and findings of a project commissioned to investigate the meanings and uses of the terms formal, informal and non-formal learning. Many texts use these terms without any clear definition, or employ conflicting definitions and boundaries. The paper therefore proposes an alternative way of analysing learning situations in terms of attributes of formality and informality. Applying this analysis to a range of learning contexts, one of which is described, suggests that there are significant elements of formal learning in informal situations, and elements of informality in formal situations; the two are inextricably inter-related. The nature of this inter-relationship, the ways it is written about and its impact on learners and others, are closely related to the organisational, social, cultural, economic, historical and political contexts in which the learning takes place. The paper briefly indicates some of the implications of our analysis for theorising learning, and for policy and practice.

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