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Blending formal learning with informal learning – educational away days

Informal learning experiences can make an ideal addition to formal learning, both for students at higher education centres and workers in employment. Informal learning offers a welcome break to the usual structure of classes and can help participants to build on their teamwork, coordination, problem-solving and communication skills. As EPALE UK will be delivering content on the theme of Nonformal and Informal Learning during June and July 2019, it seems the ideal time to provide our users with information about educational away days. 

In education centres, such as universities and colleges, courses are delivered by route of formal learning, with exams, coursework and structured classes aiming to provide learners with a qualification. Formal learning in the workplace follows a similar pattern – workers complete internal training courses, attend meetings that usually follow a set pattern and complete an organised and predetermined checklist when writing out their appraisals, usually with the aim of career maintenance and possibly for recognition and the chance to obtain a promotion. On the other hand, informal learning might not involve much structure to the learning process and may not have a definite end goal. Informal learning may aim to simply generate conversation, expose learners to new surroundings or allow learners to obtain new knowledge that truly interests them.

Informal learning has a more natural learning route and this makes it an appealing addition to formal learning. For students in higher education or people in work, informal learning can provide a welcome break from repetitive and information-heavy sessions. From June 2019 to July 2019, EPALE UK will be delivering content on the theme of Nonformal and Informal Learning, so it seems the perfect time to supply our users with inspiration for breaking out of the classroom or organising an away day for workers in England! 

Kew Botanical Gardens – Chihuly: Reflections on nature
Chihuly Summer Sun sculpture

Combining the stunning scenery of Kew Gardens with contemporary artist Dan Chihuly’s breathtaking glass artwork, the Chihuly: Reflections on nature exhibition is a great choice for an educational away day. Chihuly uses glass to create incredible sculptures that conjure images of deep sea creatures, celestial wonders and wild plant life that are sure to get your learners thinking. Kew Gardens provides an enormous number of green spaces that make the perfect setting for an outdoor discussion and with over 30,000 different kinds of plant life on display, students and workers will have plenty to talk about. The exhibition runs till October 2019 and the ticket price is included in the entry ticket for the gardens which start at £16.50 per adult online. 

The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience

With locations in both London and Manchester, teachers and team leaders across the country could consider arranging an away day at The Crystal Maze LIVE Experience. Based on a cult game show created in the ‘90s, the live experience replicates much of the theatrics of the original show. Players must work together to find a way out of the rooms and get their hands on the crystals before their time runs out. This kind of experience will require learners to develop their teamwork and problem-solving skills and will help them to return to formal environments with a sense of team achievement. Though not a cheap experience with tickets averaging at £66 per person, it is certainly something a bit different to the usual day out. The experience is due to run till the end of the year. 

Kenilworth Castle – Legendary Joust
Kenilworth Castle

Immerse your learners in history at beautiful Kenilworth Castle and take them to see the Legendary Joust on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 June 2019. Spectators will see knights jousting, as well as visit a medieval camp with live music, a jester telling jokes and information about cookery and crafts in the medieval age. With large gardens containing a maze and the grounds providing several buildings to explore, this makes for a great educational day trip and visitors can enjoy lunch or light refreshments in the Stables Tearoom. Tickets for the event are £15.30 per adult, which includes entrance to the castle and grounds.  

Reach Outdoors – giant paddle boarding

If you’re interested in doing something a little more adventurous, consider taking students or colleagues to Reach Outdoors in Devon, where you can hire a giant paddle board large enough to fit eight people. There is another board of the same size, allowing you to take up to 16 and to race each other on the water! This activity will not only help learners to build their communication, coordination and teamwork skills, but it will also get them moving and benefit their physical health. Other activities at Reach Outdoors includes coasteering, kayaking and climbing. Heralded as the perfect group activity, the paddle board costs £20 per person and has received great reviews.There are hundreds of other options for organising an informal learning away day. You just need to focus on getting learners talking, thinking and, optionally, moving in order to deliver an effective informal learning experience.

Can you think of any informal away days you have attended that were particularly effective?How would you go about organising your own away day? What kind of location would you want it to take place in and how would this benefit learners?Let us know in the comments section below!


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