WORKPLACES AS AN INFORMAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
I can imagine what you have on your mind... Is your busy education life moving back to your work? Yes, I mean your previous education life mostly loaded with exams and too much information you have never known when or for what to use!!! Do you feel that it reappears in your workplace? Okay okay, don’t panic. Workplace is also a school, which, in other words, is a serious learning environment but it doesn’t resemble the schools you know: There is no exam.
I believe that these days, when we are facing the Coronavirus Pandemic, we better understand how much space our work environment takes up in our lives both perceptibly and psychologically and what it means to us. No matter how difficult it is, we have to confess that the necessity of staying home has made us miss our work place where we are destined to go even when we don’t usually want to, our co-workers, our managers and all other staff. While keeping the fact that the process we are going through these days has the potential to change our ways of “learning” in mind, I want all of us to think about the informal / incidential learning which we have experienced in our workplace so far.
Even though information exchance we make while changing tasks, making phone calls, having lunch, sending emails, using formal networks is not structured, informal learning is a way of learning that takes place naturally in line with the requirements of the work itself. It is effective as well as permanent due to the fact that the individual has the leading role in his / her learning process.
The term informal learning finds itself a place in the term of life-long-learning. Following the adaption of term “informal learning” in the literature, we can reckon that it has been understood that limiting one’s learning experience within specific stuructures, ages and places is against human nature and an insufficient method. Our ability to survive, in fact, is related to our learning of any new piece of information and being able to transfer it. We gain new experiences mostly when we interact with the environment that we are in. There exists no plan as well as no tendency. The inherent practicality it has and being based on life experiences increase its permanency. Any conversations with a colleague can teach us new information on the current events or a solution to a business-related problem.
Marsick and Watkins in their study (2001) pointed out that informal learning has the nature to become the basis of learning at work by mentioning that informal learning has different examples such as self-directed learning, networking, coaching, mentoring and performance planning, which provide opportunities to evaluate the needs of learning. We are exposed to a lot of information during a typical day at work. However, we do not even recognize that we have acquired many of it. It is possible to interpret this randomness as a ‘bonus’ of our daily interactions. To be more specific, imagine that you have had a problem, searched on the Internet in order to fix it and you have found too much redundant information which is not pertinent to the solution to your problem. However, that information you have unnecessarily been exposed to may help you resolve any other problems which are likely to arise in the future. In addition to making your work easier, it may even provide a remedy for your colleauges’ problems as well as the organization’s. This speed of problem solving and solution-oriented returns are truly significant for the organizations as nowadays their favourite word is “speed”!!!
“Smart Institutions” are supposed to provide their employees with informal learning environment to the same, even a greater extent as the formal ones; such as small meetings, guest speakers, mentorship, advanced corporate communication networks, etc. (Maç and Dede, 2008). Allowing employees to structure their own learning process and giving them space to share their knowledge on work would play a crucial role in achieving the institutional aims.
To sum up, work place is one of the best learning environment and your learning and problem-solving skills at work can make you the “top performing student of the school”.
Although what types of learning styles this extraordinary global period we live worldwide is going to bring about are not known yet, going to work, not staying home is our only wish at this moment…
Marsick, V.J. & Watkins, K.E. (2001). Informal and incidental learning. New directions for Adult and Continuing Education, (89), 25-34.
Maç, N ve Dede A. (2008). İş Yerinde İnformel Öğrenme ve İnformel Öğrenmein İstihdam Üzerindeki Rolü. Konya Ticaret Odası, Erişim adresi: http://www.kto.org.tr/d/file/informel_rapor.pdf