Students have been learning through the formal education institutions from the beginning of grade school and all the way through college. However, is this considered the best environment for learning? Especially if it is only limited to a class that consists of lecturing and note-taking? Fortunately, there are other systems that break the traditional structure of learning that go against the status quo. Opposing the formal system is an informal education system. This system often varies in location and is structured differently from the typical classroom setting. An article from the “Today Parenting Team” states, “Informal education is anything learned more independently…It can be things that are self-taught by researching or reading, or through things that are experienced” (http://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/formal-vs-informal-education). Informal education systems can mean anything from an online course to getting hands-on in an experiment with other students for a project outside of the classroom. When regarding the informal environment, I will be looking at how it can be incorporated into formal education systems and its benefits, instead of outside education like learning through family or personal experiences. Formal and informal systems tend to have their pros and cons and are preferred based on the type of learner a student is.
There are seven different types of learning styles that individuals adhere to. These include visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary. Based on these styles, students may thrive more in either a formal or informal education environment. An article from “Lifehack” explains that verbal learners “prefer using words, both in speech and writing” and visual learners “prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding” (https://www.lifehack.org/572775/find-your-own-learning-style-make-learning-more-easy-and-effective). These individuals might do better in a classroom where there is more structure and an organized way of learning. They find success when they can listen to a teacher lecture and use PowerPoints for visuals. The article also states that some students are physical learners that “prefer using their body, hands” or they are social learners who “prefer to learn in groups or with other people.” These are just a few traits of learners that would most likely find informal environments to be more helpful because of their ability to be hands-on and social. To dive further into this topic, I conducted interviews with students in the Shreveport/Bossier area to note the variety of learners and their preferences when it comes to the modern-day education system. When I asked student Harper McKnight, from Louisiana State University Shreveport, what type of learner she was, she said, “I found out recently that I am primarily an aural and kinesthetic learner after I took a quiz on thevark.com suggested by one of my professors. Once I knew this, the ways that I’ve noticed through trial and error that seem to help me retain more information made a lot more sense.” McKnight continued by explaining, “I also have noticed I prefer teachers who ask questions during their lectures or open the floor for discussion. That feels hands-on to me because I can participate, whereas I think most people associate hands-on learning with technical classes or lab work.”On a website I stumbled upon called “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” an anonymous student writes about their experience in the formal education and states “Perhaps one of the problems is that most of the classes I have taken seem to be structured around materials provided by the publishers of the books – which is EXACTLY how all of my elementary, middle, and high school classes were structured. It is all about rote memorization.” To make their experience more fulfilling, it probably would have been beneficial if the instructor would have incorporated more interactive ways of learning to break up some of the monotony of the books. This might have worked for some students, but everyone learns in different environments, at different paces, and, as mentioned before, in multiple ways.