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Something more about the non-formal learning – the foundation of youth work

Youth work often has a strong educational purpose or dimension. Typically, the education or learning that takes place in youth work is ‘non-formal’ – not ‘formal’ and not ‘informal’. Youth work and non-formal learning have many characteristics in common. Nevertheless, they are not the same.

Formal learning

Learning typically provided by an education or training institution, structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and leading to certification. Formal learning is intentional from the learner’s perspective.

Non-formal learning

Learning which takes place through planned activities (in terms of learning objectives, learning time) where some form of learning support is present (e.g. learner-teacher relationships); it may cover programmes to impart work skills, adult literacy and basic education for early school leavers; very common cases of non-formal learning include in-company training, through which companies update and improve the skills of their workers such as ICT skills, structured on-line learning (e.g. by making use of open educational resources), and courses organised by civil society organisations for their members, their target group or the general public (Ibid.).

Informal learning

Learning resulting from daily activities related to work, family or leisure which is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support; it may be unintentional from the learner’s perspective; examples of learning outcomes acquired through informal learning are: skills acquired through life and work experiences, project management skills, ICT skills acquired at work, languages learned, intercultural skills acquired during a stay in another country, ICT skills acquired outside work, skills acquired through volunteering, cultural activities, sports, youth work and through activities at home e.g. taking care of a child (Council Recommendation 2012/C 398/01). Source: Glossary, (European Commission: Erasmus+ Programme)– http://ec.europa.eu/education/ects/users-guide/glossary_en.htm

Features of non-formal learning in the youth sector:

Common elements in existing definitions of non-formal learning

  • purposive learning;
  • diverse contexts;
  • different and lighter organisation of provision and delivery;
  • alternative/complementary teaching and learning styles;
  • less developed recognition of outcomes and quality;

Essential features of non-formal learning

  • balanced co-existence and interaction between cognitive, affective and practical dimensions of learning;
  • linking individual and social learning, partnership-oriented solidarity and symmetrical teaching/learning relations;
  • participatory and learner-centred;
  • holistic and process-oriented;
  • close to real life concerns, experiential and oriented to learning by doing, using intercultural exchanges and encounters as learning devices;
  • voluntary and (ideally) open-access;
  • aims above all to convey and practice the values and skills of democratic life;

Non-formal teaching/training and learning methods

  • communication-based methods: interaction, dialogue, mediation;
  • activity-based methods: experience, practice, experimentation;
  • socially-focussed methods: partnership, teamwork, networking;
  • self-directed methods: creativity, discovery, responsibility;

Conclusions:

In brief…

  • learning takes place outside the structures of the formal education system and differs from this in the way it is organised and the type of recognition this learning confers;
  • learning is intentional and voluntary;
  • learning aims above all to convey and practice the values and skills of democratic life.

Methodological features

  • balanced co-existence and interaction between cognitive, affective and practical dimensions of learning;
  • linking individual and social learning
  • partnership oriented solidarity and symmetrical teaching/learning relations;
  • participatory and learner-centred approaches;
  • close to real life concerns, experimental and oriented to learning by doing, using intercultural exchanges and encounters as learning devices.

Values

  • Values linked to personal development: autonomy; critical thinking; openness and curiosity; creativity.
  • Values linked to social development: communication; participation and democratic citizenship; solidarity and social justice; responsibility; transformative power of conflict.
  • Ethical values: human rights; respect for others; intercultural learning and dialogue; peace/non-violence; gender equality; inter-generational dialogue.

Non-formal educators …

  • use participatory methods;
  • use diversity as a positive learning tool;
  • make critically reflective links between the concrete and the abstract, in order both to facilitate the learning process and continuously to improve their quality;
  • have knowledge about young people’s lives and cultures in Europe.

All the information is taken from http://gama.gudevicalearning.net/course/training-youth-workers-achieve/lessons/lesson-1-what-is-youth-work-non-formal-learning-the-foundation-of-youth-work-text-copy/

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