What are formal, non-formal and informal learning methods?
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So far you have read mostly about non-formal and informal learning methods and processes. Now is the time to look at them in more detail! In this section you will learn about the differences and find different examples that you can incorporate into your activity plan.

We used to think of learning as a separate stage of life, closely linked to the school years: we are born, we learn, we grow, we work. Today, however,  this view is increasingly outdated. Learning is now seen as a continuous journey that is part of our everyday lives and prepares us for an ever-changing world. This is known as ‘lifelong learning’ and does not take place exclusively in the classroom, but in different contexts throughout our lives. Lifelong learning can be grouped into three main contexts:

  • Formal education is traditionally associated with the concept of “learning”, which takes place in It is characterised by its compulsory nature, requiring attendance, homework and examinations. Formal education, structured around a defined programme and a formal curriculum, typically leads to recognised certificates such as diplomas or degrees, and is often supervised and accredited by government bodies.
  • Unlike formal education, non-formal education is structured but does not follow a formal It is voluntary-based – for example, you choose to learn about grant writing because you want to implement one. Although it has learning goals and outcomes, assessment of progress is self-directed. There is no formal government recognition, but achievements can be recognised by certificates, such as the “Youthpass” in the Erasmus+ programme. The learner is at the centre of the learning process, which means that the activity is based on the learning needs of the participants, who learn from each other and from their experiences together. In addition, in non-formal education, each activity has a well-planned structure, exercises that help learners to explore and learn about the subject, and learning outcomes that are intended to be achieved at the end of each activity – so it is safe to say that it is a structured and well-prepared process.

 

  • Informal education is learning that unfolds naturally in our everyday For example, when we spend time with people from different countries, we can learn new words in another language, or when we join a game, we learn the rules while

 

playing. This kind of learning is unintentional, unguided and lacks formal assessment. We often learn without even realising it, as when we learn our mother tongue.

Each of these educational contexts plays a vital role in our lifelong learning journey and makes a unique contribution to our personal and professional development. However, when it comes to the activities carried out under Erasmus+ projects, it is usually non-formal and informal learning that is taken into account.

Methodology for implementing non-formal education activities

Then talking about the methodology of non-formal education, it is important to distinguish between methodology and methods. By methodology we mean the type of activities we use. For example, role-playing is also a methodology, as it is an approach to activities, just like simulation or group-building activities. So what are methods? Methods are the specific tools we use within these methodologies.

We use different methods of team building in our educational activities, especially at the beginning of the Learning Mobility. One of the main approaches is the use of ice-breaking activities and name games. These activities are designed to break the ice between participants and create a safe atmosphere conducive to team spirit and mutual learning. Name games are particularly effective not only for remembering names but also for further facilitating initial interactions.

Another important element of the programme is team-building activities. These can be found in various toolkits and manuals and are also available in the SALTO toolkit. The type of team-building activity you choose will depend on the current level of the group and the level you want to take them to. These activities may focus on shared decision-making or on the joint development of strategies. There are also team building activities that involve more physical contact and cooperation at a physical level. Such activities, which gradually reduce personal space and increase shared space, should be approached with caution as they may be uncomfortable for some. It is always important to ask the group and let them know that if someone is uncomfortable, then leaving is acceptable.

In general, when building a group, it is advisable to proceed gradually. Start with simple exercises, such as discussing common topics in small groups, such as hobbies or travel. These topics are not too personal and are an easy entry point. You can then dig deeper and assign tasks for which the group needs to come up with a common strategy, agree with each other, define roles, appoint a leader and strive to achieve a common goal, emphasising its importance over individual goals. As the group develops, members learn to identify a common goal and work towards it.

In addition to team building methodology, we also use many methodologies such as simulation exercises and role-playing. These methods help participants to try out new strategies and problem solving in a safe learning atmosphere with the support of trainers and a report on their experiences at the end of the activity.

For example, take the Mosque in the Sleepyville exercise, a method that uses role-playing methodology, where participants solve a problem by taking on roles. Such activities have two main characteristics. The first is the situation to be resolved – in the case of the Mosque in the Sleepy City, whether the city council should approve the construction of a mosque in their city. The second and equally important element is that the participants do not act from their own perspective, but from an assigned role. This allows them to experience decision-making processes and to try out roles that may be unfamiliar to them. Such role-playing promotes empathy and understanding of different perspectives through action.

Below we invite you to discover some of the activities you can carry out during your learning mobility.

 ICEWATER:

If you want to break the ice on the day of arrival and encourage participants to engage in conversation and get to know each other, we use icebreakers. That didn’t help much, did it? But wait, we’ll give you an example: the passport. The passport is a dynamic and fun way to get to know each other while also easing some of the initial awkwardness in the group. This game is great because the results (the completed passports) can be pinned up on the wall, so people can get to know their peers better and leave messages for them during the mobility process! So the steps are:

  1. Pass out passport templates to Everyone write their name on the paper.
  2. The moderator turns on the music and the participants.
  3. When the music stops, everyone confronts someone and they exchange
  4. Based on the answers given by the original owner of the template, they perform certain tasks (draw their partner’s face, record their favourite book, film, food, city, ).
  5. The passports are returned to their rightful owners and when the music starts, the process repeats until all criteria are met.
  1. When the passports are ready, everyone can present them to the group, or better still, the last partners can present them to each other!