As can be seen, these workers have changed their learning behaviors that have occurred inside and outside of the classroom. They were also asked for their perceptions of ongoing, or lifelong learning, and how this will play a part in their future. Where do learners see themselves along this learning path stretching ahead?
Dianne says it is,
“seeing different things out there, such as carpentry, courses to fix things, and watching and observing as a way of learning forever.”
Dianne’s “forever” is a result of both the formal and informal; crossover from one realm to the next happens easily in her learning. Pam marries the strength of her success in her formal education with the potential of her informal learning:
“Lifelong learning is never stopping. You are learning something new at all times, whether it is small or not small. It’s great to go out there and try something new. I’m in a better position to challenge most things now that I have that piece of paper, whether at Boeing or somewhere else.”
In a similar way, one workplace instructor described it by saying,
“formal training provides tools to open the door for informal learning.”
Dave, another employee sees lifelong learning as the constant need to upgrade, as
“things are changing all the time and we need to keep up.” He includes his volunteer work with sports teams, his union involvement with the Federation of Labour, and his workplace health and safety committees as a “huge” part of his lifelong learning.
Upon exploration of these two focus realms of learning – formal and informal, some insights may be drawn. The first is that informal learning is a multifaceted entity, encompassing a range of activities that could be considered in the following definition:
Informal learning is knowledge and skills gained through self generated acts, to help further understanding and/or increased skill of a task or tasks. These “acts” include observation, listening, reading, mentoring, group membership interaction, and attempting/ experimenting with tasks.
Founded on the data collected, I have been provided with answers to questions about workplace learning. I have gained some insights into the process that instructors and learners see as important steps along their learning paths. It appears that the new talents that employees bring to their workplace stems from learning through both the informal and formal training means. Each of these ways to learn cannot be seen as mutually exclusive when enhancing the “knowledge” required for a workplace, activity or procedure. We can see that the ability and natural evolution of the ways we come to know incorporates all manner of learning. This body of knowledge and skills incorporates both technical and soft skills. Assembly procedures, blueprint reading, document navigation and computer literacy name only some of the many technical skills. Soft skills include evidence of pride, problem solving, co-operation, innovation, initiative and self-confidence. The skills and knowledge an employee gains is borne out of a coming together of both formal and informal knowledge. In the case of the Boeing workers, the formal training experience acted as a confidence booster that led to an increased willingness to consider the possibilities and new practices of informal learning, consciously and unconsciously. As learning transgresses the boundaries of the formal and informal, there is a movement that is interwoven and mutually supported. The end result is a learning path that is broad and rich indeed.