Formal education is classroom-based, provided by trained teachers.
Informal education happens outside the classroom, in after-school
programs, community-based organizations, museums, libraries, or at home.
What are the main differences between the two?
- In general, classrooms have the same kids and the same teachers every
day. After-school programs are often drop-in, so attendance is
inconsistent, as is leadership.
- Classroom activities can last several days. After-school programs need
to complete an activity each day because a different group of kids could
be in attendance tomorrow.
- You can assume that classroom-based teachers have a certain level of
training in educational philosophy, effective teaching strategies,
classroom management, and content. After-school providers, by contrast,
vary in experience and knowledge of teaching techniques, content
expertise, and group management. Typically, materials for after-school
settings need to include a lot more structure.
- Teachers need to meet educational standards
and stick to a specified curriculum, which can make it
difficult for them to incorporate nontraditional content. After-school
programs, on the other hand, can be more flexible with their content.
Both formal and informal education settings offer different strengths to
your educational outreach project. If your project fits in the
classroom, it can have a very long life; teachers will use trusted
resources for years. After-school programs offer a different kind of
environment, where your activities don't need to be as formal and where
you can reach a different audience.
While both schools and after-school programs serve students, many kids
who feel disenfranchised at school blossom in after-school settings.
Real learning can happen in a setting where kids feel less intimidated
or more comfortable than they do in a formal classroom. The ultimate
goal is that their success in an informal setting can lead to greater
confidence in the formal classroom.
An additional benefit of developing materials for informal educational
settings is that they may be useful to parents at home with their kids,
or to adult learners who are looking to expand their knowledge, either
for their own enrichment or to increase their career options.