Ways to Look at Training and Development Processes: Informal/Formal and Self-Directed/Other-Directed

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

Sections of This Topic Include

Two Dimensions of Training and Development Processes
Decision Factors on Those Two Dimensions
Informal and Formal Training and Development
Self-Directed and "Other-Directed" Learning
Library's Blogs About Training and Development

Also see
Related Library Topics

Also See the Library's Blogs Related to Ways to Look at Formal and Informal and also Self-Directed and Other-Directed Training

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to Formal and Informal and also Self-Directed and Other-Directed Training. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Career Management Blog
Library's Human Resources Blog
Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog
Library's Training and Development Blog


Two Dimensions of Training and Development Processes

You could describe training and development processes using two dimensions - one for the degree of formality and one for the balance between self-directed and other-directed learning.

These two sets of choices result in four overall approaches. That is, one can take an informal approach to self-directed or "other-directed" learning. Similarly, one can take a formal approach to self-directed or "other-directed" learning.

Decision Factors on Those Dimensions

The decision about what approach to take to training depends on several factors. These factors include the amount of funding available for training, specificity and complexity of the knowledge and skills needed, timeliness of training needed, and capacity and motivation of the learner.

Other-directed, formal training is typically more expensive than other approaches, but is often the most reliable to use for the learner to achieve the desired knowledge and skills in a timely fashion. Self-directed, informal learning can be very low-cost, however the learner should have the capability and motivation to pursue their own training. Training may take longer than other-directed forms.

Highly specific and routine tasks can often be trained without complete, formal approaches. On the other hand, highly complex and changing roles often require more complete and formal means of development, which can be very expensive as a result.

If training is needed right away, then other-directed training is often very useful, e.g., to sign up for a training course at a local university, college or training center. Or, a training professional can be brought in. Again, other-directed training is usually faster and more reliable, but more expensive.

Self-directed forms of training require that the learner be highly motivated and able to conceptualize their approach to training, particularly in formal training.

Informal and Formal Training and Development

Informal Training and Development

Informal learning is very likely the most common form of learning. There is no formal structure or curriculum, and usually no expert trainer who teaches students. There usually is no formal recognition of completion, for example, a certificate or diploma. Informal learning is ideal for very experienced people. Formal learning is ideal for new learners, for example, to learn a new technology or specific procedure.

Informal training and development is rather casual and incidental. Typically, there are no specified training goals as such, nor are their ways to evaluate if the training actually accomplished these goals or not. This type of training and development occurs so naturally that many people probably aren't aware that they're in a training experience at all. Probably the most prominent form of informal training is learning from experience on the job. Examples are informal discussions among employees about a certain topic, book discussion groups, and reading newspaper and journal articles about a topic. A more recent approach is sending employees to hear prominent speakers, sometimes affectionately called "the parade of stars".

Informal training is less effective than formal training if one should intentionally be learning a specific area of knowledge or skill in a timely fashion. Hardly any thought is put into what learning is to occur and whether that learning occurred or not. (However, this form of training often provides the deepest and richest learning because this form is what occurs naturally in life.)

More Articles About Informal Training

Informal Learning (Wikipedia)
Informal and Formal Learning
Recognition of Informal and Non-Formal Learning
Informal Learning and the Silent Trainer #2
The Power of the Silent Trainer
Are Your Employees Ready to Succeed?
Informal Learning Widespread, Difficult to Track
Formalizing Informal Learning
Waiting for Darwin – Cave Man Training Today
Training for Survival: How to be the Fittest in Today’s Economy

Formal Training and Development

Formal training is based on some standard "form". Formal training might include:
a) declaring certain learning objectives (or an extent of knowledge, skills or abilities that will be reached by learners at the end of the training),
b) using a variety of learning methods to reach the objectives and then
b) applying some kind(s) of evaluation activities at the end of the training.

The methods and means of evaluation might closely associate with the learning objectives, or might not. For example, courses, seminars and workshops often have a form -- but it's arguable whether or not their training methods and evaluation methods actually assess whether the objectives have been met or not.

Formal, Systematic Training and Development

Systematic, formal training involves carefully proceeding through the following phases:
a) Assessing what knowledge, skills and /or abilities are needed by learners;
b) Designing the training, including identifying learning goals and associated objectives, training methods to reach the objectives, and means to carefully evaluate whether the objectives have been reached or not;
c) Developing the training methods and materials;
d) Implementing the training; and
e) Evaluating whether objectives have been reached or not, in addition to the quality of the training methods and materials themselves

A systematic approach is goal-oriented (hopefully, to produce results for the organization and/or learners), with the results of each phase being used by the next phase. Typically, each phase provides ongoing evaluation feedback to other phases in order to improve the overall system's process.

Note, again, that not all formal methods are systematic. Some courses, workshops, and other training sessions have goals, methods and evaluation, but they are not aligned, or even integrated. The methods, in total, do not guide the learner toward achieving the training goal. The evaluations are too often of how a learner feels about the learning experience, rather than of how well the learning experience achieved the goal of the training.

For more information about formal, systematic training and development, see Formal Training Processes -- Instructional Systems Design (ISD) and ADDIE.

Self-Directed and "Other-Directed" Learning

Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed training includes the learner making the decisions about what training and development experiences will occur and how. The learner selects and carries out their own learning goals, objectives, methods and means to verifying that the goals were met. Self-directed training seems to be more popular of late. Note that one can pursue a self-directed approach to informal or formal training. For example, self-directed, informal training might include examples of informal training listed above (book discussion groups, etc.), as long as the learner chose the activities and topics themselves, either for professional or personal reasons. Self-directed, formal training includes the learner's selecting and carrying out their own learning goals, objectives, methods and means to verifying that the goals were met. (For additional information about self-directed learning, see The Strong Value of Self-Directed Learning in the Workplace.)

Probably the most important skill for today's rapidly changing workforce is skills in self-reflection. The highly motivated, self-directed learner with skills in self-reflection can approach the workplace as a continual classroom from which to learn. Supervisors and employees who work together to accomplish formal, self-directed learning in the workplace also accomplish continuous learning for continued productivity and learning.

Self-directed learning programs hold numerous advantages over traditional forms of classroom instruction for employees in the workplace, whether they be leaders, managers, or individual contributors. Bouchard (Self-directed Learning in Organizational Settings (working paper), Concordia University, Montreal, Canada) explains, “Over the years, it has become increasingly clear that traditional approaches to program design and delivery in the workplace and in associative organizations present some important weaknesses. Problem areas include: coping with the short life span of useful knowledge; passing down acquired competencies to succeeding cohorts; accommodating the demands of productivity while providing for a continuity of learning; [and!] enabling learners to pursue activities that correspond to their learning styles and needs” (p. 1).

After many years of reflection about learning, eminent psychologist, Carl Rogers, founder of self-directed therapy, asserted that “anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential, and has little or no significant influence on behavior” (On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy, Houghton Mifflin, 1961, p. 276). He adds, “The only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning” (p. 276).

Self-directed learning programs:

  • Are more effective in development because learning accommodates employees’ learning styles and objectives
  • Save substantial training costs because learners learn to help themselves and each other with practical and timely materials
  • Achieve increased employee effectiveness in their jobs as they learn to learn from their own work experiences and actually apply their learning in their places of work

Some Online Articles About Self-Directed Learning

Self-Directed Learning
Self-Directed Learning Web Page another Self-Directed Learning Web page
Self-Directedness in Adult Vocational Education Students
Take Responsibility for Your Own Learning
Journaling -- What We Can Learn from Unschooling

 

Other-Directed Learning

This form, of course, is where someone other than the learner drives what training activities will occur. Other-directed, informal training includes, e.g., supervisors sending employees to training about diversity, policies, sexual harassment in the workplace.

Other-directed, formal training includes where someone other than the learner specifies the training goals will be met in training, how those goals will be met and how evaluation will occur to verify that the goals were met. This form of learning is probably the most recognized because it includes the approach to learning as used in universities, colleges and training centers. This form of learning typically grants diplomas and certificates. Note that this form of training, although readily available in universities, etc., is usually somewhat "generic", that is, the program is geared to accommodate the needs of the most learners and not be customized to any one learner. Therefore, a learner may pay tuition fees to learn knowledge and skills that he or she may not really need.

Another form of "other-directed', formal training is employee development plans. The plans identify performance goals, how the goals will be reached, by when and who will verify their accomplishment.

"Other-directed', formal training can be highly effective for helping learners gain desired areas of knowledge and skills in a timely fashion. A drawback is that learners can become somewhat passive, counting on the "expert" to show them what they should be doing and when.

Learn More in the Library's Blogs Related to this Topic

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to this topic. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Career Management Blog
Library's Human Resources Blog
Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog
Library's Training and Development Blog

Go to main Training and Development page.


Submit a link


For the Category of Training and Development:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books

Basics and General Information

Orienting and Training Employees



Basics and General Information

Leadership and Supervision in Business - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides step-by-step, highly practical guidelines to recruit, utilize and evaluate the best employees for your business. Includes guidelines to effectively lead yourself (as Board member or employee), other individuals, groups and organizations. Includes guidelines to avoid burnout -- a very common problem among employees of small businesses. Many materials in this Library's topic about staffing are adapted from this book.
Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides step-by-step, highly practical guidelines to recruit, utilize and evaluate the best staff members for your nonprofit. Includes guidelines to effectively lead yourself (as Board member or staff member), other individuals, groups and organizations. Includes guidelines to avoid burnout -- a very common problem among nonprofit staff. Many materials in this Library's topic about staffing are adapted from this book.

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Orienting and Training Employees

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Also See

Career Development -- Recommended Books

Coaching -- Recommended Books

Human Resources -- Recommended Books

Career Development -- Recommended Books

Interpersonal Skills -- Recommended Books

Personal Development -- Recommended Books

Personal Productivity -- Recommended Books

Time and Stress Management -- Recommended Books




Find a Topic

Learn Consulting