Ways to Look at Training and Development Processes: Informal/Formal
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
Related Library Topics
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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
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near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free
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”
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
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 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 and Formal
of Informal and Non-Formal Learning
Learning and the Silent Trainer #2
Power of the Silent Trainer
Your Employees Ready to Succeed?
Learning Widespread, Difficult to Track
for Darwin – Cave Man Training Today
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
b) applying some kind(s) of evaluation activities at the end of
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
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
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
Processes — Instructional Systems Design (ISD) and ADDIE.
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.
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
another Self-Directed Learning Web page
Self-Directedness in Adult Vocational Education Students
Journaling — What
We Can Learn from Unschooling
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.
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.
Go to main Training
and Development page.
For the Category of Training and Development:
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