Sometimes as educators, we have a clear idea of what we’d like to see achieved; at others, we do not and should not. In the case of the former, we might be working to a curriculum, have a session or lesson plan with clear objectives, and have a high degree of control over the learning environment. This is what we often mean by ‘formal education’. When we are working with a community group, the setting is theirs and, as educators, we are present as guests. This is an example of informal education.
First, the group may well be clear on what it wants to achieve. They know learning is involved – it is something necessary to achieve what they want – but it is not the main focus.
Second, this learning activity works largely through conversation – and conversation takes unpredictable turns.
In both forms, educators set out to create environments and relationships where people can explore their, and other’s, experiences of situations, ideas and feelings.