Informal Training and Development
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.)
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.
Self-Directed and “Other-Directed” Training
Self-directed training includes the learner making the decisions about what training and development experiences will occur and how. 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.
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 centres. 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