Applied vs formal learning

A lovely log denFormal in the classroom learning versus applied hands on out and about learning…What has a log den got to with learning you ask?

I had a head teacher (many moons ago) who had a major impact on the children who went to his school. He was very much an out of the classroom learning kind of guy. Any chance he could find to get kids hands on to learn he took. Yes, there was formal learning taking place in our classroom, but very often this was reinforced by the activities he provided. We had little remote control boats that we could use on the swimming pool. Without realising, we were learning about rotation, angles, bouyancy (and gravity when they sank) etc. and having so much fun doing it.

He ensured that the playground had hand tennis squares painted on the tarmac, which meant as long as you had some type of a ball and one other player, you could be active at the same time as learning to count, plan game tactics etc.

He then moved schools at some point and took a lot of flack from the new school parents who thought the children were not in the classroom enough and frowned upon the idea that they were learning outside the classroom. I don’t know where he is now, but I do know that the pressure on him was too much and that school lost a font of knowledge who had a way with children that was the best I have ever encountered. It was a priviledge to have had him as a head teacher.

Formal classroom learning is clearly a requirement (a traditional requirement but a requirement none the less) for children to acquire new knowledge. But (yes I started my sentence with BUT), how will you truly know that the newly acquired knowlegde can be applied in real life situations if they are not provided.

Back to answering my log den question – we used the log den to re-enact ‘the Gruffalo’ story as well as ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ and whilst exploring the den that someone else had built we chatted about the little eco-system of bugs and animals that it provided. No, this was not on a school outing but is an example of learning outside. (It’s always the simple things that make life so much fun!)

I also remember another teacher always asking us how we think we will use whatever it was she was teaching us. We would sit there in silence and she would then say ‘Well it’s pointless learning something you think you are never going to use!’ and then launch into a number of every day tasks we were peforming without knowing we were putting her lesson into practice already.

The debate about learning outside of a formal classroom setting will always continue and I can see the benefits of applied and formal learning.

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