Ormal systematic learning is of less importance than informal learning.Discuss this statement with reference to theories of learning

Subject :Human Resource Development and Performance Management

Title:Formal systematic learning is of less importance than informal learning.Discuss this statement with reference to theories of learning  

Reference style :Harvard

Words count:4000


The assignment question asks you to consider the extent to which formal learning is of less importance than informal learning, and to do this with reference to theories of learning.

It is not entirely clear that you have knowledge of the subject area and understanding of the theories and literature in this field (key criteria to pass the assignment). The key distinction should be between formal and informal learning, with the learning theories at the forefront. However, your essay gives us a much broader account of learning in general, without ever getting to grips with any of the main learning theories (behaviourist or cognitivist for example). The major point of concern is that far too much time is spent trying to define what learning is. The closest you come to examining any theories is a fleeting reference to experiential and cognitive learning but these are never developed. As such, some major theoretical contributions to the debate on learning have been totally omitted.

A second major weakness is the over reliance on large quotes; it would appear whole paragraphs in places. The use of sources in this way means that much of the essay is not your own work. Are we to conclude that you are struggling to understand the subject area? Apart from where you refer (on p.6) to the  confusing notion of informal learning, you never succeed in stating what informal learning actually is. This could have been defined in a couple of sentences in the introduction. Where you do go some way to giving a definition of informal and formal learning at the bottom of p.6, this is rather confused and is really just a series of quotes.

The essay is, moreover, over descriptive in many places. The very general description of learning lends little to the discussion, bar perhaps providing some very general context. Setting the context is useful, but briefly. You state in your introduction that the development of IT has subjected the understanding of learning to a different perspective other than  the traditional view , but you fail to explain what this traditional view refers to.

The argument that you are trying to make is unclear. Your introduction states that the aim of your essay is to  find out why formal systematic learning is less important than informal learning . But, the assignment should not be setting out to  prove the statement in question. Rather, the aim is to critically discuss the extent to which formal systematic learning might be seen as less important than informal learning, with reference to theories of learning. In doing so you should have been aiming to build up an argument. However, you do not do this.

You need to think further about the strengths and weaknesses of the work that you have read, in order to develop your skill of analysis. The long quote on p.5 does not add anything to the argument  it simply shows the importance the author attaches to having a  passion to learn and acquire new knowledge: How is this relevant to the question? One approach you might take is to focus on how existing theories of learning have understood and interpreted formal and informal learning, taking us through theories in a structured way and asking  to what extent is informal / formal learning important in this theory? What examples can I use to illustrate my argument?

Structural Issues

The essay does contain an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. However, the introduction does not sufficiently outline the structure of the essay: other than stating that it will begin by defining learning it does not tell us anything about the theories that you will examine in order to address the statement in question. It also does not set out clearly the argument you intend to make. The introduction is therefore too general, when it should be specific. Rather than beginning with a very general definition of learning you could have used the introduction to briefly outline the key differences between formal and informal learning for instance, thus leaving the main body of the essay free for you to examine the theories of learning. Your conclusion does attempt to provide a summary of your main points but is rather long.

Your use of headings within the body of the essay is not necessarily helpful (e.g. on p.7)  headings are more common in a report style of writing. We suggest that you stick to the main headings of Introduction, Main Body (or a title related to the question) and Conclusions. This gives some structure, but avoids breaking up your work too much. Also, making use of in-text signposting will help to tell the reader where you are going. NB. Informal and formal learning are not mutually exclusive within the theories, as your heading  formal versus informal learning implies.

Your use of illustrations/diagrams is not appropriate for an assignment, and the illustrations do not add anything to your answering of the question. Neither is your use of the bullet points at the bottom of p.5 conventional in an academic assignment. In these cases it would have been better to explain what you were trying to say in your own words, highlighting its relevance to the question at hand.

Writing Style

Where you do write in your own words, sentences tend to be unclear and difficult to understand (e.g.  conditioning may result to change simply due to conditioned reflexes and not of new knowledge drawn upon experience on p.3). Your expression is also rather odd in places, e.g. where you use the swamp metaphor to try and compare and contrast formal and informal learning, which simply leads to further confusion. Paying close attention to academic articles written in English should help you to improve your writing style.

Referencing and Sources

Whilst you include a lot of sources in your bibliography, many of these are not key academic texts but have come straight from the internet. While in principle there is nothing wrong with citing material that you have found on-line, you should certainly have shown your ability to question the reliability and strength of some of these sources, most of which are not based on any kind of academic research. For instance you draw heavily on the work of Cross but this is not an academic text and is never explained in any depth. It would have strengthened your answer and analysis if you had been able to read more academic sources and key texts  and particularly the CLMS course materials you are supposed to be studying.

There are some other problems with referencing. For example, you need to ensure that all of the references included in the bibliography are cited in the text of your essay and vice-versa. Your sources are also referenced inconsistently. For example, some sources are referenced correctly in the text of your answer whilst others are not. The Rogers reference on p.5 is an example of a reference that is incorrect: it is not necessary to include the author s first name, or to include the title of the publication (these should both go in the bibliography). At times sources appear to be missing altogether (e.g. at the bottom of page 5 where you refer to  cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains, or the reference to Schon on p.8). References should always appear in brackets following the author s surname but in places you do not do this (e.g. in citing Stamp on p.12). Further, where you make direct quotes (i.e. that from cross on p.10) you need to reference page numbers.

Finally, the way that some references are written out in the bibliography is not correct or complete. You need to check the conventions for Harvard referencing and make sure that you stick to these. Please refer back to the course materials and particularly the Academic Writing Skills materials.


The essay is adequate