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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Turtle BS: Formal vs. Informal Education (60* d) RE: BS: Formal vs. Informal Education 05 Jun 00

Whistle Stop, I can think of a real-world example (in the U.S.) of an attempt to acknowledge this kind of informal learning, with mixed results. In the field of early childhood education, people are grossly undercompensated and as a result the turnover in the field is something like 40% per year in the U.S. and most of the people in the field have little or no education or training beyond high school. In an attempt to recognize & reward people who were doing good work with children but who didn't have formal credentials, the national association about 15 or 20 years ago put together a competency-based credential called the Child Development Associate, or CDA.

The idea was that if people could demonstrate that they had a good solid practical understanding of child development and best practice for children under 6, they could gain a credential without going through formal education, and long term, the credential would be linked to pay increases, status in the field, etc. You got a CDA by working with a CDA advisor to document the fact that you met the criteria in a number of areas in your daily work with kids, and then having this portfolio evaluated by a CDA representative. The whole point of the credential was to legitimize the knowledge people had gained informally through doing their work.

Of course, what happened was that after a while the CDA program was revamped (weakened, in my opinion) to function as a kind of training program. Instead of acknowledging skills people already have, now it's designed to train people into having those skills. To get your CDA these days involves taking classes, not demonstrating what you already know, and its power to change the way we think about knowledge, learning, and credentialing in the field is largely dissipated.

I think that points out the way that systems & institutions, including or perhaps especially educational ones, tend to reshape even fairly radical efforts to change them back into the same old form. There is a lot of research about this in terms of the public schools in the U.S., and it's one reason that changing the way we (the societal we, this time) think about (or practice) learning & education is so hard.

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