Extracurricular Activities—Essential Informal Learning for Any Degree Program

by Saul Carliner

Opening Comment:  In recognition of the start of a new school year, I am revising and re-posting my series of suggestions on incorporating informal learning into degree programs.

The technical term for these activities is co-curricular activities.

Experts in informal learning posit that somewhere between 56 and 80 percent of all workplace learning occurs outside of formal training.

But much of the study of informal learning has occurred within the context of becoming a professional—the goal of formal, degree programs.  Although that research suggests that classroom portions play a significant role in professional development, experiences outside of the classroom play a crucial role.  Classroom experiences build a knowledge base.

But these extra-curricular activities–the symposia and lectures, student group meetings, volunteer assignments, readings, conferences, and casual conversations over meals– provide students with opportunities to experience our field, meet other professionals, share their hopes and fears, failures and dreams, and prepare for the all-important transition from school to work.

Extra-curricular activities serve the same role in academe that informal learning—“situations in which some combination of the process, location, purpose, and content of instruction are determined by the worker, who may or may not be conscious that an instructional event occurred” (Carliner 2012)—plays in workplace learning and performance.

To which extra-curricular experiences should we direct our students so that they have experiences so central to their development as professionals?  This series of blog posts offers several concrete suggestions of the types of activities to recommend, choices available for students, and how to direct students to the choices most appropriate for them.

This next post explores the role of campus lectures and symposia.  Future posts explore professional organizations, regular reading, conferences, and volunteer activities to recommend to students.  The last two posts in this series pull these suggestions together: one explores the differences in purposes of each level of degree and what that might mean for professional development; the other suggests the importance of tailoring suggestions to the needs and interests of individual students.

Note:  Although I’ve written these posts from the perspective of the instructor, students might find some value in this series of posts.

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