Education professionals must re-examine the use of labels for education and learning in diverse settings in light of new understandings of how people learn and updated goals for broader interdisciplinary work. The varied use of the terms informal education, nonformal education, and formal education draw distinctions that serve to divide, not unite, those working to support a wide variety of learners for similar agriscience education goals. What in Extension education is nonformal learning is informal learning in science education. Juxtaposing informal learning or nonformal learning with formal learning also serves, in the eyes of some outside the profession, to devalue the learning that actually predominates human learning, at least in terms of time and opportunity. Education privileges the facilitator, not the learner. One potential new term for consideration is free-choice learning. By breaking down silos, working across disciplinary boundaries, and embracing common terminology that puts the learner at the center, a profession of educators can better leverage resources, increase visibility, and ultimately, support constituents.
Stofer, K. A. (2015). Informal, Non(-)formal, or Free-choice Education and Learning? Toward a Common Terminology for Agriscience and Ag-STEM Educators. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 3(1), 9. https://scholarsjunction.msstate.edu/jhse/vol3/iss1/9
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