Informal learning is any activity that happens throughout a person’s life that enriches their knowledge, skills or abilities and is not structured by any organization, like a school, youth program, homeschooling program, or otherwise.
Given the nature of informal learning, it might not seem like its wholly related to Meaningful Student Involvement. However, since Meaningful Student Involvement is focused on the system of education as a whole, the times when students are learning within schools that are not regulated by teachers, classes, curriculum or other confines constitute informal learning. When adults influence students’ experiences in schools from outside schools, that’s informal learning. That means that parents’ comments about schools, grandparents’ reminiscences about their classes, and neighbors’ lobbying school policy can all constitute informal learning. Similarly when video games, television shows, movies and music make statements about schools, that can be informal learning, too. All of that can affect students’ perceptions of learning, teaching and leadership in education and can be researched, planned, taught, evaluated, and advocated for or against.
Meaningful Student Involvement can be an approach to counterbalance the effect of family and friends’ attitudes and examples in school; from media and social media; or pop culture tools like movies, radio and television. By building students’ capacities through Meaningful Student Involvement, educators can enrich informal education that is unorganized, unsystematic and even unintentional at times, yet that makes up a lot of anyone’s total lifetime learning.