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Researching Formal and Informal Learning: From Dichotomies to a Dialogic Notion of Learning

Kristiina Kumpulainen, Anna Mikkola

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This article is situated in a body of research focusing on learning in and out of school, often referred to as studies of formal and informal learning. Drawing on the dialogic approach, the article warns against simplistic and dichotomous definitions of what counts as formal and informal learning. Instead, it calls for the importance of understanding learning as a dialogue between contexts of discourse in which the attributes of “formality” and “informality” intersect. By taking discourse as the core unit of analysis, the approach advocated here focuses on examining how students’ discourses embedded in diverse contexts are managed, negotiated, and hybridized during their academic work. We shall exemplify our argument with empirical data stemming from a case study on elementary school students’ online interaction during creative collaborative writing. In our analysis of the data, we illuminate the hybridization of students’ online interaction in which diverse contexts of discourse come into dialogue, producing opportunities and tensions for their engagement, learning, and identity. The article finishes by considering the wider implications of the dialogic approach to understanding learning across contexts.

Keywords: formal and informal learning environments, sociocultural approach, hybrid space, dialogic learning


Bibliography: Kumpulainen, Kristiina/Mikkola, Anna: Researching Formal and Informal Learning, IJREE, Vol. 3, Issue 2-2015, pp. 50-60.