Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel

Formal Learning

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_160



The concept of formal learning usually includes three necessary features that, taken together, constitute the formality of the learning situation:
  1. 1.

    A specified curriculum that sets out what needs to be learnt

  2. 2.

    Taught by a designated teacher or group of teachers

  3. 3.

    With the learning attainments of individual learners being assessed and certified in some way

These basic requirements for a learning situation to be formal can be expanded into a fuller definition as follows:

Formal learning is that which takes place as intended within formally constituted educational institutions such as schools, colleges universities, training centres and so on. Typically it follows a prescribed framework whether or not actual attendance at the institution is necessary. Sometimes there are quite specific outcomes. On other occasions there is more of a kind of broad direction or aim. In all cases however those partaking of courses of formal learning...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Boud, D. J. (2007). Reframing assessment as if learning were important. In D. Boud & N. Falchikov (Eds.), Rethinking assessment in higher education (pp. 14–25). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Boud, D. J., & Falchikov, N. (2006). Aligning assessment with long-term learning. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(4), 399–413.Google Scholar
  3. Boud, D., & Solomon, N. (2003). “I Don’t Think I Am a Learner”: Acts of naming learners at work. Journal of Workplace Learning, 15(7–8), 326–331.Google Scholar
  4. Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Towards an activity-theoretical reconceptualisation. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133–156.Google Scholar
  5. Hager, P., & Halliday, J. (2006). Recovering informal learning: Wisdom, judgement and community. Dordrecht: Springer (Reissued as a paperback in 2009).Google Scholar
  6. Illich, I. (1973). Deschooling society. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  7. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesUniversity of Technology, SydneyBroadwayAustralia