Spiritual dimensions of informal learning

English, L. M. (2000). Spiritual dimensions of informal learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, (85):29–37. [pdf]


Informal and incidental learning occur contrinuously in the everyday world. In this chapter the author focus on three primary learning strategies: mentoring, self-directed learning (SDL) and dialogue. She explores how each of these strategies can facilitate spiritual development. The main argument of the author is that informal learning can foster a (a) strong sense of self, (b) concern and outreach to others, and (c) continuous construction of meaning and knowledge.

(a) Adults learn from their encounters with others about alernate and varied ways of being. Spirituality develops from a strong sense of self (MaKeracher, 1996).

(b) A fully integrated spiritual person reaches beyond his or her self and acknowledge the interdependance of all of creation, appreciate the uniqueness of others, and ultimately assumes responability for caring.

(c) The opportunity to engage with others and in the activities in which one is involved assists in the process of constructing meaning from experience (Merriam and Heuer, 1996). The search of meaning is bound up in the understanding of everyday life. It involves a realization that life is greater than our sphere of influence.

Human potential requires nurturing. This can be stimulated by study circles and by the learning by doing. An objective of adult education should be to help individuals make meaning our of their experience. The learner should be brought to take charge for his/her learning experience. A technique that can go in this sense is a journal of the student educational practice.

Also, knowledge is constructed collaboratively. Therefore it is important to develop self-understanding and awareness as these abilities put the learner in contact with others. The community should be engaged in collective activities of constructing meaning.

The author concludes with a final remark that shed light on her idea of spiritual dimension: “although all humans have spititual aspects in their being, not all are aware of this dimension in their lives. Informal and incidental learning provide the context and support that nurture this spiritual component.

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