Tips to Develop New Skills with Informal Learning in the Summer

With summer, well-deserved vacations come for many of us! And with them, an exciting opportunity to develop specific skills while having fun. This article will explore different ideas and tips to use during your vacations with informal and fun learning experiences.

After a very tough year of studying or working, the time for a vacation comes! Summer is not only beautiful because of its nice weather, but also because of the different activities available during this time of the year. And with it, there comes an opportunity to keep a bit far from our formal learning in schools or colleges. But learning will still continue because our brains are active the whole time. So, how about using this capacity of the brain to benefit our own growth? Well, a good chance is through informal learning.

Unlike formal and non-formal modes, informal learning is the process in which we learn from unplanned, spontaneous, and unstructured processes. 


Why Are Vacations Important for Our Learning Process?

Some research papers have documented a possible summer learning loss, especially in certain historically marginalized groups. But going on vacations doesn’t mean that learning stops. In fact, vacations are a transition from formal learning in the classroom, to spare time for informal learning and leisure activities. Sometimes we think of learning as a process exclusively happening in schools, but evidence shows that informal learning brings other benefits to individuals in the long term: it promotes motivation and personal development, reduces levels of anxiety and stress, allows learners to self-regulate their energy levels, and others.

Some of these benefits relate to mental and physical health, which are necessary for people’s wellbeing. For efficient learning in schools, there are different factors a student uses: creativity, motivation, interpersonal skills, concentration, thinking skills, and others. Mental health of teachers and students is an important factor in a positive school environment. And strong mental health also reduces levels of anxiety and stress, which can result in the somatization of negative feelings if not managed properly. With somatization, physical health might also be affected, resulting in other physical ailments.

But besides its impact on health, vacations foster motivation and creativity in learners, and also in employees. Satisfaction and wellbeing increase when workers use their vacations as spare time, reconnecting with their inner selves and passions and returning to school or work with a different perspective and fresher mindsets.


Ideas to Informally Learn During Vacations

As informal learning involves unplanned and unstructured activities, this will not explore summer courses, which indeed are a valuable and helpful experience to keep learning and socialize with peers. Instead, here are some general tips to informally learn during vacations.

Retake an old hobby or try a new one: Sometimes our daily agenda is quite tight and time is not enough for doing activities that we love. So summer vacations are a good opportunity to take our hobbies back, or to even try new ones. Either from individual or group activities, hobbies allow us to practice skills and reconnect with our personal passions and interests.

A balance between individual and social activities: Every learner has their own personality, so it is okay to opt for individual initiatives or for teamwork-related activities. But to avoid monotony, it would be advisable to balance between individual and group activities from time to time. 

Socialization is also important for our development as humans, as it allows us to interact with other people’s visions and perspectives, which also nurtures our personal independence of thought. And also, some activities can be more fun if done with others! 

Diversify your activities: Relating to the previous points, diversifying your activities might also be an interesting opportunity for informal learning during your summer vacations. For example, if you prefer soccer, you can also try to experiment with a new sport; or a totally different activity (such as chess, painting, or dancing). If you give yourself the opportunity to try diverse experiences, you will find out new aspects about yourself that you probably didn’t know before. And also, it allows your brain to strengthen its neuroplasticity, which will help you become more resilient over time.

Give yourself time to reflect on your learning: Regardless of the activities you prefer to do, giving yourself some time to reflect and identify what you have learned over the day is important. Metacognition, or the ability of a person to reflect on what, why, and how they learned, is an important thinking skill that feeds from self-reflection. So you might find it helpful to give yourself 10 or 15 minutes at the end of your day to think of any specific knowledge or skill you practiced that day. If you make it a habit, you will come up with lots of learning you hadn’t realized before.

As discussed, informal learning is not difficult and can bring many benefits to those who are conscious about them. This learning model is free and will spontaneously happen with any activity of your choice. An advice from this article is to see your vacations not as a lack-of-learning period. Instead, summer vacations are a transition that, with more flexibility, freedom and fun, can still help each person grow and develop new skills and mindsets.


Photo: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock


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