Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison – How does Informal Learning work?


– Alan is a developmental psychologist and teacher interested in how children learn. He has worked at universities in England, Spain and Australia and for a time was at the Bernard van Leer Foundation in Den Haag. He is now a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London.

– Harriet has a background in social anthropology and the philosophy of science. She is a home educator with three children learning at home and is a research associate at the Institute of Education, University of London.


The talk is in two parts.

– Alan describes how he became interested in home education. Being a slow learner himself it was some time before he came across home education. Then he soon became fascinated when, having interviewed 100 home educating families, he discovered the wide range of methods parents use, especially informal ones. He describes how most parents start out quite formally. Some stay that way but most become more informal, some completely so, even in the basic subjects of maths and literacy.

– Harriet continues the discussion on how informal learning works by detailing the experiences of one particular child as he learns to read by an informal route. She uses this case study to illustrate how children learn informally from the “informal curriculum” or the world around them. They do so through processes which are very simple yet at the same time very profound and powerful.

– Thomas, A. (1998) Educating Children at Home, London, Cassell Education (Republished in 2000 by Continuum International Publishing Group)

German translation: Bildung zu Hause: Eine sinnvolle Alternative, Tologo Verlag, Leipzig.

-Thomas, A. & Pattison, H. How Children Learn at Home, (2007) London & New York, Continuum International Publishing Group.

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