Evaluating ourselves informally

Informal learning makes it nearly impossible to give fair grades to process or outcomes, to score accurately or to objectively compare informal learners. When we adopt informal learning as I explored in Learning to formalize informal learning, we will also need to adopt informal evaluation schema.

When we're playing games, we naturally keep score "in our heads". We know how we're doing as we're immersed in activities. We may even have some ideas of how we could do even better. Anytime there is an outcome from our efforts, we're learning from that feedback. We can see whether we made the difference we intended with our effort. We may even be able to assess whether we should next try harder at the same approach or wise up and try a different strategy.

When we're interacting with others, we can continually observe how we're doing. It's apparent by observing the others in our interchanges. We can get a sense of how we are meeting expectations, getting along, contributing effectively and doing our fair share. The readouts to watch are in people's eyes, body language, tone of voice and subtext of what they say to us.

When we're getting something done on our own, we can usually assess our effort from the effects we're having. We can discern whether we are making a problem worse, doing harm to the materials, or taking a long way to get a simple task completed. Likewise we can become impressed with how much we've accomplished, how we went about it, and the quality of the final result.

In each of these cases, we rely on our informal evaluation schema. We have already internalized criteria to rate ourselves and resolve in our own minds "how we're doing?". These standards give us many other open questions to continually consider. They focus our attention on performance indicators. We're looking for feedback that answers the questions raised by the criteria we have in mind.

When we get practiced, experienced and confident in our own informal evaluation schema, another benefit gets realized. We can take other's evaluation of us with a grain of salt. We can differ from their assessment with our self evaluation. We can prefer the criteria we apply to our efforts and outcomes over their way of scoring us. We can see how their way of evaluating us has a autobiographical dimension to it, saying more about them than us. We can be wonderfully selective about which feedback we accept and how we let it get to us. As with informal learning, there are these many benefits to informal evaluation.

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