Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)


Cork Institute of Technology

First Advisor

Mr. Ray Coughlan

Second Advisor

Mr. Gearóid O Suilleabháin

Third Advisor

Dr. Margaret Linehan


This thesis seeks to examine the recognition and formal assessment of informal and non- formal learning, paying particular attention to the methodologies that are currently being used and identifying the possibility of more appropriate instruments. This examination is conducted within the context of the national emphasis on the creation of a learning and knowledge intense society, the requirements necessary for this to become a reality and the increasing discussion on the recognition of informal and non formal education and training.

In order to discuss the above comprehensively, this research will examine the Irish education framework which supports the recognition of learning along the spectrum from informal to formal. In addition the research aims to discuss the European context and development of education and training under the Bologna process towards London 2010.

In the context of international education development it is necessary to review National Framework of Qualifications in selected countries and to compare the developments occurring internationally with those occurring on a national and European dimension.

The focus of learning has evolved from formal education and training to the workplace and to life wide/ lifelong learning and experience. As a result the methods by which we capture and assess learning has to be re- addressed. This thesis aims to examine such methods and determine which method is most appropriate for learners and higher education institutions.

The learning portfolio is one such method which is used extensively within higher education and training to capture informal and non formal learning. This thesis aims to investigate its validity, reliability and authenticity as an assessment method.

In the context of the documentary research findings relating to the above, extensive primary research of various interest groups is conducted and documented in this thesis. This research seeks to determine if there is a correlation between the identified needs of informal and non formal learners and what is being implemented by stakeholders to cater for those needs. The research provides an insight into the diversity and uniqueness of informal and non formal learners and the new challenges they present to education and training providers. As stated in chapter 8 of the thesis, to increase the awareness and development of the recognition of informal and non formal learning, instances of ‘good practice’ need to be documented and publicised. The findings of this research are intended as an initial step in this process.

Finally, the conclusions and recommendations of this thesis aim to quantify the current position in relation to the recognition of informal and non-formal learning and the necessary steps which will need to be taken to sustain its development in the future.

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