Intentionally Incidental: Real People, Real Stories


I recently heard a colleague use the term incidental learning and it immediately resonated with me. If you are unfamiliar with the term, incidental, or informal, learning is essentially the learning how to do something; the adopting and adapting to circumstances that allows learners to make something (a bit of knowledge, a skill, an action) their own.

Why did this click for me? Think about two scenarios:

Scenario A

A graduate reads an article in an alumni magazine about a wonderful faculty researcher and her fabulous projects. The graduate’s interest is piqued but there isn’t any real call to action, nor is there an opportunity to do something with or further cultivate the new knowledge.

Scenario B

A graduate listens to a panel discussion about wonderful faculty research and the associated fabulous projects. The graduate then has the immediate opportunity to talk with the researchers and their students, perhaps see and touch some of the research findings, hear how fellow alumni feel about the topic, understand what more needs to happen in order for the research to have an impact,

Which of these scenarios do you think has the most sticking power with the graduate? Through which of these examples do you believe the graduate is more likely to engage with the information and do something with the knowledge?

Incidentally, I believe the correct answer is Scenario B.


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