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Open Badges were initially designed to make informal learning visible. But to make informal learning visible, one needs to be able to recognise it. How are we able to recognise learning, whether formal or informal? How does the recognition process operate?


For Paul Ricoeur, the French philosopher, without a theory of recognition, there is no theory of action. In The Course of Recognition Paul Ricoeur sets out three primary meanings of recognition:

  1. recognition as identification;
  2. recognition of oneself; and
  3. mutual recognition.

“On the social plane, the understanding that identities are formed in open dialogue, unshaped by a predefined social script, has made the politics of equal recognition more central and stressful.”
—Charles Taylor, Politics of Recognition.

"Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition outlines how the formation of a democratic personality requires the three forms of self-relation. We need caring and loving individuals and these are produced through and by those with selfconfidence. It requires a good recognition of the reciprocal nature of legal rights and, as one might anticipate, only a person who possesses self-respect (the capacity to know one’s own rights) can recognise the rights of others. And thirdly, a democratic society requires the reciprocal recognition of work and again, only a person with good levels of self-esteem can recognise the contribution of others. If care and selfconfidence are learned originally in the family and self-respect the product of schooling and education one is led to ask how in a modern world one can acquire selfesteem." (source: Ted Fleming & Fergal Finnegan, Honneth and Recognition as Sensitizing Concept for Narrative Analysis: An Irish suggestion)  

Hegel + Contexts in which one develops ways of relating to self (or forms of social organisation Forms of Relating to Self  (stages of identity development) One Can… Task for..
Family (love) Relations of friendship & love Self- confidence Care Parents, carers
Civil society (rights) Recognised as autonomous person with rights Self-respect Recognise legal rights School
State (solidarity & recognition from work) or in AH any community of affiliation Performance of ones freedom and autonomy through work = how the community values one’s contribution Self-esteem Recognise the contribution of others Society (incl adult and higher education

The three forms of recognition according to Axel Honneth after Hegel (source: Ted Fleming & Fergal Finnegan, Honneth and Recognition as Sensitizing Concept for Narrative Analysis: An Irish suggestion).

Employee recognition

  • "Any word or deed towards making someone feel appreciated and valued for who they are and recognized for what they do.
  • A range of formal and informal practices in the workplace that support organizational values, goals, objectives and priorities through positive reinforcement of desired behaviours and performance." (source)

Recognition and knowledge

Recognition is at the heart of the very process of knowing. For Stephen Downes:

"Knowledge is not an object (or objective), it is not discrete, it is not a causal agent. It is emergent, which means that it exists only by virtue of a process of recognition, as a matter of subjective interpretation.” The New Nature of Knowledge. in Connectivism and Connective Knowledge. link

As for Axel Honneth, "recognition precedes knowledge" ("Anerkennen geht dem Erkennen voraus“).

Recognition, validation & accreditation

A misconception that needs debunking is the conflation of recognition with validation, accreditation and other terms like assessment, certification, endorsement and even more terms. Recognition can exist on its own without the need for validation or accreditation:

"As the value of the qualifications and/or documents lies in social recognition, it seems most satisfactory to talk of recognition of non- formal and informal learning as opposed to validation or accreditation which only cover the technical aspects." [my highlights] — Patrick Werquin, Recognition of non-formal and informal learning in OECD countries: A very good idea in jeopardy? 2008. link

Formal and informal recognition

Formal Recognition:

  • Structured, scheduled activities or events based on specific criteria, which are used to recognize people achievements, competencies, contributions and accomplishments.

Informal Recognition:

  • Acknowledgment of day-to-day accomplishments through gestures of appreciation, communication and/or feedback.
  • Can provide the foundation for formal recognition activities.
  • Can change the life of individuals and communities

The following video recognise that women are good at science and teenagers get a letter of recognition oriented towards the future:

Recognition of non-formal and informal learning

Recognition of non-formal and informal learning is generally associated to formal recognition,

  • UNESCO (2015) Recognition, Validation and Accreditation of Non-formal and Informal Learning in UNESCO Member States, link
  • Cedefop (2007). Recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning for VET teachers and trainers in the EU Member States, link
  • Cedefop (2007) Validation of non-formal and informal learning in Europe, link