“Why Free-Choice Learning?”
A letter from Executive Director John H. Falk Ph.D
For 10s, if not 100s of thousands of years learning was widely understood to be an everyday occurrence, something people did to support their needs and interests. In this world, most people, most of the time controlled their own learning. Learning was active, supported by observing others, doing and practicing. Learning happened in pairs or in small groups typically supported by peers and skilled practitioners. Importantly, evidence of “successful learning” was not something judged by others but something demonstrated through competent actions and deeds in real life. This natural, choice-driven form of learning is what we call free-choice learning.
Then, roughly 150 years ago everything changed. Learning became increasingly thought of as something that only happened in schools. Learning came to be seen as an institutionalized and “professionalized” process, initiated and directed by experts. To say the word learning to someone conjured up ideas of a passive and mass-produced kind of activity where information was transmitted to large groups of “students” through lectures and textbooks, where the goal was passing tests rather than having the knowledge, skills and habits of mind necessary for solving real life problems.
Over the next 50 years we will be going back to the future! As the public’s need to learn expands, so too will the public’s perceptions of what it means to learn. Freed from the tyranny of equating learning with schooling, the public will find themselves engaged in an ever increasing array of free-choice learning experiences across an ever-wider array of platforms. Already, most people learn most of what they need and want to know through free-choice learning. Every year, schooling provides a smaller and smaller fraction of the public’s true education.
For over three decades we have studied learning, learners and their various motivations and we are pleased to be a resource for any and all who wish to discover more about what we know to be the future of learning.
John H. Falk, Ph.D.