Through twitter this article on the value of free choice learning for science got my attention. This study is ground breaking as it covers both the concept of free choice learning (thus going past the old paradigm of formal, non-formal and informal learning, Dierking and Falk are pioneers in this field I think) and the productivity of this way of educating/learning. As such it is one of the first and few studies that I know of that actually shows how strongly and deeply a science museums can influence the publics knowledge on attitudes about science and technology. And moreover how this type of education can overcome barriers of education, economy, race etc. I would be interested if this is a unique trait of science museums (or science centers) or whether this is a trait of education outside schools anyway. Because if so this would mean a new road ahead for schooling and education. A road in which maybe even at some point schools will be part of museums as an interactive exhibit on teaching and learning. An exhibit that shows how we once thought the educational process should be organised:-) This article also fuels profound questions on whether you can actually teach if there is no innate interest in the receiving party. In others words: what is the value of teaching without a receptive learner? But also on what knowledge is, and how one gets by knowledge. What actually is the learning process, and can we totally, consciously design this? Should we actually aim to maximize the learning potential or should we rather be talking about optimization, thus truly changing the educational paradigm? Most methods are now geared towards maximizing the learning process in an instrumental way, e.g. through mixing entertainment and education, but still eventually measuring the educational output through the looking glass of maximization. The questions thus effectively being: did the student learn more by using this method than that method? In a paradigm that departs from optimizing the learning process that central question would rather be: what did this person learn that he/she previously was unaware of? And isn’t that exactly what education, learning and teaching are about in the first place?
(cartoon: Rat Race escape artists)