Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Institute for Learning Innovation

What is Free-Choice Learning?

Free-choice learning is the type of learning guided by a person's needs and interests – learning people engage in throughout their lives to find out more about what is useful, compelling or just plain interesting to them. As the world transitions from an industrial society to an information society, learning across the lifespan becomes increasingly important. Adults and children are spending more and more of their time learning, but not just in classrooms or on the job – through free-choice learning at home, after work and on weekends. Free-choice learning is an essential component of lifelong learning. Surfing the Internet, participating in book discussion groups, watching nature documentaries on television, checking out books at the library or visiting museums with friends and family are all examples of free-choice learning. Free-choice learning is an important way people come to know about their world and the Institute for Learning Innovation is committed to better understanding, facilitating and advocating for this historically under-studied and under-appreciated mode of learning.

Key Ideas about Free-Choice Learning

As a society we need to recognize and support the vast, important and successful learning enterprise that takes place outside of schools and the workplace – learning from museums, libraries, the Internet, television, film, books, newspapers, radio and magazines. Collectively, these experiences encompass what is known as the “free-choice learning” sector.

“Free-choice learning” is the most common type of learning that people engage in. It is self-directed, voluntary, and guided by an individual’s needs and interests. Free-choice learning is so common that we have taken it for granted, despite its being as vital as learning in school and the workplace.

Free-choice learning is amazingly efficient and effective learning. This is because people have control over what and how they learn, and because they can choose to learn in appropriate and supportive contexts. For example, if they want to learn about art, they can go to an art museum or borrow a book on art from the library. If they want to learn about nature, they can go to a state, regional or national park.

Free-choice learning is something we engage in across our lifespan, as children, adolescents, young adults, and older adults.

Access to quality free-choice learning should not be a privilege of the affluent but a right of all citizens. Currently, there is a free-choice learning divide. There is evidence that when provided the opportunity, economically and socially disadvantaged populations equally utilized and benefited from free-choice learning situations. Only through greater public recognition and support can we hope to insure that free-choice learning will truly be accessible to all citizens.

Any public education reform effort that does not embrace the benefits of free-choice learning is incomplete. Educational reform should not just be about children’s learning.

For other related views on free-choice learning visit:
> Free-Choice Learning by Karen Pittman

> School's Out: Get Ready for the New Age of Individualized Education by Daniel H. Pink

About the Institute
Free-Choice Learning
> Contextual Model of Learning
> Learning Activities for "Families"
> Learning Activities for "Older Adults"
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