OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Leaders in “free choice” learning receive national honor

06/18/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two Oregon State University leaders in science education have received the John Cotton Dana Award for Leadership from the American Association of Museums.

John Falk and Lynn Dierking, both professors in the OSU Department of Science and Mathematics Education, received this prestigious award that is only made on occasion and has not been presented since 2002.

The honor is named after a progressive museum leader who founded the Newark Museum in 1909 and believed that museums should support lifelong learning in their communities. It was given to Falk and Dierking in recognition of “those outside the museum field who exhibit outstanding leadership and promote the educational responsibility and capacity of museums.”

Falk and Dierking are both advocates and national leaders for the concept of “free choice” learning, which recognizes that much of what people know about science is learned outside the classroom, by reading, going to museums, dealing with life issues or other activities. They have argued that new approaches to science education that better embrace individual interests and free choice learning could be a key to raising the level of scientific literacy in the United States.

Based on the work of Falk, Dierking and others, OSU has become a national leader in the field of free choice learning, and offers an emphasis in that field at both the masters and doctoral level of science and mathematics education.