In Memory of Fritz Oser (1937-2020)
With great sadness, the International Academy of Education learned of the passing of Professor em. Dr. Dr. hc. mult. Fritz Oser on September 5, 2020, at the age of 83.
Fritz Oser was a multi-talented and caring humanitarian whose love of life enveloped all who came in contact with him. He began his career as an orchestra conductor. Realizing that he would not lead the Zurich philharmonic, he turned to religious and teacher education, becoming a prolific and well-known scholar in his second career. In his third career, he became an educational psychologist and his accomplishments were recognized in the international research community, for instance by his being elected to the International Academy of Education as well as by his receiving the Lifetime Oeuvre Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Science of Learning and Instruction from the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI).
After studying at the Teachers' Seminar in Solothurn (1962) and working as a teacher for years, he later studied musicology, literature, philosophy and theology, and then specialized in education (1964). A research stay with Richard Shavelson at UCLA and Lawrence Kohlberg at Harvard led to his habilitation on the subject of moral judgment (1979), and finally to a professorship in education at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, which he held from 1981 to 2007. He was Professor of Educational Psychology and General Education at the Department of Educational Sciences. He served as dean of the philosophical faculty and as president of the department. Since 1986, Fritz Oser was honorary doctor of the Catholic Theological Faculty in Mainz, and, since 2000, a honorary doctor at the University of Helsinki.
In five decades of immensely creative work, Fritz Oser has made a lasting impact on international pedagogical and learning psychology theory and practice. His theory of the developmental stages of religious judgement was a milestone in pedagogy. Beyond that, he was a highly esteemed, visionary yet critical advisor on pedagogical research and developments and a driving force for innovation in this field. His brilliant concepts and models, such as the large pedagogical significance of errors in learning processes, have significantly impacted pedagogical research in recent decades. His research on the significance of mistakes for learning is seminal. The notion is that by letting people make mistakes and trusting them to be able to learn and develop independently they can do so. It is of central importance for educational and pedagogical processes as well as in other areas of life such as entrepreneurship. The notion initiated a sustainable paradigm shift.
All members of the Academy honor the memory of Fritz Oser and extend their sincerest condolences to his family and friends.