Thursday, July 24, 2014

From Engagement to Curiosity

Curiosity is a powerful thing. As human beings, we have an innate desire to understand the world around us. We all have different interests and world views, but curiosity is truly what drives our learning process. Whether it be through trial and error, research, experimentation, or through the lens of another person's experience, curiosity is essential to gain knowledge and understanding. Take a young child for example. As soon as they can speak, they begin to ask their parents and all adults a barrage of questions every time they get the opportunity. They are using questioning to learn about the world they are growing up in. This is the essence of learning.

Recently, a colleague of mine said something that has stuck in my mind. He pointed out that schools need to move from their attempt to engage students toward a mission to inspire curiosity amongst their students. That resonates with me strongly. Engagement is an important part of the classroom. After all, a teacher wants her students to listen and pay attention while in her classroom. But is that really enough? Is engagement what our ultimate goal should be? I think it is a good start but should not be our end goal. Our mission should be to inspire our students to have curious minds that will last a life time. How do we do that?

The most important factor in a successful classroom that is truly teaching to be inquisitive, lifelong learners is questioning. Not just simple questioning whether the teacher asks students to recall information. I am talking about deep and meaningful questions. Students should have a choice and an interest in the knowledge they seek, so it is up to the teachers and schools to facilitate that by creating projects that will feed this curiosity. In other words, students should be "engaged" in a project that challenges them, interests them, and does not necessarily always end in a clear cut answer. This kind of project design will help our students find that curiosity that they once had and that they probably still have outside of our schools.

It is time for us to step up and create classrooms like this. For far too long our schools have taken away the curiosity from the classroom. We need not look any farther than the scientific method for this approach. The scientific method, starts with a question and builds from there. Are our lessons full of student driven questions? If not, we are not truly inspiring curiosity.

When students leave my school, I want them to be problem solvers. I don't want them to shy away from a challenge or an obstacle that requires an inquisitive mind and hard work. If we continue to work together and design our classes to facilitate this kind of curiosity, I believe these goals will be met. Leading is Teaching.

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