The Importance of Curiosity
The Ministry of Education issued a research monograph entitled “Getting Started with Student Inquiry” which is a great starting point to the conversation on how we can use student questions and curiosity to shape their learning.
If the belief outlined in the monograph is “that greater student engagement leads to greater student achievement (Cummins, et al.,2005; Flessa et al., 2010; Leithwood, McAdie, Bascia, & Rodrigue, 2006; Willms, Friesen, & Milton, 2009)” and “that students are more likely to develop as engaged, self-directed learners in inquiry-based classrooms (Jang, Reeve & Deci, 2010; NCREL online)” then the question to the teacher becomes “What are you doing to foster student curiosity?” and “How are you creating a learning environment where students can pursue answers to their own questions?”. Even with our curriculum as a framework within which this exists, doesn’t it just make sense to explore the things within a topic that the students are curious about?
To extend this further into my own area of interest, I am ‘curious’ (wow, it is contagious!) about how teachers are using technology to support student inquiry and the ways in which teachers are utilizing technology to provoke student curiosity.
I am wondering (another word for curious!) about the role of media and current events in this context. We just had a major natural disaster on the east coast. Surely students are curious about this. Surely we can fit this easily into our work? How about the students that are wondering how and why these things happen investigate that and write a report to the class, or create a documentary, or create newspaper/TV reports? How about those who are wondering about the victims of this disaster create persuasive texts/public service announcements on how and why we should be helping those impacted. How about when we look at the volume of water flooding the streets we develop a math investigation (“How long would it take one tap in your house to produce this much water?”). The possibilities are endless. They are all within the confines of our curriculum, and they all come from the students innate curiosities about the world around them.
I remember teaching in London, England, in September 2001. My wife is Canadian and also taught at the school. A week after the terror attack on New York, a nine-year-old student approached us with $5 in US money that he and his mother had converted at the bank from his £2 pocket money. He wanted to know if next time we went back to North America if we could make sure that we gave his money to the families in need.
The student curiosity is there. As educators we need to tap into this rather than deciding ourselves exactly how and when we will deliver the curriculum. We need to structure the learning in the class around the students curiosity. We need to think less about how concepts are taught and more about how they are learned.