It’s always been said that kids are curious by nature. Spend time with any young child,and this is apparent. From endless questioning to exploring to getting right in the middle of it all (no matter how much dirt that may involve), these little investigators are constantly trying to make sense of the world around them. What changes to make all that questioning and hands-on exploration stop as they grow? The changes in environment are often to blame.
This isn’t to say that the physical environment holds the only key. Although, as students get older, the learning spaces they enter are often lacking in areas where investigation and hands-on exploration can occur. Whether budgetary or design aspects are to blame for this, there are solutions for creating more user-friendly spaces to engage students(GEI Article: What’s New in Learning Spaces). While this physical component is important, all the aesthetic changes in the world won’t matter if the spirit of curiosity isn’t encouraged and embraced.
The building of a curious mind isn’t something to be found on a checklist, and once the mark has been made, it’s time to move on to something else. The general attitude and structural design of lessons and learning opportunities must spark that curiosity. When the teacher shares information, structures a lesson with yes/no answers, and expects all students to come to the same conclusion in the same way every single time, the curious spirit is broken. By stepping off of the expert pedestal and allowing students to drive the learning path (with a few steering tips tossed in here and there), opportunities for growth and exploration take center stage.
The Mindshift piece sharing Jamie Holmes’ philosophies behind the power of uncertainty really drives this concept home. Just because a topic being studied has a factual base or historically founded viewpoints doesn’t mean it’s settled and closed to questions and further exploration. Learning to question and bring new ideas to what may be perceived as a closed subject is truly investigative and enlightening. There are a limited number of future careers where students will spend their days looking for an already founded answer. The future is filled with a lot of ambiguity, and preparing students for this involves giving them the learning tools to question and extrapolate new answers and paths from existing ones.
Incorporating the three key questioning methods in the classroom on a regular basis will help bring this curious nature to light. Essential questions frame the thinking, teacher-generated questions of a thought-provoking and open-ended nature illuminate a possible learning path, and the most important of them all, student-driven questions, build the true interest and deeper learning in any subject matter. When students learn how to question and move forward in learning and thinking, they embrace a life-changing skill that will allow them to grow and find success in their personal and professional endeavors.
If you build it, they will come. While the goal may not be building a baseball diamond like Kevin Costner did in Field of Dreams, teachers should be purposeful in building curiosity for the Field of Learning. As a key attribute found in effective learners, the building of curious minds needs to be a top priority when developing lessons and creating learning opportunities for students. When the thirst for more is present, student engagement and learning outcomes increase.
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