All posts by McREL.org

Curiosity can’t go it alone

As we visit schools and speak with educators all over the world, my colleagues and I are always on the lookout for attitudes toward curiosity. Is it encouraged or quashed? Is it treated as a necessity, an impractical luxury, or—conversely, as a nuisance or a distraction?

While doing research for McREL’s newest book, Out of Curiosity: Restoring the Power of Hungry Minds for Better Schools, Workplaces, and Lives, I was struck by the fact that we’re all born with curiosity, but some of us, in effect, lose access to it. Over time, this loss often pervades many aspects of our lives, not just schooling; without guidance, such as from a talented teacher or inspiring leader, natural curiosity can wither to the point of near uselessness.

“Childhood curiosity is a collaboration between child and adult,” writes Ian Leslie in Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It (2015). It’s the availability and effectiveness of that collaboration, perhaps more than any other resource gap, that may separate the haves and have-nots of the future.

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New McREL Book Highlights Power of Curiosity in School, Work, and Life

September 19, 2018

Denver, Colorado — McREL International, a global leader in education research and professional development, today announced the publication of Out of Curiosity: Restoring the Power of Hungry Minds for Better Schools, Workplaces, and Lives, by Bryan Goodwin, the company’s president and CEO.

Drawing from research and reporting in education, management, and the social sciences, Goodwin constructs a compelling case that curiosity is the key to success in school, at work, in relationships, and our civic lives. Readers of Out of Curiosity will learn how to:

  • Inspire innovative teaching and learning.
  • Spark more meaningful conversations and relationships.
  • Avert calamitous boardroom decisions.
  • Generate high levels of personal happiness.
  • Regain civility in our civic and political worlds.

“We’re all born with curiosity; it’s an innate human characteristic. But, starting in childhood and accelerating through adulthood, far too many of us let our curiosity lapse,” said Goodwin. “The good news is, there are things we can do to reawaken our curiosity, to stir up our interest in learning something new about ourselves and the world around us.”

Out of Curiosity is inspired by and builds upon McREL’s Curiosity Works™ resources that support curiosity among teachers, leaders, and learners at every level of learning.

Print and e-book versions of Out of Curiosity are available from McREL (store.mcrel.org) for $18.95.

Praise from advance readers

“Goodwin’s masterful melding of research, real-life experiences, and thought-provoking questions left me committed to putting curiosity at the forefront of how I learn, lead, and live.” – Fred Ende, assistant director of curriculum for PNW BOCES and author of Professional Development That Sticks.

“With heavy doses of wit, research, and real-talk, Out of Curiosity explores a rather obvious—but often untrodden—path to improvement: in work, in school, in relationships, and even politics. This is a book I couldn’t put down, and I’ll read it again and again!” – Pete Hall, president, Strive Success Solutions

“A thoughtful analysis of why curiosity is a missing element in so many lessons, with specific suggestions on how the best teachers tap students’ innate desire to explore the unknown” – Kim Marshall, The Marshall Memo

“Bryan reminds us that wonder and curiosity are natural forces in all of us that need to be rekindled in our schools if we are to make learning engaging and meaningful.” – Harvey Silver, education coach and consultant, co-founder of Silver Strong & Associates, and co-author of The Core Six, The Strategic Teacher, and Tools for a Successful School Year

About McREL

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.

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For more information, please contact:

Roger Fiedler, marketing director, 303-632-5579, rfiedler@mcrel.org

McREL and CTAC call for strategies that focus on, and honor, educators’ career-long professional development

August 29, 2018

The chief executives of McREL International and the Community Training and Assistance Center (CTAC) have collaboratively published a white paper, “Improving Teacher Practice: Debunking the Myth of Conventional Wisdom,” that urges schools and districts to think systemically about development of teacher talent in order to make bigger difference in student outcomes.

The paper’s authors, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin and CTAC Founder and Executive Director Bill Slotnik, call out a widespread but, according to recent research, inaccurate belief that new teachers’ expertise and talent is mostly innate, and generally peaks and plateaus within their first few years of teaching. The authors present an alternative, evidence-based viewpoint that most teachers do continue to get better throughout the course of their careers.

“Many districts and schools indicate their need to reset their approach to developing the talent of teachers,” said Slotnik. “By combining reimagined hiring protocols, modeling, peer coaching, and self-directed learning, teachers as well as schools will improve performance trajectories and increase impact.”

To support teachers’ continued growth, the authors recommend fundamental changes in the way schools and districts recruit, hire, train, evaluate, and support teachers over their entire careers. They show how to create a growth-oriented human capital management system that connects and aligns a school district’s personnel, professional development, and instructional practices.

“Smart companies in every industry know that employee talent needs to be developed over entire careers, even if they’re hiring the best and the brightest to begin with,” said Goodwin. “In education, professional learning should be approached as an embedded, lifelong, mutually beneficial partnership between school districts and teachers.”

The paper is freely available on each organization’s website (www.mcrel.org and www.ctacusa.com).

In addition to publishing this paper, McREL and CTAC are launching a talent development consortium to assist districts that seek to improve and innovate their human capital management policies, procedures, and practices.

About McREL International

Headquartered in Denver, McREL is a non-profit education research-and-development organization that conducts research and evaluation and analyzes best practices in teaching and school leadership, and transforms that knowledge into strategic guidance, training, and resources for educators.

About CTAC

Headquartered in Boston, CTAC is a non-profit organization that provides technical assistance, research and evaluation, and public policy consulting at local, state, and national levels to achieve significant, long-term improvements in student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and organizational capacity.

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For more information: 
Natalie Nier, CTAC communications manager, 617.423.1444, nnier@ctacuse.com
Roger Fiedler, McREL marketing director, 303.632.5579, rfiedler@mcrel.org

White Paper | Improving Teacher Practice: Debunking the Myth of the Performance Plateau (2018)

The CEOs of two of America’s leading education consultancies join forces to argue for school districts to play a more active role in teacher development. The “disheartening” but tenacious myth that new teachers improve for a few years and then coast is dangerous because it causes HR departments to focus on the wrong things, write Bryan Goodwin and William Slotnik. Newer studies have debunked the “performance plateau” and should lead districts in the direction of career-long development for career-long improvement. They propose a four-part plan for making it happen, and point out that a handful of districts have already started.

Goodwin, B., & Slotnik, W. (2018). Improving teacher practice: Debunking the myth of the performance plateau. Denver, CO and Boston, MA: McREL International and Community Training and Assistance Center.

Curious minds are inquiring: How does curiosity add to McREL’s body of work?

Have you noticed the word “curiosity” appearing in the titles of more and more McREL publications, resources, and services? We have a good reason for that. We’ve been excited to share our Curiosity Works™ approach to school improvement and innovation with teachers and school leaders, many of whom are already familiar with our other bodies of research-based knowledge, such as Classroom Instruction That Works® and Balanced Leadership®. Some of these educators have asked if Curiosity Works supplants these resources. It doesn’t. To the contrary, Curiosity Works brings a new degree of focus, and perhaps some new vocabulary, to McREL’s existing resources that are still as relevant and effective as ever.

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Why not creativity?

As we talk with more and more educators about the importance and power of curiosity in teaching and learning, a question we often hear is: How does curiosity differ from creativity? Creativity is on many teachers’ minds as they prepare their students for real-world experiences. It consistently shows up as a desirable attribute many employers seek in the modern workforce. Check out any airport bookstore and you’re almost sure to find books and magazine articles upholding creativity as an ideal way to transform everyday interactions into sources of both joy and profit.

McREL’s focus on curiosity doesn’t preclude creativity—far from it! It’s just that we agree with Erik Shonstrom, in Wild Curiosity: How to Unleash Creativity and Encourage Lifelong Wondering, when he says that “to be creative one must first be curious. Being in an environment that fosters curiosity is vital to the creative process.” In other words, curiosity is the precursor to creativity.

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A brief introduction to curiosity

What makes you, or your students, curious about a particular topic?

And have you ever been curious about curiosity itself? What is it, exactly? What triggers it? How can we best use curiosity in teaching and learning? Can it be encouraged (or discouraged), harnessed, and strengthened (or weakened)?

These questions, and more, have captured our interest here at McREL, and have driven us to review research studies and academic publications, and talk with educators in the U.S., Australia, and elsewhere about the use of curiosity in instructional planning and delivery, and its effects on students and adult learners. We’ve been so intrigued by what we’ve learned that, in addition to incorporating our findings into our peer-to-peer coaching work with educators, we’ve written several books recently about the power of curiosity, including Curiosity Works, Unstuck, and, due out in September, Out of Curiosity: Restoring the Power of Hungry Minds for Better Schools, Workplaces, and Lives.

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We need a stronger teacher pipeline. It’ll take better selection, preparation, pay, and respect

Recent teacher strikes and demonstrations across the U.S. have made it clear that many teachers believe they are undervalued, both financially and in terms of societal respect. And surveys show that many teachers are also feeling frustrated and stressed from too many mandates and too little support.

As a perhaps not-too-surprising result, it was clear even before the recent protests that recruitment and retention of teachers was spiraling downward for lots of reasons. Attrition is happening at every stage of the career path: Too few people are entering the profession, particularly in high-need areas such as math, science, and special education. And of those who do sign up, too many leave, too quickly—unable to resist the allure of doing, well, just about anything else

And what about quality? Even if we could snap our fingers and make teacher shortages a thing of the past, would the new teachers we recruited (and/or the existing teachers we persuaded to stay around) be the best available? Or just the best we decided we could afford?

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White Paper | Student Learning That Works: How brain science informs a student learning model (2018)

Surgeons learn about the body before operating. So why don’t more teachers learn about the brain before educating? In this free white paper, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin makes the case for incorporating brain science into the practice of teaching. Knowing how memory works can suggest classroom tactics that aid the acquisition and recall of information. Furthermore, adopting a model for learning rather than relying solely on the increasingly common (and increasingly detailed) instructional framework can help teachers layer innovation upon tradition, in the much same way that models help screenwriters and composers to be creative within the audience’s expectations.

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Just write it!

The theme for the April edition of Educational Leadership magazine—“Learning to Write, Writing to Learn”—got McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin thinking about how writing has changed since his school days. Noting that many business leaders have taken a back-to-the-future approach to note-taking, Bryan decided to ditch his digital assistant and put pen to paper once again

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