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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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.
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.
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?
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.
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
Even in the most supportive of middle schools, students’ performance in math and science can decline sharply. With a larger peer group to judge themselves against, many students who exuded confidence in elementary school no longer feel they can measure up, and stop trying—harming not only the students but society at large. Fortunately, new research from McREL and IMPAQ International shows that math teachers can help by significantly boosting their use of formative assessment, without sacrificing other responsibilities.
Frustratingly for practitioners, research often tell us what a phenomenon is, but not why it came to be that way. And that can strand us without an answer to the most important question: How should we manipulate inputs to achieve the outputs we desire?
So it is with school culture. In his column for the March edition of ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin recounts how a conversation with a principal caused him to reexamine his long-held stance that school culture is the “secret sauce” of high-performing schools. The problem for that principal, Bryan writes, was the difficulty of teasing apart correlation from causation. Does a strong, healthy school culture cause high performance? Or might it be the other way around?
By now it’s a commonplace observation that academic success alone isn’t generally adequate to ensure success in college and career. Without minimizing the importance of academic skills, it’s also important to recognize that personality traits like intrinsic motivation, persistence, resilience, and curiosity play a huge role in how far students ultimately advance. Yet, because academic skills are relatively easy to test for, that’s what schools keep measuring—and thus what society seems to keep valuing, potentially depriving students of meaningful growth and learning opportunities.
McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin uses his Research Matters column in ASCD’s February 2018 Educational Leadership magazine to advocate for expanding student assessments to develop a fuller understanding of the causes of success.
January 16, 2018
Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works, co-published today by McREL International and Thoughtful Education Press, contains more than 50 classroom-ready teaching tools aligned with McREL’s extensive research and analysis of the most effective K–12 instructional strategies.
The new book provides a repertoire of practical techniques teachers can use year-round to support high levels of student learning. The book builds on McREL’s groundbreaking Classroom Instruction That Works research base and best-selling publications, which revealed nine categories of instructional strategies that have the strongest impacts on student achievement.
“McREL’s Classroom Instruction That Works is the gold standard of education research,” said Dr. Harvey Silver, co-author of the new book and co-founder of Thoughtful Education Press, a division of Silver Strong & Associates. “With this new book of tools developed in partnership with McREL, we’re now providing the ‘how’ for putting the power of this research to work in our classrooms.”
Thoughtful Education Press produces the award-winning Tools for Today’s Educators™ book series, including the best-sellers Tools for a Successful School Year and Tools for Thoughtful Assessment. Each Tools book provides educators with a set of classroom-ready tools along with tips for successful implementation.
“For many years, Harvey Silver and his team have developed an amazing set of tools that teachers can take and apply right away in their classrooms to accelerate learning,” said Bryan Goodwin, CEO of McREL International. “By linking our research to these tools, we’re building on 50-plus years of tradition at McREL, translating research into practical solutions for educators that help students flourish”
What education professionals are saying about Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works:
“Harvey Silver and colleagues have made a great framework even better.”
–Robert J. Marzano, co-founder and Chief Academic Officer, Marzano Research
“This book is packed with powerful, easy-to-use tools. Anyone who wants to improve teaching—teacher, coach, administrator, anyone—will find it incredibly useful.”
–Jim Knight, author of The Impact Cycle and Better Conversations
“This book is an ideal resource for meeting the growing call for ‘best first instruction.’ It is strongly aligned to the Classroom Instruction That Works research base, and it provides high-impact tools that help educators turn the research into powerful classroom practice.”
–Bj Stone, co-author, Classroom Instruction That Works (Second Edition)
“As a principal of an elementary school I am constantly looking for resources for my teachers. So often the resources I find are filled with ‘what’ teachers should be doing with little support on the ‘how.’ This book was designed for busy teachers that need a ‘how’ they can use the next day. It provides great tools backed by solid research that will benefit new and veteran educators alike. I can’t wait to get this resource in the hands of my teachers!”
–Kellie Roe, Principal, Clear Sky Elementary, Colorado
“This book of practical tools meets teachers at the crossroads of easy, effective, and exhilarating. Thoughtful Classroom tools are always one of my go-to’s for planning professional learning. All educators will benefit from incorporating these tried-and-true tools into their repertoires.”
–Nicholas DiSanto, Instructional Lead, Affinity Field Support Center, New York
About McREL International
McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that turns knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance for educators across the U.S. and around the world. Schools and school systems turn to McREL for high-quality research and evaluation, professional development and coaching, and strategic planning and implementation support for improvement and innovation projects.
About Thoughtful Education Press
Thoughtful Education Press is the publishing division of Silver Strong & Associates, an educational consulting and publishing company that provides custom professional development and practical resources to schools and districts throughout the country. Through its own channels and strategic partnerships with leading national publishers, Thoughtful Education Press produces a range of resources for educators on a variety of topics—including award-winning books, professional learning guides, customized workshop designs, and online assessments.