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curious studentsWhat 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.

Curiosity is an innate human trait; we’re all born with natural curiosity to explore our surroundings and ask questions about what we and others are experiencing and thinking. But studies also show that, for far too many of us, this high level of inquisitiveness and exploration fades as we get older. For example, researcher Susan Engel found kindergarten students displaying, on average, 2.36 episodes of curiosity over a two-hour period. By fifth grade, however, that number had dropped to 0.48 episodes in a two-hour period, which suggests that many students spend their entire school day “without asking even one question or engaging in one sequence of behavior aimed at finding out something new.”

That’s discouraging, because other research suggests curiosity can have powerful lifelong effects, if we can keep it going. For example, psychologists Arthur and Elaine Aron found that expressing curiosity about one another helps people forge and maintain deep, healthy relationships. Their onetime student turned researcher Todd Kashdan expanded on the Arons’ work and has published widely about the many ways curiosity affects life satisfaction and happiness. Other writers with backgrounds in social science, including Philip Ball and Mario Livio, have described how the jobs we do, the places we go, and even the thoughts we think, all are deeply linked to curiosity.

Bringing our focus back to K–16 education, we’re seeing that curiosity has been under-tapped; it has even greater potential that’s worth our attention and further exploration.

First, curiosity has the power to feed deep inquiry and perseverance—for students as well as for teachers and school leaders. If we thoughtfully apply curiosity to lesson planning, instructional strategies, professional learning and collaboration, and leadership activities, evidence shows we can make some substantial increases in school performance.

Second, even though curiosity is innate, we’re not born with a fixed lump sum of it—our curiosity can be molded and expanded over a lifetime. Which means, as our education colleagues in Australia have said, curiosity is as important to teaching and learning as are literacy and numeracy.

Over the next few weeks, my colleagues and I will be blogging more about what curiosity is and how to harness it. We’ll be producing new resources, presenting curiosity themed sessions at various conferences, and providing curiosity based services to schools and districts.

So, if you’re curious about curiosity, stay tuned to McREL.

Roger_Fiedler_263x296Roger Fiedler is the senior director of marketing at McREL International. Before joining McREL he was a K–12 school district communications director.

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.


  • Emmanuel Rwagasore says:

    This is a nice course that helps me to get more detailed information related to curiosity which helps the teacher and the students to detect anything which is necessary for our lives and even in our study as ALU students, Thank you.

  • Teny Makuach says:

    Harnessing curiosity both by teachers to students, employers to employees should be highly invoked because its the route source to innovation and development.

  • GAKERI Sadiki says:

    Honestly curiosity is an important to both teacher and students where curiosity is also a many splendored thing. In contemporary U.S .culture, for example, its references are as wildly disparate as they are insightful. curiosity appear over and over a gain, in educational philosophies and university mission statements and in talk of innovation and creativity across the business and technology sectors.

  • MUGWANEZA Gasore says:

    Curiosity is key to learn .in fact, studies show that when we are curious about subject we are much more likely to remember information we learned about that subject. In addition to that curiosity allows you to embrace unfamiliar circumstances, giving you a great opportunities to experience discovery and joy. indeed, studies shows that when you are curious life will be better.

  • Claudia Bella MUKAMANA says:

    Curiosity is a key fact and very important in our real life ,even if your not a student or a teacher.It so very useful at every workplace .
    Every human being live with some curiosity about something we look for .So it’s better to try to make a research to those things that we thing about in order to get more information and knowledge by screening it and learn about it.

  • Curiosity is the indication of what do you expect, it help you to work hard in order to reach on your goal.
    Curiosity is the shield of learning development.
    Curiosity is a core building block for professional growth because it leads to find out any possible ways to reach out to your passionate about.

  • Long Maker Long Deng says:

    Curiosity is one of the most important tools in our learning today, in a way that we ask ourselves questions of the things around us and then we are inspired to search for the answers. It keep our minds always active, since the mind is like a muscle which becomes stronger through continual exercise, the mental exercise caused by curiosity makes your mind stronger and stronger.

  • Noella Dushimirimana says:

    Curiosity is an incredible power that we all have with in use and we need a lot of grow we need to bring it out.
    It is also the thing that help to memory, great education, and how to make for the biggest impact in the world around you. It helps people to discover something that get used every single day in every community around the world.
    In this case I can say that curiosity is important to both teachers and students.

  • Denyse Umulisa says:

    curiosity is a vigorous desire pushing to learn new things and also helps to improve knowledge and skills.
    As a learner helps to be open-minded, innovative and think out of the box.

  • Avit Brian says:

    You’d think that mankind has reached it’s peak, but imagine how much this can further expand our understanding and overall performance by just being curious!

  • shyaka Augustin says:

    in fact, curiosity is very good for students and teachers it facilitates the learning and growth that makes better outcomes, and also curiosity is important in our everyday life it influences better accomplishment of our daily tasks.

  • curiosity takes one innovation ,creativity and think what best for the best is needed to a certain level that a given sequence can be solved and generate the best outcomes to different parties arguing.

  • MWIZERWA Ishangi says:

    The fact that we have desire for something turns out to also be something that is really corrupted in our minds.
    Curiosity informs our critical thinking where we start collecting hence evaluating and finding out deep research
    so that we can form a more formed decision making.

  • Grace Wanjiku says:

    Curiosity increases the activity of the Brain, It makes us want more information

  • stella umwari says:

    I found this course interesting and I learnt many things from it ;like the way with curiosity in school or let say learning, we can learn better, quick and get to the success we need to see in education.

  • iragena nadine says:

    Curiosity is a portal of connection to everything and is as important as literacy and numeracy.

  • nadine teddy says:

    curiosity is a portal of connection to everything in the world as well as important as literacy and numerous

  • Steven SHYAKA says:

    Good work Sir! i have been thinking about curiosity and know i’m getting to know better about it.
    I appreciate your work

  • John Deng says:

    There is a say that says trust the process. I came to believe and understand this after being introduced to “curiosity.” The first time I heard about curiosity, it was just like a waste of time to be curious about it. Still, now, I understand that curiosity is not something that is installed in people’s minds. It is innate but needs to be fed or expanded over time so humans are driven by curiosity.

  • Ezechikamnayo Joshua says:

    Curiosity is probably in my opinion, the most important quality needed in assimilation of instructional materials: be it in regards to academics, work or relationships. The mid-brain as well as the hippocampus; responsible for wanting and memories respectively, experience increased activity and inter-communication when a person is curious. This means that curiosity makes it easier to receive and retain information. The fact that this can be expanded over a lifetime is cause for much joy. Thank you for this article.

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