At an age when learning should be more engaging—high school students ought to be to exploring the deep mysteries of the universe, encountering great literature that reveals our shared humanity, and mastering the elegant language of mathematics that helps them solve complex problems—they’re bored out of their minds. Why should that be? Numerous studies point to the missing ingredient—something we observe in abundance in younger children, only to watch it slip away as they progress through school: curiosity. In this moment, teachers have the rare opportunity to engage students in some productive and semi-structured “unschooling.”
I’m Pete, and I’m a journaler. I actually started as a storyteller, back in the day, when I kept a dozen sketchbooks full of tales of teddy bears, game summaries of make-believe baseball teams, and lyrics to various rap songs (some jotted painstakingly from the radio, others I made up). I wrote while hunkered down under my bed, I wrote sitting on the deck, I wrote at the kitchen table. The point is, I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I keep doing it (witness this blog: yeah, I wrote it). And I feel there are tons of benefits to writing in a journal.
Welcome, Pursuing Greatness readers!
Whether you used the book to tackle one or all 24 of the problems of practice we discussed, you’ve strengthened your ability to self-reflect on your teaching, empowering your own professional development and also empowering your students to engage with and “own” more of their learning. Congrats on that journey!
Now’s your turn to translate what you’ve learned along the way and apply it to a 25th problem of practice, one that wasn’t covered in the book but that you see in your own classroom.
Problem of Practice #25
Before plunging in, let’s review our Theory of Action:
IF we start with key problems of practice, use research-based best practices to solve them, and reflect on our practice as teachers, THEN we will become more expert in our practice, better able to meet our students’ needs, and engaged in career-long professional growth that will allow us to become amazing, unstoppable teachers in whose classrooms learning will flourish.
Now, you can create your own personalized problem of practice solution pathway!
Download our free template to state your Problem of Practice #25 and develop questions for each phase of the Teacher Talent Development Pathway.
Teacher Talent Development Pathway
A Message from the Authors
Bj Stone, Ed.D.
Bess Scott, Ph.D.
As you tackle your problem of practice, we’d love to hear how it’s going for you. Please comment using the form below to send us questions you have, celebrations to share, tips you’ve discovered that might help others, and challenges you’re having. We’ll post our responses here as often as we can.
Good luck on your growth journey!
Pete, Alisa, Bryan, Bj, and Bess
A guest post by Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, co-author, with Bryan Goodwin, of the influential book, The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day, and the forthcoming Instructional Models: How to Choose One and How to Use One.
I have had the greatest pleasure working in schools and school districts around the world as they worked tirelessly to help their students succeed. One of the most common aspects of my work was helping schools during their transition to a new instructional model—a tool that can lead to consistently excellent instruction by explaining why successful teaching practices work and how to emulate them. I often came in after the model was chosen and was there to lead training, observation, and implementation efforts. On occasion, I had the good fortune to work with schools as they were starting the process and got to be a part of the discussions, trials, and decision making that went into making these monumental shifts.
If you’ve been getting more curious about curiosity’s role in teaching and learning, you might be ready to dive into more books, articles, and resources. A great place to start is McREL’s upcoming new book, Out of Curiosity: Restoring the Power of Hungry Minds for Better Schools, Workplaces, and Lives, by our CEO, Bryan Goodwin (available next week in our bookstore!). Bryan reviews the academic research and describes how generating more individual and societal curiosity could improve our schools, workplaces, relationships, civic discourse, and, really, our entire lives.
The rest of the books on this list approach curiosity from slightly different perspectives but any would serve as a great introduction.
Intrigued by what we’ve been saying about curiosity and want to build it into your teaching practice right away? Here are some classroom-ready ideas, drawn from our Unleashing Curiosity quick reference guides.
Idea 1: Be choosy about choice. Offering your students choices is an excellent technique for building their curiosity, interest, and engagement, but offering too many choices can sap students’ motivation as they expend mental energy agonizing over options, worried they’ll make the wrong choice. Usually, 3–5 choices suffice, and they’re more effective if you tailor the options to an individual student’s needs and interests. (Source: Unleashing Curiosity with Challenging Learning Tasks)
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.