Curiosity Works™ is what McREL is calling our new approach to school improvement and innovation. It incorporates our existing What Matters Most® framework that for years has been helping educators worldwide to spend their time and effort most effectively, and it adds an exciting new focus: harnessing the power of curiosity to drive ever-greater performance from students, teachers, and school leaders.
No two schools are alike—heck, no two school days are alike. So, in keeping with McREL tradition, the aim of Curiosity Works is decidedly not to impose a rigid program that must be followed unimaginatively. Rather, it aims to inspire teachers and leaders within a school to grow the courage and capacity to make things better without waiting for orders from the outside.
Nevertheless, our decades of consulting and research work have shown that many school leadership teams (we call them research and innovation teams) undergo similar phases of development when they get serious about improvement and innovation:
Commit to shared values, moral purpose, and vision. Before diving into who does what, it pays to take some time discussing why. This prep work may feel alien to those accustomed to “getting the job done,” but for leaders, this is very much part of the job.
Create hopeful urgency. Anyone can complain. Real leadership means convincing people of the inadequacy of the status quo in a way that energizes them rather than angers or confuses. Our colleagues in North Melbourne, Australia, inspired us by going classroom to classroom looking for “bright spots” to turn into district-wide strategies rather than harping on shortcomings.
Focus on teaching and learning. A school-based team can search for a model of instruction that provides a clear process for teachers to follow and emulate in their classrooms. Curiosity Works favors a model that reminds teachers that learning, not just instruction, is the ultimate goal.
Support professional learning and collaboration. Who better to support teachers than more teachers? We love a particular coaching model, triad peer coaching, in which three of you take turns as coach, coachee, and observer. With this degree of ongoing encouragement, teachers grow confident enough to assume responsibility for school improvement.
Develop consistent, deep practice. Change is personal. A teacher may respond to a proposed change as a golden opportunity to get through to more students, while the teacher next door hears the very same proposal as an insult. Your school’s research-and-innovation team needs to learn enough about the theory and practice of change management to have its change effort become embedded in the fabric of the school.
Build a purposeful community. Good strategies need a receptive, inclusive culture to carry them out. Bringing people together around shared aspirations, resources, and actions is no small feat. But a profound degree of cooperation and commitment to shared outcomes is essential to the Curiosity Works approach.
Easy, right? No, not at all. But fun and stimulating and rewarding? You bet! Learn more about Curiosity Works in our upcoming white paper and, in spring 2018, our book titled Curiosity Works: Moving Your School from Improvement to Innovation.
As McREL’s senior director of learning services and innovation, Kristin Rouleau works with schools, districts, and state departments of education as they navigate change and implement practices and structures to reduce variability and increase student achievement. Through consulting, coaching, and facilitation of workshops, she provides services, strategies, and technical assistance to support change efforts.
McREL’s Curiosity Works resources provide the tools and methods to support curiosity among teachers, leaders, and learners at every level of learning. We’ll help you understand, create, and develop effective, sustainable, and curiosity-driven learning in your school that unleashes the power of curiosity and enhances learning for everyone—teachers, students, and school leaders.