McREL’s Curiosity Works resources provide the tools and methods to support curiosity among teachers, leaders, and learners in all kinds of communities and 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.

Curiosity is not static, it’s a continuous journey, and McREL can be your guide. Contact us today for resources, coaching, and consulting to boost curiosity in your school or system.

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What if all our students came to school eager to learn, self-motivated, and passionate? What if they were, in a word, curious?

And what if we could also unleash educators’ professional curiosity, tapping into the yearning professionals feel not just to survive, but to thrive in what we do? Wouldn’t our classrooms be happier and more productive?

Introduction to
Curiosity Works

Kristin Rouleau, a school and district improvement expert at McREL, gives an overview of Curiosity Works, McREL’s approach for guiding school teams along pathways to school improvement and innovation.

Curiosity Works &
School Improvement

What’s the difference between school improvement and school innovation? Kristin Rouleau, a school and district improvement expert at McREL, explains how Curiosity Works is different from traditional school improvement approaches, helping school teams move toward collaborative, shared expertise and innovation.

Inside Out

McREL’s Curiosity Works approach helps schools make “inside-out” changes that focus on existing bright spots, the small things their school is already doing well that can be scaled up to help more students succeed. Kristin Rouleau, a school and district improvement expert at McREL, explains how this is more powerful than traditional “outside-in” top-down mandates.

Our approach walks school communities through six phases of transformation, using each of the five components from McREL’s research-based What Matters Most® framework as starting point for improvement efforts:

Curricular Pathways to Success
Challenging, Engaging, and Intentional Instruction
Whole-Child Student Supports
High-Performance School Cultures
Data-Driven, High-Reliability Systems

Some schools will progress straight through, while others will move in and out of phases throughout their improvement journey as they focus on each component. Curiosity Works is for all schools—from those struggling to improve to those looking to raise the bar through innovative, learner-centered practices.

The six phases of transformation, from ensuring readiness to
building a purposeful community, are illustrated in this infographic.


Consulting & Professional Learning

Overview of Curiosity Works

1-day onsite professional learning session for school and district leaders
  • Learn why curiosity is an important lever for learning and how to cultivate it in teachers, leaders, and learners.
  • Learn to use instructional rounds to find and leverage bright spots.
  • Discover the power of peer coaching for school improvement.
  • Practice using an initiative planning template to articulate next steps for improvement.

Getting Started with Curiosity Works

2- or 3-day onsite professional learning session for leadership teams
  • Articulate and strengthen your school’s core values, mission, and vision.
  • Engage in a data review process that focuses on bright spots as well as opportunities for growth.
  • Establish a focus for improvement or innovation, and identify high-leverage strategies for action.
  • Draft a peer coaching plan.
  • Identify leadership actions to support implementation of change initiatives.

Measuring What Works

  • You’ll want to know if your school improvement efforts are making a difference.
  • We can help with an extra set of eyes on your performance data, informing deeper professional learning.
  • Our surveys will help you gauge progress in areas such as data use, school culture, and trust.
  • Our online platform, EmpowerEd, can make it simple for you to collect and review data about implementation of instructional practices.

Maintaining Momentum with Coaching and Ongoing Support

  • Once a school begins its improvement and innovation journey with Curiosity Works, we offer ongoing support to school leadership teams and entire faculties with customized professional learning sessions.
  • We can provide a variety of coaching services, from online check-ins to multi-day onsite visits.


Tools for Igniting Curiosity

Get 21 tools and activities for sparking and sustaining your students’ curiosity. Tools for Igniting Curiosity, co-published by Silver Strong & Associates and McREL International, answers that question with tools that capitalize on key levers proven to pique student curiosity—levers such as mysteries, controversy, missing information, personal experiences, and emotions. The writing team of Bryan Goodwin, Harvey F. Silver, Susan Kreisman, and Matthew J. Perini thoughtfully chose the 21 curiosity tools—ready made classroom activities—ensuring they are supported by research and align with the three-phase cognitive path that students follow as they become initially interested in a topic, engage with new content and ideas, and then develop deeper, more sophisticated and applicable knowledge.

Out of Curiosity: Restoring the Power of Hungry Minds for Better Schools, Workplaces, and Lives

Do you feel like misplaced priorities are preventing a breakthrough at work? That your kids’ school has all the potential for greatness but keeps turning in flat results? That connecting deeply with others seems more difficult than ever? You’re not imagining it: Like many of us, you may feel like you’re running out of curiosity. Join Bryan Goodwin, a former business writer and high school teacher who now heads one of America’s leading education research and consulting firms, as he explores this uniquely human yet easily overlooked characteristic.

Learn how curiosity can be intentionally cultivated to:

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

Unleashing Curiosity Quick Guide Series

Our Unleashing Curiosity guides are part of McREL’s Curiosity Works resources. Based in part on a successful system-wide effort in Melbourne, Australia, that improved student achievement by unleashing student curiosity, these resources give teachers and school leaders tips, suggestions, and ideas to encourage professional dialogue with other teachers and increase student curiosity. Combining these insights with McREL’s analysis of best education practices from around the world, our Curiosity Works resources support a better way of transforming schools—not through top-down pressure, but through helping teachers and school leaders work together to develop shared professional expertise and leverage the power of motivation and curiosity.

Curiosity Works: A Guidebook for Moving Your School from Improvement to Innovation

Curiosity Works: Moving Your School from Improvement to Innovation dives into McREL International’s Curiosity Works approach for school improvement and innovation. It’s for K–12 educators and school leadership teams who are ready to drive what goes on in their building and harness the power of curiosity to advance student learning and teacher effectiveness. This guidebook leads school leadership teams through a six-phase journey toward powerful improvement and innovation, and includes 17 practical tools to help your staff work together toward great outcomes. This approach incorporates key elements of McREL’s What Matters Most framework and Balanced Leadership® program that tens of thousands of teachers and leaders globally are already using to gain actionable insight into their profession, and layers on improvement pathways and phases of development to guide you and your team.

Curiosity and Powerful Learning Series

Curiosity drives the impulse to learn—and our Curiosity and Powerful Learning model shows school teams how to systemically develop and support curious learners and create an effective, sustainable learning system supported by students, staff, and school leaders. Based on a successful school improvement effort in Melbourne, Australia, this program is designed to help teachers, instructional coaches, school leaders, and system administrators embark on a professional journey to lift student literacy, numeracy, and curiosity. Written originally for Australian educators, the theories of action and recommended activities outline practices that have been tested and refined in schools over time and can be adapted and used by schools and districts around the world, including the U.S.

Free 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.

Free White Paper | Curiosity Works: Moving Your School from Improvement to Innovation (2018)

What if every student were curious, self-motivated, and passionate about their learning? Wouldn’t our classrooms be more joyful and dynamic and our schools be more innovative? In this white paper, Kristin Rouleau lays the groundwork for a powerful new model for school improvement—an inside-out, curiosity-driven approach—that looks for and builds on schools’ bright spots in ways that go beyond improvement and help unleash both student and educator curiosity. This innovative approach relies on a school’s readiness to commit to shared values within a purposeful community, a focus on teaching and learning, support for professional growth among teachers using a triad peer coaching model, and a consistent, deep practice that weathers the storms of change.