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student engagementHave 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.

For example, our recent book, Curiosity Works: A Guidebook for Moving Your School from Improvement to Innovation, draws heavily on the What Matters Most™ framework, which was introduced in our 2011 book, Simply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success. Curiosity Works also blends the components of high-performing schools with stages of improvement identified by Barber and Mourshed in 2007, making it possible for school leadership teams to pinpoint their school’s location on an improvement pathway, and dive in with the right emphasis at the right time.

Teachers and school leaders have been telling us that overlaying complementary sets of guidance in this way is like adding latitude to longitude, or an x axis to a y axis, which gives them a better sense of where they are on the school improvement pathway, and which direction to head to achieve their identified goals.

Following our Curiosity Works guidance, a school leadership team might, for example, decide that whole-child student supports is the component that matters most urgently to their students and staff, and that, as a team, they are in the develop collegial expertise phase of improvement. These insights point immediately to conversations and actions the team can begin to undertake right away.

If you’re familiar with McREL, you know that we’re sensitive to the seemingly endless piling on of one more thing to what teachers and school leaders are already being asked to do. Curiosity Works is expressly designed not to be one more thing, but rather, to add insight, guidance, urgency, teamwork, and yes, even fun, to the important work you’re already doing.

Learn more about Curiosity Works, and feel free to contact me directly.

Watson-Beth_263-296Beth Watson is senior director of sales and client partnerships at McREL International. You can reach her at or 303.632.5536.

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.

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