How can teachers tap into the power of curiosity right now?

Elementary classroomIntrigued 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)

Idea 2: Coach students to coach themselves. Feedback is fundamental to learning, as long as it’s delivered in an engaging, non-evaluative, and growth-oriented manner. And feedback can also help students be more curious about what they can do to improve. One strategy to create an atmosphere of energizing feedback in your classroom is to ensure you aren’t the only one giving advice. Students can be drawn into self-coaching with such prompts as, Replay that in your mind, What’s next?, and What have I learned so far? (Source: Unleashing Curiosity with Feedback That Motivates)

Idea 3: Find strength in numbers. With the right guidance, collaborative small-group work can maximize learning, teach valuable cooperative and civic skills, and reinforce the importance of interpersonal curiosity—What do my peers think about this? Why do they have different perspectives? How does this person’s idea connect to that person’s idea? Group configurations should be dynamic, with the makeup of groups changing with each assignment. Avoid having students “self-select” into the same group for every assignment. (Source: Unleashing Curiosity with Dynamic Cooperation)

Idea 4: Help students see they have a role to play. As good as you are at teaching, this can only take your students so far—to really deepen their knowledge and curiosity, your students will have to make a commitment to their own learning. That’s likelier to happen if the learning has personal meaning for them, connecting to something important in their own lives and reflecting their curiosity, emotions, and values. (Source: Unleashing Curiosity by Helping Students Commit to Mastery)

Idea 5: Demonstrate the power of questions. Questioning is the most frequently used pedagogic technique, but not all questions are equally demanding. Go beyond mere requests for factual data by matching your questions to stages of learning and using them to encourage deep thinking. Questioning isn’t just a way for a teacher to keep a lesson moving forward, but an important skill for students to learn. (Source: Unleashing Curiosity with Quality Questioning)

Of course, we always encourage teachers to familiarize themselves with the big ideas and research behind our advice, because one of our core beliefs is that practitioners get better when they know the foundational theory behind the actions they’re undertaking. But we recognize the value of a “quick win” too. So, we hope some of these ideas help you to win quickly!

Kristin RouleauKristin Rouleau is a senior director of learning services at McREL International and coauthor of Unstuck and Curiosity Works. Learn more about McREL’s Curiosity Works™ services and resources.

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