Episode 13 – Curiosity as a Cure for Our School Ailments

Some people talk about tests, standards, and academic rigor as keys to improving our schools, but in this episode we consider the power and possibility of curiosity and the love of learning.

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Some people talk about tests, standards, accountability, and academic rigor as keys to improving our schools. In this episode, we explore the idea that curiosity and a love of learning are two of the most powerful tools for creating rich, engaging, learning communities. As such, the show concludes with thirteen specific tips for schools that want to create more curious learning communities.

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

An Obituary and a Family Plan

Informal Learning by Jay Cross

Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan

Bernard’s interview on the EdTechNow Podcast

Self-Directed Learning Templates

Tips for Nurturing Curiosity in Schools

  1. As school leaders, become really curious about curiosity and how it is nurtured. Care about that more than test scores and traditional measures. Look for it in the school and in the people in the school. Look for where it is growing and where it is diminishing. Invite the community into a school-wide experiment to see how one community can transform itself into a place of deep curiosity and a love of learning.
  2. Visit places that have a reputation for a culture of curiosity. Visit, listen and learn as much as possible. Don’t limit yourself to schools and learning organizations. Wherever curiosity is rampant, put that on your list of sites to visit.
  3. Celebrate curiosity and learning. Put them front and center in your learning organization.
  4. Have the courage to minimize or remove the impact of that which competes with curiosity and a love of learning (grading systems and methods that nurture a culture of earning, test-driven approaches to instruction, fear-based discipline tactics, bullying and a lack of encouragement among learners, etc.).
  5. Focus on important, compelling, meaningful questions and inquiry more than covering content. This doesn’t mean that you ignore content, but starting with questions will drive learners to a much deeper exploration of content.
  6. Focus on meaning, purpose and calling of the learners. Persistently return to this. Tie everything to it. When what I am learning is framed in terms of something meaningful to me, connected to my purpose or calling, then I am far more likely to be curious. When the most engaging thought experiment for a learner is how to avoid school or how to cheat on an assignment or test; you know that you don’t have a strong culture of curiosity and a love of learning.
  7. Use the language of curiosity and learning (journey, discovery, explore, etc.).
  8. Invest as much time and energy as it takes to create, sustain and protect positive peer interactions, accountability and support.
  9. Make accountability and achievement the price of having persistent access to this culture of curiosity and a love of learning. It isn’t the end goal, but it can play a useful role as long as it is not allowed to dominate the time, thoughts and efforts of the learners.
  10. Leave time and space for curiosity to emerge. This means time for deep and extended learning. It also means not over-scheduling activities so much that I don’t have time to self-organize, explore, reflect, and manage my own exploration.
  11. Let go of the myth of coverage. The drive to cover all the “material” kills curiosity. It makes learning a chore, sometimes for learner and teachers in the community. After all, just covering something doesn’t result in learning anyway.
  12. Work with each student to discover what sparks their curiosity and what they love to learn. Find ways to help them create space and opportunity to feed those interests.
  13. Model the curious life. Don’t hide your love of learning, your deep curiosity about the people and practices in your organization. Make it your healthy obsession.


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