Learning, Questions, and Curiosity?

Dec 21, 2012

Edwards Family

How do you define curiosity?

How do you encourage and support curiosity?

I saw something on Edutopia this morning that caught my attention: Four Strategies to Spark Curiosity via Student Questioning by Kevin D. Washburn.

I admit that the the way curiosity and questioning are connected in the title is what first caught my eye.

One of the first statements that jumped out at me is "Curiosity is the name we give to the state of having unanswered questions. And unanswered questions, by their nature, help us maintain a learning mindset."

I talk a lot about encouraging and supporting students to ask questions, to wonder, and explore but I had never really thought of connecting unanswered questions and learning in that way.

Here are the four strategies explored in this article:

  1. Equip Students to Ask Questions
  2. Provide a Launch Pad
  3. Cast a Wide Net
  4. Avoid Cutting the Search Short
I am going to try not to tell you too much about this article since I really want you to go read it for yourself, but I am going to highlight a few of my favorite statements:
  • "At its essence, curiosity is asking questions and pursuing answers."
  • "Questions ignite curiosity."
  • If students don't have much background knowledge, "giving just enough information to launch inquiry can help."
  • "The brain does its best work in an active and receptive state" so searches need to be both focused and open to discovering new paths.
  •  "A new idea or perspective raises new questions, and since the brain does not like unanswered questions, curiosity continues to motivate the search."
  •  "We can spark curiosity by engaging students in questioning and in pursuing answers"
The connections between curiosity, learning, and the brain really appeal to me based on my background and interests. (I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury in high school and written severalprevious blog posts about things connected to the brain and learning, especially creativity. ) When I read this article, I immediately think of Wonderopolis, a project of the National Center for Family Literacy.

In my opinion, Wonderopolis does a good job of modeling questioning. I like how the questions posed are not ones that can be answered by just using one word. Their questions lead to other questions ... and "ignite curiosity" in many ways. I often tell people that Wonderopolis asksthinking questions ...

I also feel that Wonderopolis does a nice job of providing a little background knowledge to help things make sense while still not fully answering the question .... which still allows thinking and wondering to happen. I think there is enough information provided to make you want to know more ... and they provide links and ideas for finding out stuff if you want to know more .... which encourages exploration and discovery based on interest!

I think this statement from Kevin D. Washburn's article sums it up best:


Learning "compelled" by questions is learning driven by curiosity
The word cloud at the top of this blog was created using the words from the article that inspired this blog post.


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