A Culture of Curiosity: Dreaming Out Loud

Dreaming Out Loud Earlier this year I spent some time refining my vision for learning and teaching. One of the phrases I included was ‘a culture of curiosity’. Is it just a dream to hope that one day all children will have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I often think that I might just be a bit odd as I have always been of the opinion that if you could know something about how a process works or why something looks the way it does, why wouldn’t you want know it? What I find hard to swallow is not everyone shares my thirst for learning. In fact, I may be in the minority probably with the people that are reading this post!

With reference to a quotation from Legacy by James Kerr ‘A vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is a nightmare.’ In order to create a genuine culture of curiosity I need to think very carefully about the actions I take to bring the vision to life.

A few years ago, I sat through a science lecture at a local school which focused on human capacity for thinking. Research they shared suggested that as little as 1 in 5 children are born with the capacity for high order thinking. I was, and still am, sceptical about this statement but I do think there is some truth in it, especially when I relate it to my classroom experiences. Think about a particular group that you teach. How many students in the group accept everything you say as fact? If your classes are anything like the majority of my classes there will be two or three students who will frequently challenge what you say as they are curious about what you have said and therefore think about the content more deeply. Whether or not this can be engendered in other student is central to the notion of creating a culture where curiosity is highly valued.

Do children become less curious with age?

Young children are keen to investigate anything and everything using multiple senses. I know from my own children that very often this is by putting everything in their mouth! Is this simply because everything is new to them? Are some young children more curious than others even at a young age? As children grow older, do they become less curious because less of what they encounter is new to them? Thinking about the classroom again, students are taught new concepts and ideas on a daily basis but the level of engagement with the content varies significantly. The why can be attributed to a range of factors but how important is an interest in the subject?

Do you have to be interested in a subject to be curious?

It definitely helps. Some students flourish in one particular subject because it is the subject that they are passionate about. Some students are keen to ask questions regardless of the subject or topic and come across as naturally more curious. Why? Could it actually be that some students are born naturally inquisitive about everything? I am keen to know how much the home environment affects the development an inquisitive mindset. Young children ask hundreds if not thousands of questions a day. If a child grows up in an environment in which more or less every question they ask is answered in detail, are they more likely to succeed when at school? If they grow up in an environment where the majority of questions go unanswered or the answers they receive are brief and inaccurate, does this stifle their curiosity?

To create a genuine culture of curiosity will require tenacity and a great deal of work. The concept of curiosity needs to permeate all areas of learning and teaching, lessons could utilise teaching styles from across the discovery threshold and questioning in lessons should be led by students where possible. This post has raised so many questions that I am keen to explore further.