A guest post written by Bob Craig, Consultant and Trainer
Having a curious mindset and demeanour is an invaluable character trait, even more so in these uncertain times. Being open to different possibilities is associated with exploration, experimentation and discovery. People like Einstein, Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci attribute most of their success not to being supremely gifted, talented or lucky but to having a ‘hungry’, inquisitive mind. Sir Ken Robinson, who sadly passed away on 21st August 20 after a short battle with cancer, described curiosity as the ‘engine of learning’.
How does curiosity improve learning?
Numerous studies into character traits attest to the power of curiosity to support learning and wellbeing. Curiosity supports long term memory and recall. When we are curious, dopamine is released in the brain, which supports motivation, drive and focus.
One influential and comprehensive study carried out by Vom Stumm and colleagues in 2011 looked at the impact of different character traits to support learning. Their research, which they called, ‘The Hungry Mind: Intellectual curiosity is the third pillar of academic performance’, involved a meta-analysis of over 200 studies and encompassed over 50,000 students. They found that curiosity had about the same effect on learning and academic performance as conscientiousness. They concluded
“When put together, conscientiousness and curiosity have a bigger effect on performance than IQ”.
Babies and toddlers are innately curious, investigating and exploring their environments, and we are all curious about one thing or another. Somewhere along the line curiosity can get diminished. However, it is highly responsive to the situation or environment we’re in. Teachers, support staff, leaders and the culture within colleges and schools will stoke or quash students’ curiosity. Questions to ask yourself:
- Do students see their primary role as being consumers of information, or as creators, curators and critics, as well as consumers of received information? How about teachers, leaders and support staff?
- What role does (or could) curiosity play in the sort of thriving, innovative, collaborative, diverse organisations we would all want to work in?
Strategies to promote curiosity in learning
Here are 4 areas for us to consider that will help our students to become more curious:
- How we arrange learning ‘spaces’
- The extent to which we model curiosity ourselves
- How effectively we teach students how to ask and frame great questions
- How, where and when we position curiosity as something useful, liberating, fun, exiting and constructively rebellious
All of these factors will determine how influential it will be as a catalyst for learning and a supporter of mental fitness and wellbeing.
Bob will be delving into this really interesting topic is much more detail in the masterclass on 4 November and will offer you lots of strategies to take back to your college.