Future Focused Skills - Igniting curiosity in the classroom

Uncategorized Aug 03, 2020
Future Focused Teaching & Learning is all about helping to prepare students for the future, as most of the jobs that they will have don’t even exist yet. In order to prepare them effectively, we need to equip them with important 21st century skills so that they can be resilient, adaptable, and deal with future problems or challenges that may arise.
Every month I will focus on one ‘future focused’ skill, where I outline what the skill is, why it is important, and what kind of strategies and techniques can be used to develop them in the classroom. 
Curiosity is something that young kids have in spades - constantly asking ‘why’? They are real little philosophers aren’t they. From ‘why is the sky blue?’, to ‘why do we die?’. Curiosity is not something that needs to be taught - it is something that all humans possess naturally. It’s an important part of our development, in order to understand the world around us. 
Unfortunately, as we grow older, and partly due to the systemic structures of society that the traditional education system contributes to, we might start losing our sense of curiosity. We stop asking why. We accept things just the way that they ‘are’, and when the norm or the status quo is questioned, it might make us feel a little uncomfortable, because we aren’t used to asking why anymore. 
The tendency to stop asking why as we get older is what unfortunately can lead to division and stagnation in our society - sometimes with disastrous consequences. The less curious we are, the more judgemental, obstinate, self-righteous, and stubborn we might become. There are many instances throughout our history in which these traits have lead to discrimination, human rights abuse, conflict, and war. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer a society in which we remain open, progressive, accepting, and gracious. This would lead to a much more peaceful and harmonious state of being for everyone. 
In addition to this, the more curiosity we have, the more innovative, creative, and solutions-based we become. In order for society to make continuous progress, and to deal with the multitude of issues that lay in our future, we need these skills. 
Here’s a few more benefits of being continuously curious: 
  • Helps to develop empathy and compassion, and to see things from others' perspectives. 
  • Helps with anxiety - if you have an anxious response to something, try getting curious about it instead - ask yourself, why am I feeling like this? What else is going on here? 
  • Encourages critical thinking and discernment 
  • Improves relationships
  • Increases emotional intelligence
  • Helps to develop mindfulness and being in the present moment
  • Develops investigative skills to uncover the truth
  • Increases engagement and intrinsic motivation
  • Helps learners make connections between concepts
  • Ignites a love of learning and develops life-long learners.  
Let’s now look at some simple, practical strategies that can be used in the classroom to develop more curiosity. 
  1. Follow your students’ lead where possible. Don’t worry about going on a tangent or not getting through your lesson plan. See where your students’ questions take you. 
  2. When introducing a new topic, show a photo of something unfamiliar, a quote, an object, etc, and get students to ask questions about it. 
  3. Pose thought-provoking questions at every opportunity.
  4. Maintain a safe and supportive learning environment, where students feel comfortable to ask questions. 
  5. Design your programs to be taught through the lens of a big-picture question that will provoke your students curiosity. This will allow you to streamline the content within a meaningful context and create more engagement.  
  6. Always encourage and challenge students to keep asking ‘why’ and ‘what if?’ questions. 
  7. Allow student choice where possible -  in content, process and/or product. 
  8. Model curiosity for your students - if they ask a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t sidestep it or evade it. Instead, embrace their curiosity - say that you are curious too and would love to find out, why don’t we all find out together? Or, for example, if you are trying out a new teaching strategy, say to your students - ‘we are going to try something new and I’m curious as to how it will work out - maybe it won’t work but the important thing is that we have given it a go’ - this will model for them the importance of taking risks and not fearing or avoiding failure. 
  9. When introducing the learning intention for a lesson or topic, don’t just discuss what they are learning, but also why they are learning it. 
  10. Try negotiating the curriculum with your students - one way is through KWL charts - what do we know, what do we want to know, what have we learnt? Do the K and W at the beginning of a unit/ topic, and the L at the end. 
    1. What do we know - this is a form of diagnostic assessment, as it helps you to figure out where your students are currently at. This way you can get your starting point. You don’t want spend too much time teaching them things that they already know, and you don’t want to jump ahead of where they are. By figuring out where they are now, you can work out what the next best step is for them. 
    2. What do we want to learn - this is where their curiosity can run wild. What they come up with here can inform what kind of learning activities you plan throughout the unit of work. When you are focusing on things that they are curious about, there will be higher engagement and motivation, and therefore better learning. Of course, you still need to teach the actual curriculum, but their curiosity can be intertwined into it where possible. 
    3. What have we learnt - this is a reflective and evaluative practice after the learning has taken place. It can also be done during the learning to identify any possible gaps that need to be addressed. 
How else do you develop curiosity in your classroom? I’m curious! Let me know 🙂 
 PS. I have some free posters for your classroom all about curiosity, you can access them here

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