It is not surprising to see relevance of learning in the effective pedagogy section of the New Zealand Curriculum. A lot of research was undertaken in the 1990’s in New Zealand on this and hence teachers in New Zealand have long discussed how relevant and meaningful learning will increase interest, engagement and motivation for learners. What is of interest here though, is that the NZC explanation expands from just relevant contexts for learning to include ideas such as curiosity and learner agency.
Effective teachers stimulate the curiosity of their students, require them to search for relevant information and ideas, and challenge them to use or apply what they discover in new contexts or in new ways.
Curiosity is a bit of an enigma in schools. Speak to any teacher and they will say they value it, but often it is not high in our priorities when designing learning experiences for our classes. Susan Engel’s research found that students’ curiosity decreased as they grew older. She does believe that adult influence is a factor in this. This paper by Engel suggests 4 ways that educators can help students become more curious again.
Over the last few days I have observed a couple of situations that have set me off wondering about curiosity again. One of these was with my own children and one with my Year 10 class.
Yesterday we visited Kelly Tarltons and I saw pure wonder and curiosity on the faces of my children. My 3 year old son ran round with joy, pointing at things that caught his eye and asking for a closer look. My 7 year old daughter spent her time reading the signs and asking questions of the staff to find out more about what she was seeing.
It was an awesome 2 1/2 hour adventure and their pure curiosity and wonder about it all made it even better.
It was interesting afterwards to reflect and compare this experience with the lesson with my Year 10 class on Friday. Continue reading →
Last week I attended uLearn15, an epic conference in Auckland with 1700 teachers and 250 sponsors and exhibitors. On the first day I ran a Breakout session called Agency and Ownership: Why the How? Initially planned as a smallish interactive workshop, it proved very popular as people chose their sessions so it grew into a large presentation to around 250 people with a lot more of me talking from the front.
Core Education filmed this presentation and streamed it live from their conference website. You can watch it here (jump to 11.50 where it actually starts):
Or, if you don’t have an hour and a half spare, this post will cover the highlights.
We have all heard the terms Learner Agency and Student Ownership of Learning. We all have the same vague understandings of what these are about. This presentation was focused on working out they actually look like in the classroom. What the practices are that we as teachers can implement to enable and empower students to truly own their learning.
This week’s provocation at Hobsonville Point Secondary School was Grant Lichtman’s Deeper Learning Cheat Sheet. To follow up on this our Learning Design Kitchen Table (20 minute staff ‘meeting’) was an activity based upon that reading.
We started off by looking again at the tips that Grant has disseminated for increasing student engagement, curiosity and student centred practice.
Many of these strategies are commonplace and found every day throughout our school. But we recognise that we can always improve our practice. So, we focused on how we can scale up or amplify our practice on these. Continue reading →
This video is made by Google and is being used for one of the questions in the application for Google Teachers Academy Sydney. I love the message that this video brings of aiming for the tenfold improvements.
By aiming for such massive improvements, you have to start again and completely rethink how it could happen. It takes away the ability to just tinker around the edges as this will only bring minor improvements.
Imagine if this was a regular mode of thinking for our students. It tends to come natural to kids – how often do we dismiss their ideas as nonsensical, impossible to pull off?
What If Qs from Room 13 at Willow Park School
What if we actually encouraged this type of thinking? I have written before about developing students natural curiosity. If this was nurtured, what could they achieve? If this ability actually grew throughout school, what impact could they eventually have on society? What if all that curiosity, creativity, innovation, moonshot thinking was unleashed on the issues facing the world today?
Perhaps those impossible, wicked problems would not be so wicked after all.
So often when we have a light bulb moment / hare brained idea / I wonder if that could work type thought we immediately start thinking of the reasons why it won’t work. Next time you have one of these innovative ideas/thoughts why don’t you try thinking – What if this works?
If it comes off as you think it could, what would be the benefits? The outcomes? The changes it would cause?
If these outcomes/benefits/changes are positive then you can start thinking “How might we make this really happen then?”
By starting with the positives it opens up the possibilities, then by moving into the 2nd How Might We stage it reframes this possible into an actuality and it is just a case of getting the right people working on it to make it happen.
Wouldn’t it be great if instead of focusing on risks and barriers all the time we actually focused on the possibilities and started having more of these innovative ideas take off!
Starting off with a small group of 6 it quickly ballooned into a large group of excited budding scientists.
From fun, easy experiments with ingredients you have in your cupboard at home such as baking soda, vinegar and detergent through to liquid nitrogen and hydrophobic polymers, the kids were having a ball!
Most of the kids there were 10 or under and they found it all amazing. As we left a few older kids were arriving so impressions may change but I noticed that the younger kids were all vocally involved but as the ages went up there were a few very vocal boys whilst the girls got quieter. That all said, it was an amazing morning where Nano Girl definitely inspired curiosity and perhaps some passionate future scientists.
What happens during school that stops kids being so excited about Science (and in particular girls)?
One of the things I have been pondering lately is that if the ability to question is an important skill for students to develop, how do we recognise those students leading the way? Schools regularly reward students who can provide great answers, how could we reward those who provide great questions?
Could this be how we unlock and develop the creativity and innovation in students? Provide something to strive towards.
I’m imagining school prizegivings where alongside the top sports people and top subject prize winners there are awards for the students who asked such amazing questions that it unlocked a whole new area of inquiry for them or fellow students.
School honour boards replaced (or to give people something to hold onto, perhaps alongside) by Question hall of fames. In fact these don’t have to be school-wide, you could implement this in your class straight away. It’s something I’m planning to do next term!
Or, go along the path that Meghan Cureton from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta has and create an honours programme for those questioners and innovators. Their Innovation Diploma is an incredibly inspiring programme that I am already bugging our Principal to consider how we could adapt this for our school (and we don’t even have final year students for 3 1/2 years yet!).
How else could we reward questions and questioners in our schools?
Day 3 of my Questioning Quest belongs to a question from 2 of my Robotics students this afternoon.
They had been developing their code, testing the robot and making adjustments to improve its performance. Next thing I see their Tank Robot from Mind Kits no longer has its tracks on it as they did their next round of testing.
Over recent times I have gained the nickname “Excited Puppy” at work and even been given the picture above by a workmate to represent me. This is because I seem to be amped all the time about the awesome stuff happening at Hobsonville Point Secondary School or whatever the latest book/article/blog I read has taught me.
A week ago I wrote Warm and Demanding about how we were working through some challenges at school. That post cleared my mind again and helped me to see that we are going to figure out solutions and reiterate processes based on our vision. Since then I have been in a strong “excited puppy” phase again as I have been able to focus on all the great things occurring. Continue reading →