Mastering the use of Curiosity

Would you rather have your learners slouching and gazing out of the window, or wide-eyed and on the edge of their seats?

Feel your spirits sink

Imagine a couple of uncurious learners – we’ve all seen a few in our time. They’re often slumped on their chair with an indeterminate gaze. Their every pore can shout: ‘Go on then – teach me; if you must’.

Uncurious learners can be exhausting. The energy for their learning journey most often comes from you, the teacher. Now imagine a whole class full of uncurious learners – and feel your spirits sink.

Thankfully, the opposite is also true – so imagine a whole class full of learners who are on the edge of their seats desperate to know what happens next. We call this a Meerkat Moment. Why not try this really quick and easy exercise to see if learners’ lack of curiosity is their fault or yours.

  • Take out one of your typical lesson plans and a highlighter pen.
  • Highlight all of your planned Meerkat Moments.

How many did you find? It’s quite typical to find none – and yet when questioned, all teachers agree that uncurious learners are costly to teach, in terms of time, energy and performance statistics.

Curiosity is not a ‘default’ state. We have to make learners curious. Some teachers are naturally good at unfolding a narrative, choreographing learners’ discoveries, or exciting learners to new possibilities, but most of us need a little help to really master the use of curiosity.

Reviewing your practice

Begin by reviewing one of your problematic lesson plans. You need at least two Meerkat Moments in every lesson: one at the start, and one at the end. Depending on the length of the session, you will also need one just before a break. In a great lesson, you may plan many.

Consider the opening. Do you grab your learners’ attention and make them desperate to know more. Do you gradually reveal, or allow them to discover, the aims of your session in such a way that they can’t wait to commit themselves to the unmissable journey? Or do you write up your aims and objectives on a flip chart so that it doesn’t matter if they’re late?

If your lesson openings are missable, they’ll be missed.

Consider the ending. Will the lesson end with learners continuing the debate as they leave? Will they invest their own time in discovering the answers to the ‘teasers’ you left them with? Or will they simply leave, do their homework at some point (or not) and come back (late) to the next lesson? Wouldn’t you rather have them arrive at the next lesson desperate to show you what they’d discovered?

Curiosity is not the ‘default’ state.

The Formula for Curiosity is discussed in detail in the HoT Learning session.