“I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plants and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it, and why immediately on its creation the lightning becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone, and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engage my thought throughout my life.” –
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
It is fair to say that Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest minds in our history. His thinking was well ahead of its time and spawned many advances in science, art, and technology. Da Vinci had a burning curiosity to understand how things worked. Through trial and error he applied a high degree of critical thinking to understand and appreciate his observations of the world around him. (How to think like Leonardo da Vinci).
Curiosity may be defined as a desire to know, to see, or to experience that motivates exploratory behaviour directed towards the acquisition of new information (Litman 2005). Curiosity is defined as: A strong desire to know or learn something – Oxford Dictionary
In the case of Leonardo da Vinci this curiosity was a burning hunger to find the answer to all of the questions that perplexed him, and unlike most people this hunger stayed with him until the end of his life.
Was Leonardo da Vinci a freak of nature or can developing a curious mind help you to think the way he did?
Was it curiosity which killed the cat? – The curious child
“If a child stays curious then he will continue to explore and discover”
Do we not ask as many questions as adults because we know more about the world, and therefore do not need to ask as many questions, or is it that we don’t maintain our curiosity because “life” gets in the way, and the obstacles of life lead us along the common path of life, to do ‘what is expected’?
Do we not ask as many questions because we are taught not to? Is it just easier for most to walk along the already worn path?
“Two roads diverged in the woods, and I took the road less travelled”
I think we all need a pep talk – ‘Robert Frost’ by Kid President
Robby Novak (Kid President) – Obviously Robby is a boy who exercises his curiosity; he thinks about the world and how it could be a better place. He talks about following one’s dreams, not giving up, and not following along the same ‘boring’ path, but instead taking ‘the road less travelled’.
What are the blockers of curiosity? According to Dr Bruce Perry there are three common ways adults restrict or crush children’s natural curiosity: 1) fear, 2) disapproval and 3) absence. http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/curiosity.htm
“You’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong.”
– Sir Ken Robinson
“Fear kills curiosity”. Children lose their curiosity and like for novelty when their environment is unsafe or chaotic. In these situations children tend to play it safe – staying within comfort zones, and are reluctant to explore. “Children impacted by war, natural disasters, family distress, or violence all have their curiosity crushed”.
“Don’t touch. Don’t climb. Don’t yell. Don’t take that apart. Don’t get dirty. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.”
Children sense and respond to our fears, biases, and attitudes. If we convey a sense of disgust at the mud on their shoes and the slime on their hands, their discovery of tadpoles will be diminished.
“No, use the method of the grandmother……… Well, what you’ve got to do is stand behind them and admire them all the time. Just say to them, ‘That’s cool. That’s fantastic. What is that? Can you do that again? Can you show me some more?”
The presence of a caring, invested adult provides two things essential for optimal exploration: 1) a sense of safety from which to set out to discover new things and 2) the capacity to share the discovery and, thereby, get the pleasure and reinforcement from that discovery.
Studies of children in the learning environment have shown a positive correlation between consistent feedback and increased curiosity (Loewenstein 1994). Goodwin (2014) cites a 1976 study (Moore & Bulbulian) in which 40 pre-schoolers were more apt to be curious and explore their surrounding when in the presence of a friendly and supportive adult, and less inclined to do so when in the company of a critical and aloof adult, and Robinson (2006) states that children will take a chance if they are not frightened of being wrong.
Decline in curiosity and creative thinking
There is a positive link between curiosity and creativity (Vidler, 1977 cited by Piccone 1999), and like with Leonardo da Vinci the more creative a person is the more they are able to think up original questions, and in turn the desire to find answers and solutions to these questions drives further curiosity. Südhof (2014) goes as far to suggest that the best predictor of a person’s success is how “innately curious” they are. Hoffman (1998 cited by Piccone 1999) identifies curiosity as a major motivator of great accomplishments, reporting intellectual curiosity as the highest rated motivating factor for doctors since the 1920’s. Von Srumm et al (2012) suggests that curiosity predicts academic performance and that a “hungry mind” is a core determinant of individual differences in academic achievement. Goodwin (2014) further supports this with the research of Rain, Renolds, Venables, & Mednick (2002) in which a longitudinal study of 1,795 (11 year old) children indicated that the ‘more curious’ children scored on average 12 points higher on IQ tests that those who demonstrated ‘low curiosity’ traits.
Evidence suggests that children lose more of their curiosity the longer they stay in school (Englehard & Monsaas 1988 cited by Goodwin 2014). Kim (2011) cites the research of Gardner,(1982); Axtell, (1966); Kang,(1989); Marcon, (1995); Nash, (1974); Timmel, (2001); Torrance, (1977); Williams, (1976) which show that there is a drop in both curiosity and creativity when students start to learn socialization and conformity as part of their schooling, suggesting that the conventions of “how to behave” may be responsible in part for reducing, and perhaps even killing off these traits. She points out that there has also been a continual decline of the creative thinking of Americans since the 1990’s.
……and although curiosity may have killed the cat, there is evidence to suggest that being curious can extend your life (Swan, 1996)
“In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question,… Have the kids stopped asking questions because they’ve lost interest? Or have they lost interest because the rote answers-driven school system doesn’t allow them to ask enough questions?”
– Warren Berger – author of A More Beautiful Question
Are the conventions of our education system, our institutions, our social structures killing our curiosity?
Does convention kill curiosity? · For example, does the established convention of a student needing to seek a teacher’s permission to ask a question kill the desire to ask questions?
Have we become question killers?
Can we train ourselves and others to become more curious?
Research on the study of CQ – Curiosity Quotient suggests that we can (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2014).
What is the reward for a curious mind?
“There’s this basic circuit in the brain that energizes people to go out and get things that are intrinsically rewarding,..This circuit lights up when we get money, or candy. It also lights up when we’re curious…When the circuit is activated, our brains release a chemical called dopamine, which gives us a high. The dopamine also seems to play a role in enhancing the connections between cells that are involved in learning.”
– Professor Charan Ranganath as quoted by Singh 2014
The reward for a curious mind is: knowing
It’s worth noting that expecting feedback is enough to stimulate the caudate – that part of the brain involved in reward anticipation. The evidence from these brain studies fits the ‘information gap’ model of curiosity which holds that: − curiosity is linked with anticipating new knowledge, and new knowledge can act as a reward.
To recap, it appears that curiosity: · is linked with the reward value of knowledge · supports learning from new information · links memory with reward anticipation · helps to consolidate new information in memory
Excerpt from: Curiouser and Courioser – John Munro 2014, P. 8
Wayne Craig former director of the Department and Early Childhood Development Victoria (currently an education consultant with McREL) and Dr John Munro, Associate Professor and Head of Studies in Exceptional Learning and Gifted Education in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (University of Melbourne) collaborated to build knowledge for the text ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ which encompasses the analogy of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and outlines the implications for teachers in the maintenance of ‘learning curiosity’.
What does this mean for teachers?
Beswick’s model of curiosity engages all the implications for teaching listed on page 7. In particular, the following implications assist in resolving conceptual conflict:
- Teach students how to use what they know when they encounter unfamiliar information
- Teach students to meet challenges by framing goals that focus on trying to understand or know more
- Teach a willingness to resolve challenges by taking a risk
- Teach students how to ask questions about topics that are linked with their learning goals
- Teach students how to draw in new knowledge and understanding by asking questions.
Excerpt from: Curiouser and Courioser – John Munro 2014, P. 9
Importantly: Make it easy for your students to ask questions, provide feedback, and help them to know that mistakes are an expected part of the process.
The Good Lesson
Curiosity was the main objective in the Northern Metropolitan Region School Improvement Strategy – Curiosity and Powerful Learning. This booklet outlined a learning structure that was modelled at Hume Central Secondary College – The Explicit Instructional Model. This model of instruction was informed by the research of Prof. John Hattie, incorporating the key instructional elements which produce the greatest ‘effect size’ and promote/nurture curiosity. Elements such as the ‘Hook’, ‘Learning Intention’, and effective ‘Feedback’ have worked well to help promote and nurture learning curiosity in my school.
What approach have you taken in your school?
What has worked best for you?
What has been the reaction of your staff – did it require a significant culture shift?
Goodwin, Bryan(2014) – Research Says / Curiosity Is Fleeting, but Teachable, September 2014 | Volume 72 | Number 1 Motivation Matters Pages 73-74 http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept14/vol72/num01/Curiosity-Is-Fleeting,-but-Teachable.aspx
Loewenstein, George (1994) – The Psychology of Curiosity: A Review and Reinterpretation, Psychological Bulletin, Volume 116. No. 1 P75-98,
Piccone, Jason (1999) – Curiosity and Exploration, California State University, Northridge
Dakka, Angelique (2015) – Nobel laureates talk about their research, energy availability http://www.stanforddaily.com/2014/05/13/nobel-laureates-talk-about-their-research-energy-availability/
Kim, Kyung Hee (2011) – The Creativity Crisis: The Decrease in Creative Thinking Scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, CREATIVITY RESEARCH JOURNAL, 23(4), 285–295
Robertson, Ian (2014) – Cognitive Reserve and Alzheimer’s Disease, Trinity College Dublin Institute of Neuroscience
Litman, Jordan A (2005) – Curiosity and the pleasures of learning: Wanting and liking new information – COGNITION AND EMOTION 2005, 19 (6), 793-814
Von Stumm, Sophie; Hell, Benedikt; and Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas (2011) – The Hungry Mind: Intellectual Curiosity Is the Third Pillar of Academic Performance
Berger, Warren (2011) – Why do kids ask so many questions—and why do they stop? http://amorebeautifulquestion.com/why-do-kids-ask-so-many-questions-but-more-importantly-why-do-they-stop/
Singh, Maanvi (2014) – Curiosity: It Helps Us Learn, But Why? HOW LEARNING HAPPENS – NPR ED http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/10/24/357811146/curiosity-it-may-have-killed-the-cat-but-it-helps-us-learn
Chamorro-Premuzic , Tomas, Dr (2014) – Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence –Harvard Business Review – https://hbr.org/2014/08/curiosity-is-as-important-as-intelligence/?utm_source=Socialflow&utm_medium=Tweet&utm_campaign=Socialflow
Munro, John, 2014 – Curiouser and Courioser