Curiosity Based Learning

In early May we welcomed Matt Murrie to LEVEL 5 for a workshop on Curiosity Based Learning. Matt is a former English professor, Social Entrepreneurship professor, and Coordinator of Innovation for the Churchill Institute for Global Engagement at Westminster College. He is the author of, While You Were Sleeping, Every Day on Earth, and The Book of What If…?.

A graduate of Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, he has over a decade of teaching experience in five countries on three different continents as a public-school teacher, Peace Corps volunteer, and college professor.

Matt is a prolific writer for Huffington Post and has three TEDx talks including the TEDxCoMo talk (featured below), What if our socks didn’t match? His focus is on the power of exploring questions rather than looking for answers. Nowhere was this clearer than in this workshop.

I’ve heard it stated, if you do what you always have done you will always get the same result, and so if we desire transformational change we look to new ways of thinking. One such model Matt introduced was, From What to WOW!

Image credit: Matt Murrie

This simple protocol shifts thinking into an asset based curiosity mode.

Consider, when teachers design for great learning we plan for, the content, the environment, the instructor or facilitator, the peer groups, expert speakers, best practices, a sense of community, opportunities to network. But are these the things that students actually learn & take away? What are the WOW moments in students’ learning? How about you? When you think of powerful learning experiences, what do you remember most?

Often it’s not just one thing, but rather a harmony of many components, all working well together, often by design. Learning is a sophisticated experience that requires sophisticated design in order to be effective. This is particularly true when we design for curiosity driven learning.

Image credit: Matt Murrie

Inquiry based education is equally authentically inquiry-based as the teacher or school’s understanding of the ethos of student-driven learning. I have worked in schools that have most parts of their curriculum explicitly taught whilst only small portions within the day are devoted to students’ interests, passions, and questions. It really depends on the school. So how do teachers work within the constraints of the curriculum, standards, or expectations of their school or district but still infuse inquiry and curiosity into each lesson?

A big part of this process is allowing students the opportunities to ask questions about their own learning. To have time to construct quality questions to investigate, to debate, discuss, and listen to the myriad of suggestions and possibilities offered by others.

But questions aren’t enough. You have to have to make a plan for action. How will you find out, how will you enact change?

In the International Baccalaureate PYP we do this through the action component of the inquiry cycle, but for many schools that are tied to standards and outcomes infusing the time for curiosity is difficult. This system provides a great provocation for a unit of study, or a way for students to explore their own questions regarding taught content.

Matt works to help teachers bust out of stale thought processes and use active curiosity to enable students to co-author the future. For a quick snapshot of the workshop check out this short 60 second video. To connect with Matt check out the hashtag #whatif on Youtube or connect direct on Twitter at @MattMurrie.

If you are interested in Matt’s TEDx talk I have included it here, and if you are interested in what else we do to spark change at LEVEL 5 check out our website with upcoming events http://www.thelevel5.org/.