As Albert Einstein famously said: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."
Curiosity isn't just a word to describe a childhood book character or to explain what happened to a cat. Curiosity makes our brains stronger, reinforces and motivates a mind to learn and can build confidence regardless of age. Curiosity is the key to creating a passionately curious and confident next generation.
Keys to Curiosity
Key 1: Develop an openness to novel experiences and ideas
All persons are born with a certain amount of curiosity. However, those that enjoy new interests lead flourishing lives spiritually, creatively, and professionally (Kashan & Silvia, 2009). These same people are also inclined to have new experiences, and are commonly more imaginative, intellectual, and self-directed (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knajo, 2002).
Key 2: Build research competency
Research is a matter of answering questions through different methods or strategies. Inquiry can lead persons to pursue an answer through experimentation, in which true scientific inquiry supports the accumulation of more questions while investigating an answer (Reiff, Harwood, & Phillipson, 2002). Research skills include refining and utilizing literary research to inform learners of what is known, and what has yet to be explored (Quarton, 2003).
Key 3: Reinforce intrinsic motivation and self-determination
Intrinsic motivation and self-determination can be catalysts for curiosity. When determination, autonomy, and motivation are developed, they enhance a person's growth tendencies (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Together autonomy and competency tend to increase and improve student learning and school performance (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991).
Key 4: Use teamwork and interpersonal skills
While practicing teamwork and interpersonal skills, learners gain an understanding of personal responsibility and group accountability. Developing a sense of accountability and reasonability leads to increases in the effort of achievement, the quality of interpersonal relationships, and psychological health (Johnson & Johnson, 2009). Interpersonal skills may not be tied directly to deepening curiosity, but they do promote experiencing new cultures, interactions, and providing a wider array of curiosities in everyday life.
Key 5: Practice "growth mindset" and resiliency
Learners who gain an understanding of growth mindset, or the understanding that intelligence can be developed through embracing challenges, know the effort is often more telling than the perfect performance of a task, and that this knowledge will lead to higher achievement during and after school (Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Resiliency is a practice used by learners with growth mindset in the face of difficulty. Those who use growth mindset and resiliency are also more likely to accept challenges and continue to put effort towards deeper learning rather than grades and scores (Dweck, 2010). Seeking out answers and exploring curiosity requires one to know that anyone is capable of learning, growing, and overcoming challenges.
Key 6: Illustrate help seeking and practice self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is often described as the belief that with repeated effort one can and will complete a task. Learners who have deeper self-efficacy often use various cognitive strategies which are needed to investigate one's curiosity. This belief is useful to learners who have the knowledge and skills but lack the confidence to apply expertise and knowledge to complete a task (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2003). Asking for help, or help-seeking, is an effective strategy in practicing self-efficacy, and can be influenced by peers, educators, and sense of self (Newman, 2010). Asking for help leads to deeper teamwork and a larger pool of shared curiosities.
Key 7: Seek out persons of expertise and recognize peers' expertise
Peer-to-peer mentoring and informal protégé mentoring have shown to be most successful in supporting academic curiosity and professional growth and development. Mentoring is an effective way for learners to gain emotional support during stressful situations and improve socialization in new environments (Allen, 1999). Mentorship also increases the likelihood of academic success and continued enrollment in higher academic institutions for women and minority learners (Dennis, Phinney, & Chuateco, 2005).
Key 8: Become observant and wonder, "Why?"
Inquiry, the act of asking or searching for truth and knowledge by questioning (Dictionary.com, 2017), empowers students at all levels by making learning accessible and relevant, and has shown to lead students to concrete concepts (Colburn, 2000) through observational learning. Watching others and learning about one's environment has proven to increase creativity, and overall improve learners' products in a diverse number of subjects (Braaksma, Rijlaarsdam, van den Bergh, & van Hout-Wolters, 2004), (Groenedijk, Janssen, Rijlaarsdam, & van den Bergh, 2013).
Key 9: Value the pursuit of knowledge
Intellectual curiosity, or the search of knowledge for self-interest, is a tool for persons to pursue hand-in-hand with their academic studies, as well as during personal exploration. Intellectual curiosity is supported by the motivations of a person, and hunger for novel information and deep understanding (von Stumm, Hell, & Chamorro- Premuzic, 2011). The inquisitive and curious person will use their pursuit of knowledge to guide them through relevant experiences and information.
Key 10: Challenge conventional thinking
When a person can value, recognize, and understand different perspectives they are able to apply their knowledge from multiple contextual areas. The ability to adjust and shift within an environment is known as the practice of psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility includes expending energy into interests and using situational problem solving have shown to lead to better overall psychological health (Kashdan, 2010). The ability to live within the world, and view problems and questions from different vantage points, is what spurs curiosities forward. Asking why, and taking the time to look at your world and see it through your eyes, and others, is what makes curiosity a powerful skill.
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