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Breaking in-class inertia through curiosity

Towards curiosity-encouragement in today's education

Most of the innovative discoveries that have changed the face of life for the humanity have been the results of constant and problem-solving driven curiosity. The thirst to exploit information and experiences and to explore new information and experiences is one of our basic needs that we often engage in without even realizing the details of such process until the outcome has been produced. Our intentions to seek out new ways through which we can overcome persistent challenges are mostly constrained by traditional and non-traditional barriers. Some of these hurdles are embedded in our surrounding environment (e.g., culture and norms that limit imaginative wandering and non-traditional thinking), while other hurdles are closely related to the bounded rationality and biases of individuals who rule the places in which we live and work (e.g., our bosses, our parents, etc.). 

Education is and will always be the most important driver of positive change. A considerable body of research shows that there is a significant relationship between level and quality of education and the economic growth at both individual and macro-levels. Thus, most first world countries allocate great deal of resources for their education system due to their profound belief that it plays a crucial role in maintaining their competitive advantages and economic prosperity. With the rise of unprecedented waves of instructional technologies that are being incorporated to classrooms and the increasing dependency on technology-related educational means, educators overlook the importance of two important practices: human interaction, and more importantly encouraging and stimulating curiosity in class-rooms and beyond. 

Recent article by Francesca Gino, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, provides new insights on the importance of curiosity for organizations. The study shows that by allowing curiosity in organizations, many benefits can be realized. First, embracing and promoting curiosity at all levels would help organizational members adapt more quickly to uncertain market conditions and continued external pressures by instigating our deepest instincts and thoughts and a more creative thinking. Second, by incorporating curiosity into organizational designs and culture, managers can gain ensure greater engagement and respect from their employees, which ultimately results in an improved overall performance through productive and innovative collaborations. Third, Fewer decision making errors through the minimization of confirmation bias. Fourth, reduced group conflict. Fifth, open communication and better team performance. 

I make an extended argument of the findings of Dr. Gino’s insights into today’s classrooms whether at the primary and secondary education level or at the higher education levels. Allowing students to challenge the conventional knowledge and longstanding concepts in their fields of study can result in a more innovative outcomes from the educational process. When given the opportunity to ask seemingly strange questions, ponder, elaborate, explore and challenge the concepts discussed in the classrooms; they are more likely to generate new insights, but more importantly creative ones that would enrich their acquired knowledge, sharpen it, and ultimately result in innovative ideas. 

Students in today’s classrooms need to be allowed to break some traditional ways of thinking in order to establish a unique path of creative and relevant thoughts that can be an important source of competitive advantage for them individually (e.g., in the job market later on) and also for their surrounding environment and societies. 

Given the fact that today’s classrooms are filled with all the advanced technologies, we should be worried about the possibility that by heavily using technology, we are actually killing any potential for positive and much-needed skills that can only be acquired through human-human interactions. This is a phenomena that should be looked at more closely by the educational institutions administrators. More importantly, we-as teachers- develop a resistant to new thoughts, often challenging ones, over time and become committed to our style of thinking, and thus we might perceive curiosity as a threat to our style of thinking. This is a very dangerous philosophy that we all should be aware of. Curiosity can benefit us and we need to believe in that in order to productively allow it in classrooms and ensure that it’s a noble-purpose oriented process. 

Today’s world is becoming more complex. Too many interrelated phenomenon, too many interconnected problems, new and unique challenges, and the level of complexity and pace of change have made adapting a little more difficult at the micro and macro levels. Therefore, and because our classrooms are the place we prepare the future leaders and builders of the world, it is important to consider curiosity as a key component of our in-class methodology of knowledge sharing, creating, and a key aspect of our in-class interactions. This needs to maintain an adequate level of human interactions. Additionally, we can also encourage curiosity using whatever technological means available for students in classrooms. 

In sum, we can ensure a brighter future for our students as well as for our societies if we just train ourselves to be receptive of curiosity and its associated behaviors. The world needs curious minds that can develop innovative solutions to today’s complex challenges and problems. This will need the support of all those who are involved in the educational process. 

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