Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fostering the Curiosity Spark


Crow, S. R. (2010). Fostering the Curiosity Spark. School Library Monthly, 26(5), 50-52.

This article is written for librarians, but much of what is discussed is applicable to me.  I also do not think that this journal is technically “scholarly”, but the  article was the first that has helped me make connections between curiosity and some of the theories on motivation.  The article is a summary of a study on traits of children who display information-seeking tendencies (basically a form of curiosity).  Students who exhibit the traits are interviewed and trends are noted (which in reality there aren’t many) and then suggestions are given to help cultivate curiosity.

I really like in this article how Crow talks about the natural wonder of children as demonstrated in the following quote:
“Developmentalists say that people are born with this “urge” to investigate the world and that it helps us to learn, to grow, and to survive. It is this force that is seen exhibited by primary students as they exuberantly explore the world of information.” (p. 50)

“Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation is all about being the origin or the pawn. DeCharms explained it this way: when persons perceive themselves to be the origin, they are intrinsically motivated to act; when they perceive themselves to be the pawn, they experience loss of self initiation in the action (1968). When individuals perform for extrinsic reasons (e.g., for grades or rewards, or to avoid punishment) an action that they formerly performed for intrinsic reasons, the activity becomes a “tool” they use to achieve a goal or to avoid an undesirable consequence; a means to an end rather than an end to itself.” (p. 50)
The above quote has gotten me even more excited about my action research.  Motivation has been something that has been nagging the back of my mind for a while and I love the ideas of this research tackling that issue.  I am especially interested in fostering intrinsic motivation since I detest grades and the value that students put on them.  Another related quote is below:
“students seek information not for the joy of knowing, but rather for an “A.” Considering society’s obsession with testing, standards, and grades, is it any wonder that students’ inner zest for learning decreases?”(p. 50)

“Yet some students continue to be curious. Their pursuit seems endless and insatiable, regardless of the external demands of the educational system. What has happened in the lives of these students to keep the curiosity fires burning?”(p. 50)
This quote is the wondering that leads to the study discussed in the article

The following quote highlights the importance of keeping inquiry open in order to give students autonomy to explore their own interest.  Also it highlights the need to scaffold and not put  kids out in the dark blind:
“If individuals feel they have a say in performing an action (autonomy) and feel capable enough not to fail (competence), they are more likely to want to engage in that action.”(p. 51)

The following quote was a big aha moment for me:
“All of the children in the study experienced what I’ve termed a point-of-passion experience: an event that triggered months (and sometimes years) of interest and in depth information seeking about a topic. For many of the children, adult attention turned these events into information seeking passions. Their “anchor relationships” got them to the library, took them on “interest” outings, or arranged special spaces for their investigations.” (pp. 51-52)
I feel that this idea of a “point-of-passion” experience could be my main point of attack when trying to develop curiosity in my students. I wonder how many students by 12th grade have had this experience already?  How can I harness that?  For those who haven’t, how can I be that “anchor relationship” that encourages information seeking?

This article, like many others I have read, point towards inquiry-based learning as a technique to foster curiosity:
“Inquiry teaching methods parallel or “wrap” much of what I found in the experiences of my study’s intrinsically motivated students into a pedagogy that, if consciously used, might prove to foster more of these experiences.” (p. 52)

“Simply put, inquiry-based learning focuses on investigation and the process of learning rather than on finding the right answers.”(p. 52)
This makes me want to adopt at least parts of an inquiry-based curriculum, yet nothing else I have read on this style of teaching has gotten me excited.

A nice last comment from the article about the importance of staying student-centered:
“Fostering children’s curiosity spark can be pretty painless. It’s all a matter of putting the focus back on students. And the reward will be that more of them will come back next year, and the next, and the next…”(p. 52)

References of Interest:
  • Crow, Sherry R. “Relationships that Foster Intrinsic Motivation for Information Seeking.” School Libraries Worldwide 15, no. 2 (July 2009): 91-112.
  • Deci, Edward L., and Richard M. Ryan. Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior. Plenum Press, 1985.
  • Deci, Edward L., and Richard M. Ryan, eds. Handbook of Self-Determination Research. University of Rochester Press, 2002.

1 comment:

Stacey said...

Mark, I appreciate how reflective you are in responding this article. The "point of passion" insight is fabulous, and I love how it describes the role of the adult/teacher is someone who fans the flame by pointing them to other resources, etc.

I also love your idea about trying to create "points of passion" for your own students (and wondering if they have already had them). How might you find out? What do you think this could look like in your own classroom?

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