Fostering Curiosity in an Age of Accountability
In my capacity as Coordinator of College Reading at Rider University in New Jersey, I have the opportunity to teach many students who are, like I was 50 years ago, the first in their family to attend college. Because of this, their SAT scores and a number of other factors, these students are viewed, correctly, by the college administration as "at-risk" of not completing their college education. As all institutions of higher learning should be, Rider is concerned about retaining these students. And so last week I found myself seated in the tutoring center on campus with a consultant the university had hired to help them address the retention issue.
The consultant asked me a straightforward question."What is the one thing you would say these at-risk students need more than any other to be academically successful here?"
The one word answer came out of me quickly and without reflection like I was playing a game of free association. "Curiosity," I said.
I am not sure why I said this. I just blurted it out from the recesses of my brain. I had just come from a class with my students and I was aware of the effort I seemed to be putting in to spark student interest in the vocabulary lesson I was presenting. I remember trying to engage the students and pulling out all my veteran teacher moves (humor, turn and talk, relevant examples, interesting anecdotes, write and reflect, small group discussions) to limited effect. Was this experience where my knee jerk answer came from?
Ever since I gave that answer, I have been reflecting on and reading about curiosity. Where does curiosity come from? What actions foster curiosity? What actions kill curiosity? Why is curiosity important?
I was a curious kid. After toddler years of driving my parents crazy with Russ on Reading: Fostering Curiosity in an Age of Accountability: