Despite American education’s mania for standardized tests, testing misses what matters most about learning: the desire to learn in the first place. Susan Engel offers a highly readable exploration of what curiosity is, how it can be measured, how it develops in childhood, and how educators can put curiosity at the center of the classroom. Moreover, studies show that curiosity is a potent ingredient in learning— children learn better when their curiosity is piqued. This is true in short periods of learning, and over time as well. Thus any school where the goal is to help children understand a complex world of ideas and information would benefit from harnessing its enormous power. Unfortunately, schools do not always, or even often, foster curiosity, despite the fact that it transforms the process of education, makes learning come alive for most children and increases the chance that any given child will become a curious adult. Though research has helped us identify the psychological underpinnings of curiosity, making use of those findings in real classrooms is easier said than done. Skilled, kind teachers, eager to make learning more active and engaging, often miss the key moment when a student’s curiosity is piqued.
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