Kindling Curiosity

  • With technology now able to offer quick, accurate (mostly) and helpful responses, are the curious minds of children becoming lazier about the world around them?
  • Ian Pratt, a Science teacher, shares his experience of Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE), which encouraged children to think, ask questions, and explore avenues that would help them find answers for themselves – perhaps something that could be reignited in other subjects.
  • The full article was published in the July 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine. Click here to view.

How many times do you hear a pupil fishing for the answer to the question you have just asked? How many hands go up to say, “Sir, I am Stuck!” and “Sir I can’t do this!”, or similar.

I am a Middle School Science teacher with 15 years in my present post. About 3 years ago I stopped giving pupils the answers and returned their questions with another question. At first pupils found this difficult, but now it is part of life in my classroom. I based questions simply around a round how, when, where, why and of course what if. The last question is a personal favourite, what if you heat it up? What if you cool it down? What if there was an extra cell?

For those of you who have been teaching Science for some time you may remember a strategy called C.A.S.E (Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education). This model allowed pupils to work in a way that asked questions, predominantly the ‘WHY?’ of what was happening in the Science around them. Experimental tasks created cognitive conflict – it raised questions and didn’t give answers – until much discussion and thought had taken place. It encouraged pupils to think, to ask questions, to find answers for themselves – skills which are vital for scientists and most other walks of life. Perhaps a similar strategy will return in the near future!

At the present time pupils in my class find the challenge of thinking that little bit too much. It seems a step too far to think for themselves. They want answers, but are not prepared to put in the effort to find them. Perhaps they have become used to getting answers given to them; perhaps a Google search provides instant answers to all life’s questions. But the passion for finding out for themselves seems to be lost.

At a time when success in lessons depends on pupil progress, is there still a place for creating questions, for providing the stimulus yet not direct answers, for creating those moments of cognitive conflict?

I am a firm believer in the idea that children learn by exploring their surroundings, both inside and outside the classroom. It is a life skill. It is something that makes us successful in life and not just at school. Learning is not simple and it requires thought. While I do not expect my children to have all the answers, want them to ask questions. Be curious. Explore the ‘Why?’ ‘Where?’ and ‘how?’ Finding the right hook for a lesson is often the key to stimulating your students’ curiosity. I have found that simple quick videos and demonstrations are a great start to the lesson and this by no means applies only to science.

Click here to read the remainder of this article, published in the July 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine

Ian Pratt is a Middle School Science teacher based in Bedford. He is a Google Certified Teacher who loves to incorporate technology into his lessons. He has been teaching for 25 years and now has a range of subjects as well as Science in his teaching toolkit. Ian has presented at BETT 2013, and enjoys taking part in teach meets and other collaboration opportunities.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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