New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 12

Accepted Abstracts

A Pedagogical Model for Nurturing Curiosity

Frank Kowalski, Colorado School of Mines (United States)

Susan Kowalski, Colorado School of Mines and Red Rocks Community College (United States)


Curiosity is widely regarded as a precursor to much investigation and learning. From science, where the first step of the scientific method is questioning, to successful business models, where Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt says, “We run this company on questions, not answers,” curiosity seems essential. Although the ability to ask meaningful and productive questions is often nurtured in early childhood and elementary STEM education, too often in the classrooms in higher education it is only the instructor who poses questions, leaving students little practice in developing their curiosity.

This paper presents an instructional strategy that nurtures student curiosity and improves their fluency in meaningful questioning over time.  The intervention includes:

·         Classroom discussion of categories of questioning based on how we model the world around us;

·         Intermittently inverting the questioning roles of instructor and student by requiring students to generate questions, not answers; and

·         Subsequent demonstration of various categories of questioning using exemplars from peers and experts.

This strategy has been used successfully with a wide range of topics and diverse learning situations, including an introductory physics lecture (500 students), an intermediate electricity and magnetism class for physics majors (60 students), an advanced engineering physics laboratory class (70 students), and a seminar series for graduate-level physics students (50 students). Although our application is in university science courses, the use of models to predict is ubiquitous and the technique may be applicable in other fields.

Beyond the discipline-specific advantages of gaining fluency and depth in questioning in science, we observe that such an emphasis on questioning also enhances student motivation about the content being discussed in class, it very likely increases metacognition, and it serves as a rich springboard from which to introduce content and/or address misconceptions.

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