Can curiosity drive learning in schools?

The vast majority of learning in today’s schools is controlled by adults: what, when, for how long, etc. Students receive schedules, most with no choice at all, go to assigned classrooms and complete whatever tasks are asked of them. This is quite practical. But is it best?

New research is revealing just how important curiosity and control are to learning. Joel Vass, lead researcher on a study of brain activity concludes: “The bottom line is, if your’e not the one controlling your learning, you’re not going to learn as well.”

Several schools are experimenting with ways to allow students’ curiosity to drive learning.

The Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) was founded in 1989 by Jerry Mintz. AERO’s goal is to advance student-driven, learner-centered approaches to education. It features a database of schools around the world that “have a learner-centered approach.”

(Brooklyn Free School)

(Brooklyn Free School)

The Brooklyn Free School is one of them.

From a Huffington Post Article:

At Brooklyn Free School everything works like this: the students make the rules, they pick their classes, and they don’t have to come if they don’t want. There are no tests, no mandatory homework, no grades on a transcript. If there’s an issue that needs to be raised, you can call a meeting and discuss it with the entire school. If you’re sick of Chemistry, you can get up and walk out, or head up to a lounge and read a book all day.

The pragmatist in me says schools like this could never work on a mass scale. The idealist in me would like to try!

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Categories: Innovation Series

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1 reply

  1. It’s not just the new research and innovations in schooling. I share your vision as I attended an “alternative” school that was rich with student-directed learning. Watch this movie for details on Peninsula and 2 other schools: https://archive.org/details/why_do_these_kids_love_school.
    My question is how to create the structures and build the capacity that make this possible on a grand scale while also ensuring that the kids who most need rich literacy and language learning get the modeling and support they need. Bottom up innovation is needed, and complete freedom for bottom up innovation at scale can also can result in many of the nations neediest students floundering in directionless classrooms. It takes deep knowledge of students, pedagogy, and content to facilitate student-directed learning well. How do we build the capacity for a paradigm shift to be effective for ALL learners?

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