Neuroscience: The Power of Curiosity to Inspire Learning

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excerpt: “Ranganath’s team discovered that as the students grew curious, activity increased in two brain regions (the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens) that are associated with reward and motivation. The level of curiosity seemed to control activity in these areas like a dimmer switch. During times of great curiosity, these two brain regions were very active. During moments of disinterest or even boredom, these areas shifted into low gear.”

NIH Director's Blog

Snowflakes activating the brainWhen our curiosity is piqued, learning can be a snap and recalling the new information comes effortlessly. But when it comes to things we don’t care about—the recipe to that “delicious” holiday fruitcake or, if we’re not really into football, the results of this year’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl—the new information rarely sticks.

To probe why this might be so, neuroscientists Charan Ranganath and Matthias Gruber, and psychologist Bernard Gelman, all at the University of California at Davis, devised a multi-step experiment to explore which regions of the brain are activated when we are curious, and how curiosity enhances our ability to learn and remember.

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Too Many Kids Quit Science Because They Don’t Think They’re Smart – The Atlantic

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Dweck: “Actually, praise may not be the optimal way, but we are so praise oriented. We can ask the child questions about the process: “How did you do that? Tell me about it.” As they talk about the process and the strategies they tried, we can appreciate it. We can be interested in it. We can encourage it. It doesn’t have to be outright praise.”

How might praise emerge from appreciation?

Dweck’s conclusions about how praise works should help shape discussions about parenting, teaching, feedback, and also around the building of credibility THROUGH appreciation. The boundaries are dissolving between education and other knowledge work fields but also between educators and learners. Students will recognize real interest and appreciation of their thinking-work as truly valuing work. Attention is one of the main currencies of the knowledge era. The more attention being paid to what you are doing, the more encouragement you feel that what you are doing is valuable and valued. These are the face-to-face “likes” that do more than vaguely acknowledge you have accomplished something. When time is spent listening, evaluating the student’s process and progress, and asking questions that leads to more progress, students will deepen their interest, become more encouraged, and may increase in other areas as well.

This is true for any worker, though. In education, the teacher is a knowledge worker, and the public awareness of teacher supervision can give insights into Davenport and Maccoby’s recognition that knowledge workers often know more about their areas of expertise than their supervisors.

No teacher wants to simply be observed and assessed based on a pass/fail system. Teachers want to feel that the person observing them “gets” what the teacher is doing, what the teacher has accomplished. In the Danielson tool, this appreciation has the opportunity of expression when discussing planning and also in the follow up or post-observation debriefing. Cognitive coaching models are appreciation and credibility-building tools.

How have you as a teacher showed appreciation of student work? Is blogging with students enough? How might student-lead workshops fill this need for appreciation and praise?

or

How have you as a supervisor showed appreciation of a teacher’s  work?

How might cognitive coaching fill this need for appreciation and praise?

How might praise emerge from appreciation?

via Too Many Kids Quit Science Because They Don’t Think They’re Smart – The Atlantic.

via Too Many Kids Quit Science Because They Don’t Think They’re Smart – The Atlantic.