Friday, November 19, 2010

Fostering a Culture of Inquisitiveness

We have been told on a daily basis that the world which our children grow up in will be drastically different from our times. 

But has our style of parenting changed as well? Are we progressive enough in the way we coach and parent our children?

With the Internet revolution, information on just about anything is accessible at a click. Not only is it not possible for one person to remember massive amount of information at his fingertips, the competitive advantage is also no longer on one's ability to collect and remember tons of facts.

The premium now, is on critical analysis, i.e. knowing what questions to ask, what information you need and where to look for such information. 

What is also very important is to have the courage and self-confidence to challenge the information given, to question its validity and make our own judgments. 

If a child can think creatively to derive at out-of-the-box solutions when presented with a problem that he has never seen or experienced before, he has a competitive edge. 

The same goes for a child who is able to form his own opinions on an issue and has the language ability to express his views and hold his side of the argument when facing critics. 

The child also gains the upper hand when he learns to live with ambiguities and is flexible in his approach to resolve problems he encounters. It is only when he has learnt to accept the fact that in many cases, there is more than one way to skin a cat, will he truly be able to think creatively, question the norm and seek out the alternative solutions. 

Unlike the genetic traits in our kids, which we may not have much control over, the higher-order thinking skills such as critical thinking and creative thinking skills can be taught and honed. 

While the child's temperament may play a part, the biggest determinants are still the availability of learning opportunities to train and equip the child in his acquisition of such skills and the way the child is coached in his learning environment. 

I've met numerous bright 5 and 6 years old in my lapbooking classes. While most may be brilliant at answering questions and are able to read independently, it doesn't take long for one to figure out that these kids are very used to being taught and spoon-fed with information by teachers/parents. 

Many are interested in seeking the correct answer instead of being comfortable with situations which could have multiple possibilities. 

A lot of pre-schoolers (and I bet the situation is the same in lower primary level) have been so conditioned to being taught by school and enrichment teachers and/or parents, that they just wait to be taught, instead of seeking out opportunities to learn. 

It is always interesting (to me) to observe how most kids will draw a blank when presented with the specially designed scenarios in class which challenged their abilities to think independently and problem-solve, especially when they first joined the Bright Minds Lapbookers programme.

Over the weeks and months, when they have acquired more experience and exposure to such situations that take them out of their comfort zones, most kids will begin to put what they have learnt into use. 

The brain is a pattern seeker. If a child is exposed to creative thinking at an early age and the brain is taught the creative thinker's mindset, the child will be able to continue with this pattern of thinking with great ease, as if it is his second nature. 

Such is the kind of life skills we should be investing time and effort in. Of course, the process of fostering a culture of inquisitiveness takes time to reap rewards, but it is surely possible. 


Alice Law said...

You shall be the best teacher I could ever find for my girl! I wish we are staying in Singapore...

Her ability of thinking out of the box always amazed us, yet she likes to argue and doesn't like things to be done according to our ways(or guildline)... most people around her will coin her, "rebellious"!

Her level of inquisitiveness tends to annoy people around her(that includes her own father), if only we can find her someone like you to appreciate this type of kid... then I don't need to keep worrying about her future study!:)

Have a wonderful weekend!

Domesticgoddess said...

Alice, you are too kind. I am sure there are many dedicated teachers in preschools near you who encourage inquisitiveness in preschoolers. :>

Your gal's behaviour is very typical of her age actually. Most kids this age want to assert their independence, so their behaviour may be misunderstood as a deliberate attempt to rebel against adults' wishes. Also, most kids will, at some point, want to test the boundaries, to see how much can they get away with before we react. :D

It can be tiring dealing with extremely inquisitive kids, but I think we just have to keep reminding ourselves that this is a wonderful development. And you really shouldn't be worried about her future learning! An inquisitive child with the right learning habits and attitude has a higher chance to be set for success in life.

Mum in the Making said...

I agree, it is possible! But we are really up against a system that doesn't really encourage it, especially since the higher levels are all syllabus driven and content heavy. :( But I guess we have to start somewhere!

Domesticgoddess said...

Hi MamaJ, I'm sure the higher levels of all education systems worldwide are content-heavy. So all the more we should foster a culture of inquisitiveness, starting from home, when our children are still small. Confident teens and adults who are able to challenge the norm, form their own opinions and problem-solve etc.. will be the ones who thrive.

Jessie said...

Thanks for these pointers. I am one of those parent who have been so influenced by the old ways that I need a constant reminder to make sure my parenting style is changing with times.

It is easy to cram our kids with content, load them with enrichment classes or make them do assessment books. We feel better to see that they have learnt this way. I am so guilty of this with my older 3 boys. But now, at Primary 1, 3 and 5, I realize we should have done it slightly differently. Like you said, focus on critical and creative thinking skills and other more relevant life skills.

With my youngest girl, we want to do it differently. But the enrichment options out there that promote thinking skills often have very little "content" that can be shown quickly, so I tend to shy away. Not sure if I am doing my kid a disservice. There are workshops that supposedly teach kids how to learn or think in 2 or 3 sessions. What do you think of these? Thanks in advance.

Domesticgoddess said...

Hi jessie, I don't think it is possible for a young child to go to a class to learn how to think in a few lessons. I'll be highly skeptical of those power thinking holiday camps.

It is possible for adults to gather tips and techniques in a few sessions to learn HOW they can change the ways they think, but the actual process will require constant deliberate efforts from the adults.

For young kids, it just doesn't work this way as most are not reflective learners. So they need to learn from experiences that are created to provide them the opportunities to practise and hone the skills before they can comfortably and confidently utilize them at will. The latter is application.

So at the very least, a weekly class for a few months or longer, depending on how fast the child learns, is necessary. As for the lack of content, it depends what kind of content you are looking for. Developing such life-skills take time and we should give the child and any programme you pick the faith and time required to work its magic.

In my lapbooking classes, for instance, there's time set aside in EVERY lesson for every age group to work on activities (mostly not on paper) that cultivate the development of different skills such as presentation, questioning, problem-solving, higher-order thinking skills etc.. and kids learnt plenty through the processes that boost self-confidence and inspire them to want to learn more by themselves. Ideally the home environment promotes a similar culture for learning, so our students' parents are updated with what we do in classes so they can complement the efforts at home.

This is, in my view, a more effective way to foster a culture of inquisitiveness.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this insightful post :)


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