Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.9; rv:28.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/28.0 (FlipboardProxy/1.1; + - Array ( )

A Special Series for the 2014 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship

Each year at the Skoll World Forum, nearly 1,000 of the world’s most influential social entrepreneurs, key thought leaders and strategic partners gather at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School to exchange ideas, solutions and information. We asked a number of speakers to discuss the critical issues, challenges and opportunities underpinning their sessions in advance of the Forum to ground a richer debate both online and in Oxford.

Learn more about the 2014 Skoll World Forum, sign up to our newsletter to be notified of the live stream, view the 2014 delegate roster and discover what themes and ideas we'll be covering this year at the event. Also, read about the seven recipients of this year's Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.


Building the Impact Investing Market in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia

Liz Patterson

Lead on Social Impact Investment, Department for International Development


Sustainable Development Needs The Private Sector

Andy Wales

Senior Vice President Sustainable Development, SABMiller plc

Education is a Savior

Rafiatu Lawal

National Chairperson, Camfed


Connecting Poverty and Health

Barbara Bush

Co-Founder and CEO, Global Health Corps

Andrew Youn

Founder and Director, One Acre Fund


Well-Crafted Entertainment Can Change the World

John Marks

President and founder, Search for Common Ground


Smallholder Impact and Risk Metrics: A Labyrinth of Opportunity

CJ Fonzi

Project Leader, Dalberg Global Development Advisors

Learn More About the 2014 Skoll World Forum

Rahim Kanani

Independent Consultant, Rahim Kanani Media Group, Inc.


Data and the Human Touch

Jim Fruchterman

Founder and CEO, Benetech


Profit-With-Purpose and the G8

Sir Ronald Cohen

Chairman, Social Finance

Tom Fox

Policy Lead, UnLtd

Cliff Prior

Chief Executive, UnLtd

Preparing for a World With 9 Billion, Designers Are Rising to the Challenge

Lynelle Cameron

President and CEO, and Senior Director, Sustainability, Autodesk, Inc.


Inside Root Capital's Women in Agriculture Initiative

Catherine Gill

Senior Vice President, Investor Relations & Operations, Root Capital


Top 10 Compelling Quotes in Advance of the 2014 Skoll World Forum

Rahim Kanani

Independent Consultant, Rahim Kanani Media Group, Inc.


Why Energy is Inextricably Linked to Environment

Sean McKaughan

Chairman of the Board, Fundación Avina


Hitting The Impact Jackpot

Kristin Gilliss

Associate Portfolio Director, Mulago Foundation

The Purpose of Healthcare

Gary Cohen

Co-Founder and President, Health Care Without Harm


To Fuel Student Curiosity, Teachers’ Roles Must Evolve

To Fuel Student Curiosity, Teachers’ Roles Must Evolve

Ellen Moir

Founder and CEO, New Teacher Center

March 17, 2014 | 2462 views


It’s fascinating to watch very young children learn. They spend their first years actively exploring the world around them, questioning how and why, learning at a dramatic pace and in a very self-directed way. This natural, curiosity-driven learning style – something we see, for example, in how quickly children learn to use new technology without assistance – is a significant asset in navigating complex life and work environments in the globally competitive information age. It is something that should be fostered throughout a child’s education.

Once most children arrive in school, however, they must adopt a style that’s more passive and heavily focused on transferring skills and knowledge that may not feel connected to life outside the classroom. For underserved students, this shift is even more dramatic. Low-income and marginalized students are more likely to do schoolwork focused on lower-level thinking skills rather than the higher-level critical thinking, questioning, and creativity that every child should develop.

Teachers are the key to tapping into that natural curiosity and propelling their students to reach their dreams. If we want our students to be successful in the future, we need to think about how teachers’ roles can evolve to better cultivate this innate drive to learn, and what school leaders can do to best support this shift.

Wired Contributing Editor Joshua Davis recently described a new breed of teachers who recognize “knowledge isn’t a commodity that’s delivered from teacher to student but something that emerges from the students’ own curiosity-fueled exploration.” Using students’ assets and interests as a starting point is a powerful approach for learning. Davis went on to explain that these teachers are “creating ways for children to discover their passion – and uncovering a generation of geniuses in the process.”

For these teachers, the learning process often begins by asking students, “What do you want to learn?” Some are creating flipped classrooms, where students learn at home, at their own pace using resources like Khan Academy, and where classroom time is used to extend that learning in a much more personalized and collaborative way. Others focus on project based learning, where teachers create opportunities for students to explore real-world problems and use challenges that arise as entry points for learning. Similarly, many of these teachers recognize the value of addressing social and emotional learning in the process of teaching, since they believe learning only becomes challenging, engaging and meaningful in the context of supportive relationships.

Shifting what happens in schools to a more personalized style of learning, where a teacher finds out what students want to learn and can meet them where they are through differentiated instruction, is vital. The good news is there’s no shortage of new solutions to unlock its challenge. But initiatives like the ones described above are seldom simple to implement, especially at scale, and can often leave educators overwhelmed and ineffective.

This is especially true for new teachers, who are not yet as effective as their more experienced peers, but who tend to work in lower-achieving schools – where students need an effective teacher most.

So how can teachers make this significant shift toward personalized learning, fueling students’ curiosity so they are set up for a successful future?

A teachers’ role must evolve to include being a continuous learner – someone who is curious, persistent and reflective. These are the three dispositions of highly effective teachers. When teachers evolve into continuous learners and adopt these dispositions, they are willing to ask questions about instruction and take risks to reach every student; they persevere in solving complex issues and believe all students can learn; and they are open to feedback and seek opportunities to grow professionally.

While many teachers already see themselves as continuous learners, there is a lot we can do to support all teachers in taking on this role and making the shift toward more personalized learning. We absolutely must make sure all teachers have systemic opportunities to develop their teaching abilities and to always improve. For new teachers, this means pairing them with a mentor as part of a new teacher mentoring program. For experienced teachers, this means encouraging ongoing self-assessment that leads to asking the right questions and seeking out answers that will help them do better, especially alongside other teachers as part of a professional learning community.

Teachers must also be in an environment that supports their learning and growth. When teachers assume this role of continuous learner, and when it’s supported by their school, they can more easily navigate a plethora of new initiatives and become better equipped to adopt a more highly personalized style of teaching. A teacher is more likely to dive into a new initiative if he/she can take advantage of ongoing professional learning opportunities and is trusted, has learning and planning time available, and feels comfortable taking chances.

If we want our education systems to cultivate a natural curiosity in students, and to meet their individual learning needs, it must do the same for teachers.

  • CarlDraeger

    Leveraging innate curiosity to develop higher level thinking skills is critical in waging war on achievement gaps of historically underserved students. Bravo, Ellen Moir!

  • Dr Lesliee Antonette

    I absolutely agree with everything Ms. Moir has stated, as a
    faculty member in an education program, as a developer of professional
    development programs (Induction as one), and as a reviewer of educator
    preparation programs, I can count on one hand the number of times I have found
    a mentor teacher actually mentoring a junior faculty member. The best – case
    scenario is when the junior faculty member has found another (may be an age
    peer) faculty member whose teaching style she admires but is not her assigned
    mentor. The two engage in a furtive relationship, which is never furtive
    because there are no secrets in a public school. This unsanctioned (in both
    positive and negative uses of the word) relationship is usually allowed to
    stand informally, in most cases, by the assigned mentor because s/he didn’t
    have enough time to give the mentee anyway! Worst case scenario is a young,
    energetic and engaged teacher struggles with the feeling that s/he must
    “drink the Kool-Aid” or find another position, and shuts up and
    closes down under the pressure until 5 years later s/he leaves teaching
    altogether. I share the lengthy description above because I have found that Induction
    programs suffer from the “fish bowl” effect. Now, in front of other,
    non-tenured and scared young teachers we ask them to hold fast to the – typically – more progressive values of their
    teacher education programs, in what looks and feels, to them, as a
    diametrically opposed day-to-day culture of the school. The Induction Program
    designed by NTC looks wonderful and just too far from the reality of public
    education. I think there is a step missing. The Induction program is too late
    and the Educator Preparation Program is too early. There is a conversion point
    that we, as senior educators, are missing. I continue to struggle with the
    articulation of this point, where and when it occurs. I believe it is unique to
    each teacher and that makes it difficult to identify. I believe that Induction
    for new teachers with those willing
    to serve as mentor teachers and administrative
    buy-in may be the way to capture it. I look forward to reading the presentation
    on the results of the NTC Induction Program.

  • Dan Buckley

    Agree entirely. We need to give much greater status to the skills and attributes that are essential for all learners be they teachers or students. At I have been uploading free resources to help teachers make the role change


Let’s keep this going …

Why not join our growing community of social innovators? You’ll get exclusive content and opportunities delivered straight to your inbox and all the latest details from the Skoll World Forum.

We value your privacy and you can unsubscribe anytime.