Promoting Curiosity

July 16, 2023

Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash

Curiosity Prompts and Questions

Dear collaborative discussion friends,

This week we are highlighting an activity that helps participants develop the mental skill of curiosity and turn it into a regular practice by using curiosity prompts. These prompts can be used to unearth the various aspects of a topic that are not obvious at first glance. Participants also practice crafting curiosity questions to dive deeper into and expand their thinking about a particular topic.

This activity is contributed by Jack Byrd Jr., Professor of Industrial Engineering at West Virginia University and President of the Interactivity Foundation, and is one of the many activities in the Creative Collaboration Module.

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This week’s activity:

Activity 2.1 – Promoting Curiosity

Developing the practice of curiosity through the use of prompts and questions

This activity introduces curiosity prompts that enable participants to delve deeper into an issue and uncover different facets that are not immediately apparent. Participants first practice using these prompts to examine the chosen topic. They then craft curiosity questions that can be used to further enhance their understanding of the issue. Participants are able to shift their perspective from seeing the issue as a problem to instead imagining possibilities and potential solutions.

Activity 2.1 – Promoting Curiosity

Introduce Curiosity Prompts

Begin by introducing participants to the concept of curiosity as a mental skill that can be developed through consistent practice by using curiosity prompts:

“Developing curiosity requires a mental workout similar to the physical workout that many people follow. The practice of being curious is a daily activity. The basic building blocks to becoming curious are to keep 4 prompts in mind at all times and use them in thinking about everything you encounter each day.”

Share the following curiosity prompts:

  • What if…
  • Think about…
  • Can we imagine…
  • Why is that true?

Select a Topic

Select a topic that is important to your discussion group. As preparation for this activity, consider Activity 5.1 Identifying Your Civic Passion. You can also share an article or headline related to this chosen topic for participants to review prior to the session.

Break into Small Groups and Practice Using the First Curiosity Prompt

Invite participants to break into small groups (4-6 ppl). If they have not already done so, ask them to review the article or headline related to the chosen topic. Then, have participants practice using the first curiosity prompt to create a list of What If… possibilities for this issue. Remind participants that this list is meant to be exploratory, expanding their thinking on the topic, and they are not to critically evaluate the list of possibilities. Encourage them to imagine boldly and to think outside of the box. Ask them to not self-censor or shut down ideas, even if they seem unrealistic or unfeasible.

Practice Using the Remaining Three Curiosity Prompts

Ask participants to now explore the selected topic using the remaining three curiosity prompts (Think about…, Can we imagine…, Why is that true?). If you are short on time, have them pick just one curiosity prompt out of the three. Once again, encourage them to stretch the limits of their thinking. Remind them to not restrict themselves to obvious facets of the issue or to what is practical or achievable.

Craft Curiosity Questions

Invite participants to review the lists they generated for each curiosity prompt and craft three curiosity questions that merge similar ideas on their lists to expand on these possibilities. Provide the following prompts as starting phrases to help participants develop questions:

  • Would it be possible to…
  • Wouldn’t it be amazing if…

Remind participants that the goal of creating these questions is not to attempt to answer them. Rather, these questions are meant to open and stretch their thinking about this topic and help it break free of the political, social or economic constraints related to this issue.

Debrief as a Full Group

Invite each small group to share at least one of the curiosity questions they developed with the full group. Discuss:

  • Are there any common themes across our lists or questions? If so, what does that tell us about our society, our group, or our collective imagination?
  • Which curiosity prompt was most helpful in thinking about the issue in new ways? Why?
  • How might the group share these ideas with others? How do we seed our imaginative thinking?

In addition to these debriefing questions, the full description of Activity 2.1 Promoting Curiosity includes reflection questions, a practice journal prompt, and additional resources to help participants dive deeper.

If you try out this activity, please share with us what you think:

Rate Activity 2.1

We hope this toolkit activity helps participants develop the skill of curiosity and incorporate it as a consistent practice in the way they think about and engage with everything and everyone they encounter each day.

Upcoming Events

  • We are now accepting applications for our Pilot Coach Training for Undergraduate Students which will take place this fall. Space will be limited. The dates for this training have been updated. It will now begin on September 26, 2023. Visit our website to learn more and view the complete list of dates and times, which are also shown on the application. The application deadline has also been extended to September 10, 2023. All undergraduate students who are interested can apply here or you can share this link with students who might be interested.

Looking forward to collaborating,

Ritu Thomas & the Collaborative Discussion Team

Interested in working with us to bring better discussions to your classroom, community or workplace?

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