What is Wonder-Based Teaching?

Carolina Jacobs

Jan 6, 2023

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Wonder-based teaching, or the wonder approach to learning, is a methodology of teaching prioritizing the innate desire in a child to be curious. 

Instead of restricting children to strict learning styles, engaging with a student’s natural want to investigate and discover could revolutionize education. Let’s analyze the benefits and ways to implement wonder-based teaching in your classroom.

An Introduction to Wonder-Based Teaching

As times change, teachers must create innovative ways to keep students interested in lessons. Students have access to the world in the palm of their hands — so classrooms need to offer more. The wonder-based pedagogy contrasts with the traditional behaviorist approach to education, involving students more completely. 

This teaching was born to engross students in learning by enriching them through natural neurological development instead of information overload. Instead of rigidity and reliance on the teaching environment, it would rely on the mental state and intentions of the learner. 

Technology makes students distracted yet simultaneously connected more than ever. This has the potential to encourage creative thinking or increase social awareness. Antiquated methods will not suffice for a comprehensive curriculum anymore, as lessons need to adapt to attach to a more stimulated student body.

Traditional methods could bombard students with too much information. In contrast, with wonder learning, they would voluntarily choose their level of intellectual stimulation on any given task or subject. 

Wonderful Benefits of Wonder-Based Learning

Every teacher has experienced a moment in class where they will ask the class if they have any questions with no hands raised — and there probably should be. It’s moments like this wonder-based learning attempts to eliminate with more interactive and curated education. 

Here are some of the advantages of wonder and how you as an educator will see it work in the classroom:

  • Greater emotional awareness: Many students enter classrooms with limiting beliefs. They could think they shouldn’t ask questions. They could also think students don’t care what they have to say. Wonder encourages discussion and attention to everyone’s mental state, helping to provide a more nurturing environment.
  • Heightened motivation to do coursework: Teachers provide situations for students to be curious, so it instills learners with a naturally occurring drive to learn. Being a catalyst instead will facilitate better study habits.
  • Improved retention: Relating uninteresting subjects to topics the students are naturally inquisitive about will help students remember what they learned. If wonder isn’t encouraged in the first place, a teacher may not know how to connect these dots — so, engage.

More attention to wonder-based lessons will allow for more organic development in any subject. However, the best benefit of encouraging wonderment and adventure is it will extend outside the room and within the student for more authentic personal development.

Incorporating Wonder in Lessons

The beauty of wonder-based teaching is strategies are limitless. All that is required for successful wonder-based learning is a willingness to explore. So, there are plenty of ways to incorporate it.

One idea is to question students differently. With a simple turn of a phrase, you could inspire more wonder about a subject. A study showed success in wonderment exercises, increasing interest in science by having students write wonderment lists. These lists contained what they were curious about in any science-related topic. It unveiled their true interests and made them consider the breadth of the subject with more willful ambition. 

Many try incorporating fixtures like Wonder Walls to encourage students to interact with a physical object of wonder. Ensure to tend to those curiosities — don’t just reward them for putting a note there and not engaging with them. Tactile, environmental wonders encourage students to conversate with others, have questions answered they were too afraid to ask, and most importantly, create self-worth in students.

Feel free to be creative and attempt to create sensory experiences. Think of moments that incite an awe-inspiring response — colorful rainbows or impressive architecture. Finding unique experiences like that in contentious subjects like STEM can be tricky, but innovators suggest finding tangible applications for nebulous topics, like magic shows, object lessons and even outdoor quests.

Wonder-Based Teaching for All

It may be the goal of a teacher to find new ways to engage students, but it doesn’t just help them. Remembering the curiosity and wonder of learning will help everyone become better students and instructors become better teachers.

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