The "No Parroting Allowed" Project (2005 - 2007)

Nothing kills a student's desire to learn more than having to parrot answers. So in 2006, we decided to explore the role curiosity plays in education. To do this, each week for more than a year, the members of the Emergence Teacher's Group composed a series of questions which we were not allowed to answer with answers. Rather, we first had to let these questions bake in our minds. Then we had to respond to them by asking more questions. Not surprisingly, the longer we thought about the questions, the more we felt the desire to learn. Also, it seems that having to come up with questions about questions deepens this desire.

Fast forward six years to 2013. This is the year we realized that making things selectively visual is the key to learning. In effect, by restricting what the student can see, the student becomes curious. This has led us to a series of rather interesting realizations about the nature of teaching and learning.

  • One—all learning starts in the heart.
  • Two—only the prepared mind is open to learning.
  • Three—curiosity is what prepares the mind to learn.
  • Four—you cannot make yourself curious. You can only learn to notice what you are not curious.
  • Five—you are not curious when you believe you already understand what are hearing, seeing, thinking, or feeling.

Know that realization number five is the most important tool a teacher could ever learn. Ironically, if you believe you already understand this tool, then you're preventing yourself from having any ahas about what I just said. Conversely, the more you let this statement provoke questions in you, the more you open your mind to having your own realizations.

The point? Questions are the manifestation of a curious mind. Thus if you let what you hear, see, think, and feel provoke unanswered questions in you—and if you learn to let these questions result in more questions rather than in answers—you'll exponentially expand your ability to teach and learn.


  • Why do students drop out of school?