We have labelled ourselves as Homo sapiens, but what makes us ‘sapiens’ (Latin for ‘wise’)? Humans have, it seems, an inbuilt drive to inquire into our natural and social worlds. This drive is not the will to believe, but the will to find out (Bertrand Russell) and the will to find out is the will to research.
In the Higher Education Research and Development journal ‘Points for debate’ article just published, ‘Inquiring Ape?’ (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07294360.2013.806043#.Ue_LcG1HAhU) I suggested that we would do well to determine whether our capacity to research is only true of a small proportion of the population or is quite a typical way that the human mind wires, or can wire, neurologically i.e. are we well characterised as the inquiring ape? Likewise, a major need for the medium to long-term is discipline-based and interdisciplinary studies that help us understand the elaborate interplay between genetic and environmental factors that influences the wiring of the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and other key areas of cognition and memory that seem to be major brain components involved in research processes.
The practical implications of such research are that ‘If it is a more typical capacity of the human brain to engage in the processes associated with research, then higher education, in concert with our entire formal education systems, needs to nurture and embrace this capacity in the design of learning environments for the inquiring apes that we call students.’ (p.864).
If humans are well characterised as the inquiring ape, then curricula from early childhood to PhD could have a uniting conceptual thread of explicit, incremental and scaffolded research skill development to enable student engagement in ability-appropriate research, whether into the commonly known, the commonly not known or the totally unknown.
What is your perspective on the ‘Inquiring Ape?’, on research needed to determine this, and on potential implications for formal education curricula?