Fostering Children’s Early Curiosity, Learning, and Motivation with Question-Asking: An Intervention Study

Greer Bizzell-Hatcher



Assistant Professor Of Psychology

Project Summary

Research summary:
Curiosity supports the development of children’s scientific thinking by directing their attention to what they don’t know, and subsequently motivating the pursuit of information through exploration, hypothesis-testing, independent experimentation, and question-asking. These related, interdependent curiosity-driven behaviors are all essential for active, efficient learning. Asking questions is one of the most common manifestations of curious behavior and could provide a useful framework for gathering new information, resolving uncertainty, and encouraging engaging learning, making it ideal target for intervention. However, researchers have not yet established the conditions in which open-ended information-seeking methods like question-asking would be most effective. Additionally, many studies have effectively enhanced children’s curiosity about storybooks or novel toys, yet we still do not understand how to foster a desire for new information that endures across contexts and over time. Therefore, our goal was to develop a carefully controlled training intervention designed to promote curiosity-driven behaviors in broader learning contexts by training children in their question-asking. We aimed to establish if consistently scaffolding and prompting children to ask questions throughout an academic lesson would help them to learn more and be more motivated to explore in novel situations. We were also interested in how individual differences in children’s prior knowledge, academic interests, and epistemic curiosity could moderate their performance on post-intervention measures. These results suggest that even relatively brief exposure to question-asking can help engage children in material more intently, leading to more efficient learning. Additionally, this project provides insight into alternative pedagogical methods that could enhance learning for different types of students.