Curiosity Project

A living document accounting for one sabbatical exploration into the nature of curiosity.

Research Artifacts

The longer one spends having conversations about curiosity, the more it becomes apparent that it's a highly regarded cultural value for most Americans (and others). Parents and educators alike pride themselves on being able to foster a sense of curiosity in young people. I also approached my professional leave project with a sense that I'd be discovering how to help students find their innate curiosity, to inspire them to shed some fear and tread into the murky unknown of undergraduate research.

I was incorrect. The problem isn't that students have forgotten how to be curious, it's generally that teachers have forbidden students to fully engage with curiosity. This speaks to a need to understand the educational function of exploring curiosity.

The Power of Curiosity

Curiosity: Scholarship

There's actually significantly less research on curiosity than one might expect. What there is comes from a few scholars, namely Jordan Litman, currently at Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition as Visiting Research Scientist and research consultant to IHMC Senior Scientist Robert Hoffman on developing new methods of empirically investigating the interface between state and trait epistemic curiosity, critical thinking, and reasoning about the causes of complex “real world” problems.

Arnone, M. P., Small, R. V., Chauncey, S. A., & McKenna, H. P. (2011). Curiosity, interest and engagement in technology-pervasive learning environments: A new research agenda. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(2), 181-198. doi:10.1007/s11423-011-9190-9

Azzam, A. M. (2014). Motivated to learn: A conversation with Daniel Pink. Educational Leadership: Motivation Matters, 72(1), 12-17. Retrieved from

Bevan, B., Petrich, M., & Wilkinson, K. (2014, December). Membership. Retrieved from

Borowske, K. (2005). Curiosity and motivation-to-learn. In ACRL twelfth national conference. Chicago, IL: American Library Association. Retrieved from

Brown, J. S. (Director). (2008, December 20). Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production [Video file]. Retrieved from
John Seely Brown addressing the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching - Stanford, CA, Oct. 23-25, 2008.

Eason, T. (2010). Lifelong Learning: Fostering a Culture of Curiosity. Creative Nursing, 16(4), 155-159. doi:10.1891/1078-4535.16.4.155

Gerstein, J. (Director). (2012, July 18). An illustration of flipped classroom: The full picture [Video file]. Retrieved from

Hetland, L. (2013). Studio thinking 2. the real benefits of visual arts education. Teachers College Press.

Honey, M., & Kanter, D. (2013). It looks like fun, but are they learning? In Design, make, play: Growing the next generation of STEM innovators. New York, NY: Routledge.

Jirout, J., & Klahr, D. (2012). Children’s scientific curiosity: In search of an operational definition of an elusive concept. Developmental Review, 32(2), 125-160. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2012.04.002

Jovanovic, V., & Brdaric, D. (2012). Did curiosity kill the cat? Evidence from subjective well-being in adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 52(3), 380-384. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.10.043

Karwowski, M. (2012). Did Curiosity Kill the Cat? Relationship Between Trait Curiosity, Creative Self-Efficacy and Creative Personal Identity. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 8(4). doi:10.5964/ejop.v8i4.513

Lang, D., & Demarest, R. (2013). Zero to maker: Learn (just enough) to make (just about) anything. Sebastopol, CA: Maker Media.

Litman, J. (2005). Curiosity and the pleasures of learning: Wanting and liking new information. Cognition & Emotion, 19(6), 793-814. doi:10.1080/02699930541000101

Litman, J. A., & Jimerson, T. L. (2004). The Measurement of Curiosity As a Feeling of Deprivation. Journal of Personality Assessment, 82(2), 147-157. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa8202_3

Litman, J. A., & Pezzo, M. V. (2007). Dimensionality of interpersonal curiosity. Personality and Individual Differences, 43(6), 1448-1459. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2007.04.021

Litman, J. A., & Silvia, P. J. (2006). The Latent Structure of Trait Curiosity: Evidence for Interest and Deprivation Curiosity Dimensions. Journal of Personality Assessment, 86(3), 318-328. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa8603_07

Litman, J. A., & Spielberger, C. D. (2003). Measuring Epistemic Curiosity and Its Diversive and Specific Components. Journal of Personality Assessment, 80(1), 75-86. doi:10.1207/S15327752JPA8001_16

Litman, J. A. (2008). Interest and deprivation factors of epistemic curiosity. Personality and Individual Differences, 44(7), 1585-1595. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.01.014

Litman, J., Hutchins, T., & Russon, R. (2005). Epistemic curiosity, feeling-of-knowing, and exploratory behaviour. Cognition & Emotion, 19(4), 559-582. doi:10.1080/02699930441000427

Lucidea Studio. (2013, August 13). Motivation and the candle problem. Retrieved from

McGee, R., & Keller, J. L. (2007). Identifying Future Scientists: Predicting Persistence into Research Training. Cell Biology Education, 6(4), 316-331. doi:10.1187/cbe.07-04-0020

Ministry of Education, Singapore. (2014). 21st century competencies. Retrieved from

Perkins, D. N. (2014). Future wise: Educating our children for a changing world. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

The puzzle of motivation [Video file]. (2009, July). Retrieved from

Pink, D. H. (2010). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Edinburgh: Canongate.

Rezendes, C. (2014, June 16). Curiosity Driven Learning | Aya Sakaguchi. Retrieved from

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Saville, E. (2014, October 02). Curiosity changes the brain to boost memory and learning. Retrieved from

Sternberg, R. J. (2010, October 10). Teach creativity, not memorization. Retrieved from
Memorization-based intelligence from a research and library perspective reinforces memorization is more valued than creativity. Creativity allows more room for failure and learning from failure. What does admitting students with a wide range of abilities and teaching them in ways that reflect how they learn actually mean for a community college? A large part of this article seems to be speaking to the notion of agency: "Many students have ideas that are creative with respect to themselves but not to a field. I tell my own students that the teaching-learning process goes two ways I have knowledge they do not have, but they have a flexibility I do not have-- precisely because they do not know as much as I do. By learning from--as well as teaching--our students, we can open channels for creativity." Perhaps Sternberg's subheadings lay out a map to accomplish this: redefine the problem; question and analyze assumptions; teach students to sell their creative ideas; encourage idea generation; recognize that knowledge is a double-edged sword; challenge students to identify and surmount obstacles; encourage sensible risk-taking; nurture a tolerance of ambiguity; foster self-efficacy; help students find what they love to do; teach students the importance of delaying gratification; provide an environment that fosters creativity."

Upcycled Education: Motivation: Lessons from Daniel Pink. (n.d.). Retrieved from