Jamie Jirout’s research focuses on two areas of children's learning: (1) children's curiosity and question asking, especially in the preschool and early elementary years, and (2) children's spatial reasoning skills.
Curiosity and Question Asking
Children's motivation to learn plays a crucial mediating role in the ultimate success of any instructional effort, and one important motivator is children's natural curiosity (Stipek, 2002). In Jirout’s work on curiosity, she designed an adaptive measure of children's preference for uncertainty when exploring, which she now uses to explore questions related to how curiosity is impacted by different types of instruction, how curiosity relates to learning, and how uncertainty preference is influenced by different attitudes and beliefs about intelligence and education.
Spatial Intelligence and Learning
Spatial reasoning involves thinking about things like location, shapes, size, distance, and our relative position within each of these. This is important in everyday life, but is also an important skill for children’s success in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. Research suggests that children’s spatial thinking develops from play with materials that involve spatial relations, such as building with blocks or putting together puzzles. Jirout studies the specific ways in which these activities can improve spatial thinking, and how this knowledge can influence practice, such as early education, informal learning, and designing toys and instruction. She also explores the underlying cognitive mechanisms of different types of spatial skills to understand both how to foster learning and explain relations to performance across other domains.
Her research takes place in classrooms, in a lab (or virtual lab via Zoom), and out in the community, such as at children's museums. Jirout also directs the Research in Education Learning Lab.
Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University, 2011
B.A., University of Miami, 2005