Jamie J. Jirout

Assistant Professor of Education

  • Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University, 2011
  • B.A., University of Miami, 2005

Jamie Jirout, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Educational Psychology and Applied Developmental Sciences program in the UVA School of Education and Human Development, where she directs the Research in Education and Learning lab. She studies how young children learn, with a focus on science-related skills, in both formal and informal settings. Her research explores how curiosity is promoted and can support learning, with a focus on early childhood but with studies spanning preschool through college-level learning. 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. 

Students interested in working in the lab should reach out directly. We are always looking for students who are themselves curious, creative, intellectually humble, and interested in learning more about research for both paid and credit-earning positions. 

ACCEPTING PHD APPLICATIONS FOR THE 2022-2023 ACADEMIC YEAR (applications due Dec 1). - Apply here!
Students interested in pursuing doctoral training on the development of children's curiosity are encouraged to apply.

Please feel free to email jirout@virginia.edu with any questions or to discuss the research projects a PhD student would get to contribute to as a lab member. In the application personal statement, it is helpful for applicants to discuss why they are interested in studying the development of curiosity, or how this topic aligns with thier own interests. 

Interested applicants may find program information on the EP-ADS doctoral program site and fellowship information on the VEST fellowship site


See more information on Dr. Jirout's lab website and the Curiosity and Classrooms project page

Research and Interests

My 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. Both areas are important for science learning, and for STEM learning more broadly.

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 my work on curiosity, I designed an adaptive measure of children's preference for uncertainty when exploring, which I now use 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. I study 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. I also explore 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.

Recent Publications

Jirout, J., Ruzek, E., Vitiello, V., Whittaker, J. V., & Pianta, R. (In Press). School enjoyment and the relation to the development of general knowledge.

Jirout, J. and *Matthews, S. (July, 2022). Developing intellectual character: An educational perspective on how uncertainty-driven curiosity can support learning. In R. Beghetto and G. Jaegger (Eds.) Uncertainty: A catalyst for creativity, learning and development. New York, NY: Springer.

Jirout, J., Zumbrunn, S., Evans, N., & Vitiello, V. (2022). Development and testing of the Curiosity in Classrooms Framework coding protocol. Frontiers in Psychology.    https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.875161

Jirout, J., *Eisen, S., *Sargent, Z., & Evans, T. (2022). Parent-Child Synchrony and Executive Function During Physical and Digital Play. Trends in Neuroscience and Education.

*Evans, N., Jirout, J., *Scoville, J., Wylie, C., & Opila, E. (2022). “Where could this take me and what kind of interesting stuff could I do with that?”: The role of curiosity in undergraduate learning. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Jirout, J., *Little, O. R., & *Carroll, M. (2022). Creating authentic engagement in online study participation for children. SAGE Research Methods. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781529799477

*Hasan, F., Jirout, J., *Garzione, S., & Kranz, S. (2021). Changes in Learning Outcomes after Dietary Intervention in Preschoolers: A Pilot Study. Nutrients, 13(6), 1797.  https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13061797.

*Eisen, S., *Matthews, S., & Jirout, J. (2021). Parents’ and Children’s Gendered Beliefs About Toys and Screen Media. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 74, 101276. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2021.101276.

Jirout, J., & Klahr, D. (2020). Questions–And Some Answers–About Young Children’s QuestionsJournal of Cognition and Development21(5), 729-753.  https://doi.org/10.1080/15248372.2020.1832492

Jirout, J. (2020). Supporting early scientific thinking through curiosity and question asking. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1717. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01717 

Ruzek, E., Jirout, J., Schenke, K., Vitiello, V., Whittaker, J. V., & Pianta, R. (2020). Using self-report surveys to measure PreK children’s academic orientations: A psychometric evaluationEarly Childhood Research Quarterly50, 55-66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.10.012 

Jirout, J., LoCasale-Crouch, J., Turnbull, K., *Gu, Y., *Cubides, M., *Garzione, S., Evans, T., Weltman, A., & Kranz, S. (2019). How Lifestyle Factors Affect Cognitive and Executive Function and the Ability to Learn in Children. Nutrients, 11(8), 1952. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081953  

Jirout, J., Holmes, C., Ramsook, K. A., & Newcombe, N. (2018). Scaling up spatial development: A closer look at children’s scaling ability and its relation to number knowledge. Mind, Brain, and Education, 12(3), 110-119. https://doi.org/10.1111/mbe.12182

Jirout, J. and Newcombe, N. S. (2018). Relative magnitude as a key idea in mathematics cognition. In K. S. Mix & M. T. Battista (Eds.) Visualizing Mathematics: The Role of Spatial Reasoning in Mathematical Thought. New York, NY: Springer.

Jirout, J., Vitiello, V., & Zumbrunn, S. (2018). Curiosity in Schools. In G. Gordon (Ed.) The New Science of Curiosity. Hauppauge, NY: Nova.