Curiosity and Classrooms

  • Research Project

What We Do

The three-year Curiosity and Classrooms study seeks to gain a deeper understanding of what curiosity looks like in children and how it supports the development of character, as well as how curiosity is influenced by educational settings and what specific teaching practices can promote it.

Project Info

Project Status: Active

Funding Source: The John Templeton Foundation

Principal Investigator: Jamie Jirout

Partners: Sharon Zumbrunn (VCU)

Curiosity has a positive impact on motivation and learning, yet research shows that despite being curious about academic content outside of school, students are not curious in school. In fact, little research has studied what children's curiosity looks like in school settings, and we know little about its development or how it is influenced by the environment. To learn more, CASTL has created a three-year study, Curiosity and Classrooms: An Exploration of Curiosity and the Development of Intellectual Virtues in Schools. 

This work will address two overarching questions:

  1. What does curiosity look like in children, and how does it support the development of character more generally?
  2. How is curiosity influenced by educational settings, and can it be promoted through specific teaching practices?

Researchers will create a rich, longitudinal database to answer these questions. Curiosity will be assessed in 500 second graders across the school year.

The Virginia Discovery Museum and Jamie Jirout's research lab host weekly spatial playgroups on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. The playgroups are a living and growing collaboration including researchers, museum staff, and graduate and undergraduate students, and are informed by current research and contribute to the broader Living Lab initiative.

Learn more about this project by visiting:

Project Team

Natalie S. Evans

  • Research Associate
Jamie J. Jirout

Jamie J. Jirout

  • Associate Professor
Virginia (Ginny) E Vitiello

Virginia E. Vitiello

  • Research Associate Professor

Publications, Presentations and Outreach

Borton, L., (2021, May 13). Science Thinking, Uncertainty & Kids, with Jamie Jirout. “Radio Arlington” WERA-LP 96.7 FM. Podcast 

Jirout, J (April 18, 2021) Curiosity in the Classroom: Promoting Child Curiosity, Exploration, Questions, & Scientific Thinking. Learning & the Brain conference on "Schooling the Self: Promoting Self-Esteem, Self-Concepts, Awareness,Compassion, and Curiosity for Achievement and Self-Actualization". New York City, NY.  session slides.

Jirout, J., Ruzek, E., Whittaker, J., & Pianta, R. (April 7, 2021). School Enjoyment and its Relation to the Development of General Knowledge. Paper presented at the Society for Research on Child Develoipment Biennial Meeting. Virtual.  

Jirout, J. (March 24, 2021) Promoting Curiosity in the Classroom to Support Learning. Lecture at the LEAD Graduate School & Research Network. University of Tübingen.   

Clay, A.K. (January 13, 2021) Curious About Curiosity? Professor Studies How Children Learn. UVA Today. 

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

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