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How Curiosity Boosts Learning

posted Jan 30, 2015, 7:19 PM by HSD Principal

    In this Edutopia article, Open Colleges writer Marianne Stenger reports on recent studies on curiosity in the classroom. Brain scans conducted by researchers at the University of California/Davis found that when a student’s curiosity is piqued, two things happen:

• The brain is primed for learning. This includes remembering unrelated information, because “curiosity puts the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information,” explains Stenger, “like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it. So if a teacher is able to arouse students’ curiosity about something they’re naturally motivated to learn, they’ll be better prepared to learn things that they would normally consider boring or difficult.”

• Curiosity makes learning more rewarding. Studies have found that when curiosity is aroused, there’s activity in the hippocampus (which deals with forming memories) and also in the area that deals with reward and pleasure, releasing dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical.

Researchers still don’t know the answer to several important questions, including the long-term effects of arousing curiosity – if a student is curious in the morning, does the effect last all day? – and why some people seem naturally more curious than others.

But one thing is for sure: telling students the answer before they’ve had a chance to explore it does the opposite. “So rather than jumping straight to the answers,” says Stenger, “let’s try to start students off with the sort of questions that encourage them to do their own seeking.”

“Why Curiosity Enhances Learning” by Marianne Stenger in Edutopia, December 17, 2014,


Excerpt taken from Marshall Memo 571, January 26, 2015