Portrait of a Learner 9-12

Systems Change

Factor Connections

Hover to see how factors connect to Curiosity. Then click connected factors to explore strategies related to multiple factors.

Curiosity is a multifaceted concept, but at its core can be considered the desire for and perseverance in exploration and information seeking, particularly in response to uncertainty or information gaps. Curiosity is essential for students to learn how to learn about the world around them, to test and discover physical and social norms, and is a key predictor of academic success. A lack of support for inquiry and exploration can lead Curiosity to decline across school, suppressing students' natural sense of wonder. However, when inquiry and experimentation are valued and scaffolded, Curiosity can flourish, and these experiences can develop into more advanced Critical Thinking and reasoning skills learners can use to explore increasingly complex questions about how the world works.

Main Ideas

Curiosity is related to but different from interest. While both invoke exploration, Curiosity is more about a desire for knowledge, while interest is more about positive emotions around the unknown. Researchers have broken down the multifaceted concept of Curiosity into types of curiosity to better understand why and how Curiosity presents itself. For instance, joyous exploration is a state of wonder, and is important for seeking out and engaging in learning experiences. Social Curiosity is wanting to learn about other people through talking, listening, and observing. This type of curiosity can help teachers get to know their students better, and help students learn about each other, fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels they can share, ask questions, and belong. Critical Curiosity is about developing a deep understanding of issues of social justice and inequity, which fosters critical consciousness, and Civic Mindedness.

Research suggests that learners' level of Background Knowledge in an area can play a large role in their level of Curiosity: if there is too little to be learned, students may not be motivated enough to engage in information seeking—but if there is too much uncertainty, learners might be intimidated by the amount of effort required to fill their knowledge gap. What is ‘too little' or ‘too much' varies across individuals, topics, and likely across contexts (e.g., at school vs. in a science museum). High school students also need space for open inquiry, where they can develop Curiosity by learning with and from their peers by sharing perspectives.

While some Curiosity is dependent on the task at hand, creating a classroom climate that is supportive of Curiosity will help support learners' curious learning in the classroom more broadly. For instance, creating a climate of inquiry, and ensuring positive positive experiences around uncertainty (e.g., not getting punished for making mistakes, seeing examples of others valuing uncertainty as opportunities to learn, etc.), promotes comfort with uncertainty, question asking, and experimentation, in the face of future uncertainty. Students with ADHD or learning disabilities who have experienced repeated failure may be less willing to explore when they encounter uncertainty because they're unwilling to potentially fail again. Providing opportunities for success by tapping into adolescents' Curiosity about a topic of interest can be a way to engage these reluctant learners.

Learn More

View Measures and References