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Faculty Members Author Chapters on Curiosity, Motivation in Learning

By: Diane Stirling
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  From top: Marilyn Arnone, Ruth Small, Derrick Cogburn,

School of Information Studies (iSchool) faculty members Marilyn Arnone, Ruth Small, and Derek Cogburn have authored chapters in two just-published books pertaining to curiosity and motivation and how those elements of personality can impact the learning process.

Arnone and Small contributed a chapter on children’s curiosity to the just-published book, The Creative Imperative: School Librarians and Teachers Cultivating Curiosity Together. Their writings discuss how, while the intellectual aspects of human curiosity haven’t changed, the ways learners can act on their curiosity in today’s technology-filled world have.

Arnone, who is a research associate professor and professor of practice at the School, explained the essence of their contribution as conceptualizing curiosity in technology-pervasive environments both in and out of school. To illustrate the differences, the text uses the example of how a curious student might react to news of a volcano erupting, both in the context of learning several decades ago, and how that scenario might proceed in today’s world.

According to Arnone, “Kids are still curious and full of wonder when presented with something that is unfamiliar, but kids (and adults) still have individual differences in the amount of uncertainty (not knowing) that they can handle. Though they still need information skills to find answers to their questions, today they must master many more skills to make sense of their questions and remain curious. Without the inquiry and digital technology skills, they will handle only so much uncertainty before the exploration is cut short.”

Guidebook for School Media

As a guidebook for school media practitioners, the information may be of particular interest as teachers put core learning and testing into place and are focused on implementing those aspects in the classroom, according to Dr. Small, Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor.

In a classroom facing those new demands, Small projects, “any attention by teachers to fostering children’s curiosity will likely wane. School librarians have an important responsibility to help fill this gap by stimulating inquiry through curiosity-arousing techniques as they teach students the skills they need to ask good questions and find good answers to those questions.”

The text offers examples that are relevant to school librarians and teachers, and provides suggestions for how to cultivate curiosity by focusing on the situational triggering of curiosity that educators can most influence, Arnone added.  According to Small, “We hope that readers will walk away with a solid understanding of what curiosity is (according to us) in the digital age and select some of our suggestions for ways in which they might stimulate and nurture it in their students.”

Educational Design Handbook

Arnone also is the leadauthor for a chapter in a publication issued by Routledge Publishers last month, the "Handbook of Design in Educational Technology." The handbook provides up-to-date, comprehensive summaries and syntheses of recent research pertinent to the design of information and communication technologies to support learning.

Together with Derrick L. Cogburn (Associate Professor and Director, Center for Research on Collaboratories and Technology Enhanced Learning Communities) plus co-author Jennifer T. Ellis, Arnone composed the chapter, “A Blended Instructional Design Approach to Accessible Cyberlearning.” It offers advice about each stage in the process of designing systems for use in educational settings, from theoretical foundations to the challenges of implementation, plus the process of evaluating the impact of the design and ways it might be further developed and disseminated.

The authors focus on motivational considerations that may impact the learning experience of students with disabilities who are engaged in a virtual master's program in disability and public policy--a program conceived by the Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) under the direction of Cogburn, Arnone noted.

“Our instructional design placed a strong emphasis on motivation as critical to learning. In ongoing formative evaluations, we wanted to know about learners' perceived competence and sense of autonomy as provided by both the instructor and the delivery system. This type of information is critical to the iterative development of a program that allows persons with disabilities the ability to self-regulate their learning,” Arnone added. 

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