TITLE: Why It's Important to Pique Your Students' Curiosity AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 30, 2014 3:11 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Because they will remember better! This Science Alert summarizes research which shows that "our minds actively reward us for seeking out the information we're most interested in". When people attain something they find intrinsically valuable, their brains release a dose of dopamine, which increases the learner's energy level and seems to enhance the connections between cells that contribute to remembering. What I found most interesting, though, was this unexpected connection, as reported in this research paper from the journal Neuron (emphasis added):
People find it easier to learn about topics that interest them, but little is known about the mechanisms by which intrinsic motivational states affect learning. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how curiosity (intrinsic motivation to learn) influences memory. In both immediate and one-day-delayed memory tests, participants showed improved memory for information that they were curious about and for incidental material learned during states of high curiosity.
This study suggests that when people are curious about something, they remember better what they learn about it, but they also remember better other information they come into contact with at the same time. So, it might be worth opening class with a question or challenge that excites students and primes their curiosity, even if it is only tangentially related to the course material. In the process of learning the material they find interesting, they may learn better the material we find interesting. When trying to teach students about loops or variables or functional decomposition, it is worth the effort to find and cultivate good problems to apply the concept to. If the problem piques the students' interest, it may increase their brains' receptiveness to learning the computational ideas. -----