Will we learn something if we were not curious about it? Will we learn more and remember it better if we were?
These are some of the questions that Matthias J. Gruber, Bernard D. Gelman and Charan Ranganath tried to answer in their article in Neuron (Volume 84, Issue 2, Pages 486-496 (October 2014);
States of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-Dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic Circuit. http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(14)00804-6
They designed an experiment and selected for two groups; group A participants were curious to know the answer to a set of trivia questions and Group B were not curious to find the answers. All participants were then given information that would answer the questions on a series of slides while their brain activity was tracked in a FMRI machine. All participants were also exposed to faces at unexpected intervals. A surprise – participants were not warned that they would be tested at the end. Results of the test showed:
People are better at learning information that they are curious about
Memory for incidental material (the pictures of faces was used in this experiment, but could be anything else) presented during curious states was also enhanced, even long term.
This could have interesting implications for the IMYC, especially for Reflective Journaling and Exit Points. The IMYC uses a process of learning for all units consisting of an Entry point, Knowledge Harvest, Learning Activities, Reflective Journaling, Assessment and then culminates in an Exit point (a project to show the understanding that students developed in their learning over 6 weeks of the unit). The IMYC Process of Learning creates opportunities to connect learning and develop a personal perspective, to work with peers, take risks in a safe environment, and to help students to become confident, independent and engaged learners. It also provides them with the necessary academic rigour and transferable skills to prepare them well for GCSE or IGCSE, A levels and IB Diploma.
Allowing me some artistic liberty, the possibilities for making students’ Exit Point presentations curiosity ‘magnets’ to help students learn (and remember) even the stuff they were not that interested in, seem enticing.
Encouraging middle years students to use their Exit Points for self-directed learning almost guarantees curiosity. If explored in addition to reflecting on their learning over the unit, it may have very interesting consequences indeed.