Cultivating classroom curiosity: a quasi-experimental, longitudinal, study investigating the impact of the question formulation technique on adolescent intellectual curiosity
Clark, Shelby E.
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Curiosity can be defined as the “urge to know more” that manifests behaviorally in questioning and exploration. Curiosity is associated with a host of positive youth outcomes, including academic achievement, school engagement, and deeper learning, yet studies indicate that few teachers foster curiosity in their classrooms, possibly due to a lack of pedagogical techniques focused on inspiring student curiosity. Many scholars suggest directly teaching questioning to cultivate student curiosity; yet, relatively few empirical studies on the role of questioning in fostering curiosity have been conducted. Accordingly, the present study conducted a quasi-experimental, longitudinal investigation to examine the relationship between exposure to the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), a classroom-based intervention that seeks to teach students how to ask their own questions, and scores on curiosity and related strengths in a sample of Northeast high school students. Participating English/Language Arts faculty at four high schools (N = 2,217 students; 42 teachers) were randomly assigned to either a fall or spring start condition. The study utilized student self-report questionnaires and teacher fidelity checks at three time points (fall, winter, and spring) across schools in order to consider the potential impact of the QFT on students’ curiosity, divergent thinking, school engagement, and self-efficacy. In light of prior research, it was hypothesized that the QFT would have a significant positive treatment effect on the study constructs, and would positively impact growth in these attributes. In addition, higher teacher fidelity of implementation of the intervention was expected to lead to greater growth in these attributes. Furthermore, positive and reciprocal mediational paths between curiosity, cognitive engagement, and self-efficacy were proposed. Multilevel modeling revealed the QFT to have a positive absolute treatment effect on students’ curiosity, but not an impact on students’ curiosity growth. In addition, high teacher fidelity, but not dosage, led to increases in students’ curiosity growth over the school year. No other overall positive treatment effects were found, although fidelity and dosage were related positively to growth on several variables. In addition, multiple-group structural equation path models revealed several complex indirect and direct pathways between the four variables of interest. Most surprising, cognitive engagement served as predictors of all other variables in the model. Qualitatively, teachers discussed the impact of the QFT on student responsiveness, described adaptations they made to the intervention, and noted the need for professional development. Limitations of the current study and implications for future research are discussed.