Is Curiosity As Good at Predicting Children’s Reading, Math Success as Self-Control? Study Says Yes

866 reads

The joy of discovery matters as much as self-control, and matters even more for low-income children. We need to encourage kids to ask novel questions, not just give familiar answers.

Ever since the landmark "marshmallow test" highlighted the importance of early self-control in later achievement, educators have worked to find ways to build self-regulation among young children. But a new study in the journal Pediatric Research suggests boosting children's natural curiosity may be equally crucial to their long-term learning.

Researchers from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and the Center for Human Growth and Development tracked 6,200 children participating in the federal Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative longitudinal study. In addition to collecting data on children's family income, education, and backgrounds, the federal survey also included home visits with parent interviews, and assessments of the children at ages 9 months, 2 years, at the start of preschool, and in kindergarten.

In addition to testing students for early math and literacy skills, the study also guaged other traits, such as invention, imagination, attention to new tasks and eagerness to learn new skills. The researchers found that even after controlling for differences in children's backgrounds and whether or not they had attended preschool, the young children's curiosity—in particular their "eagerness to learn new things"—was as good a predictor of their later kindergarten math and reading achievement as were early measures of self-control.

"It speaks to the young child's thirst for knowledge and inquisitiveness. It highlights this idea of the joy of learning," said lead researcher Prachi Shah, associate professor of behavioral and developmental pediatrics at the children's hospital.

Moreover, the benefits of being highly curious were greater for students in poverty, Shah said. "If you are a low-income child, compared to a high income child, and you have low curiosity, than you had [on average] lower math and reading achievement by the end of kindergarten," she said. "But if you are a low-income but highly curious child, your achievement was similar to a high-income child. Curiosity can mitigate or close that achievement gap in reading or math."

The takeaway for teachers, Shah said, is "a need to be curious about an individual child's curiosity and what motivates a child. What captivates one child's curiosity may not captivate another, and teachers should try to be attuned to that."

The researchers are now digging into what aspects of children's early home life and classroom environments seem to lead children to become more curious, and whether curiosity may have links to other social and emotional characteristics associated with academic achievement, like academic mindset (the belief that skills can be improved with practice rather than being innate).

Trending

554
misner's picture

Dude, Where are my Wheels? Why Networking Helps – Even in the “Hood”

I recently visited Los Angeles and drove through an area that I grew up around.  I was regaling my wife with a story about a job I had in a pretty tough neighborhood when I was in college.  At the end of the story she said, “you have to
471
Harvey Mackay's picture

Resourcefulness = “Of Coursefulness”

A firm needed a researcher. Applicants were a scientist, an engineer and an economist. Each was given a stone, a piece of string and a stopwatch and told to determine a certain building’s height. The scientist went to the rooftop, tied the stone to
529
johnsullivan's picture

Sourcing Is the New Recruiting

I have some excellent news for you. Sourcing is the place to be in talent acquisition today! Recruiting as it has traditionally been known is going away. Increasingly companies are adopting recruitment process automation, and that means that there
555
harvardbusinessreview's picture

How to Prepare for a Panel

Make sure to connect with the moderator beforehand.
517
johnsullivan's picture

HR Roundtable: The Value of a Multi-Generational Workforce

In the classic rock anthem My Generation by The Who, lead singer Roger Daltrey screams, “I hope I die before I get old.” He echoed a sentiment of the times, but he never knew that he was also doing what...
571
adamgrant's picture

Why Women Volunteer for Tasks That Don’t Lead to Promotions

Here’s a work scenario many of us know too well: You are in a meeting and your manager brings up a project that needs to be assigned. It’s not particularly challenging work, but it’s time-consuming, unlikely to drive revenue, and probably won’t be
505
johnsullivan's picture

What’s Wrong With Corporate Culture As A Management Tool? Almost Everything!

The top 15 most damaging shortcomings of managing using your culture It’s no secret that most in HR and many CEOs are enamored with “corporate culture,” which is essentially the “invisible hand” that helps guide the behavior of your employees....
455
sethgodin's picture

But why does it take so long?

The original book could take three years to write. Retyping the manuscript might take a day or two. Modern work isn’t time-consuming because it takes a long time to type. Physical constraints aren’t usually the gating factor, either. It’s not a
459
johnsullivan's picture

Accenture Is Using Tech to Make Onboarding a Personal Experience

Normally I think of onboarding along two dimensions: efficiently handling the administrative work and welcoming a person onto the team so they can be effective. Onboarding, even the basic administrative work, can be hard to do, and technology can