Jamie J. Jirout

Assistant Professor of Education

  • Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University, 2011
  • B.A., University of Miami, 2005

Jamie Jirout, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Educational Psychology and Applied Developmental Sciences program in the Curry School of Education. She studies how young children learn, with a focus on science-related skills, in both formal and informal settings.

Research and Interest

My research focuses on two areas of children's learning: (1) children's curiosity and question asking, especially in the preschool and early elementary years, and (2) children's spatial reasoning skills. Both areas are important for science learning, and for STEM learning more broadly.

Curiosity and Question Asking
Children's motivation to learn plays a crucial mediating role in the ultimate success of any instructional effort, and one important motivator is children's natural curiosity (Stipek, 2002). In my work on curiosity, I designed an adaptive measure of children's preference for uncertainty when exploring, which I now use to explore questions related to how curiosity is impacted by different types of instruction, how curiosity relates to learning, and how uncertainty preference is influenced by different attitudes and beliefs about intelligence and education.

Spatial Intelligence and Learning
Spatial reasoning involves thinking about things like location, shapes, size, distance, and our relative position within each of these. This is important in everyday life, but is also an important skill for children’s success in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. Research suggests that children’s spatial thinking develops from play with materials that involve spatial relations, such as building with blocks or putting together puzzles. I study the specific ways in which these activities can improve spatial thinking, and how this knowledge can influence practice, such as early education, informal learning, and designing toys and instruction. I also explore the underlying cognitive mechanisms of different types of spatial skills to understand both how to foster learning and explain relations to performance across other domains.