Research and Interests
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.
Sample Recent Publications
Ruzek, E., Jirout, J., Schenke, K., Vitiello, V., Whittaker, J. V., & Pianta, R. (2020). Using self-report surveys to measure PreK children’s academic orientations: A psychometric evaluation. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 50, 55-66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.10.012
Jirout, J., LoCasale-Crouch, J., Turnbull, K., *Gu, Y., *Cubides, M., *Garzione, S., Evans, T., Weltman, A., & Kranz, S. (2019). How Lifestyle Factors Affect Cognitive and Executive Function and the Ability to Learn in Children. Nutrients, 11(8), 1952. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081953
Jirout, J., Holmes, C., Ramsook, K. A., & Newcombe, N. (2018). Scaling up spatial development: A closer look at children’s scaling ability and its relation to number knowledge. Mind, Brain, and Education, 12(3), 110-119. https://doi.org/10.1111/mbe.12182
Jirout, J. and Newcombe, N. S. (2018). Relative magnitude as a key idea in mathematics cognition. In K. S. Mix & M. T. Battista (Eds.) Visualizing Mathematics: The Role of Spatial Reasoning in Mathematical Thought. New York, NY: Springer.
- Words Matter: Does A Teacher's Language Affect Student Curiosity?
- CASTL Awarded Over Four Million in Grant Funding to Pursue New Lines of Education Research
- Keeping Children Curious—Jamie Jirout Presents at Jean Piaget Society Meeting
- Research Skills Are Key for SURP Interns in Advice for Future Students
- CASTL Researchers Have Strong Presence at SRCD Meeting
- New Grant Will Explore Children’s Curiosity in School