Curiosity as an influencing variable in achievement in an interactive learner control environment

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Barbara L. Grobowski


Curiosity, Computer-based learning, Learner control

Subject Categories



This study investigated the effect of curiosity in first and second grade children as an individual difference variable in learning in a computer-based interactive learner control environment. The instruction was an art education lesson and contained both facts and concepts. Learner control varies by the degree of instructional control which a student has over his/her own learning. In a "complete learner controlled lesson," the learner makes his/her own decisions about issues such as content selection, sequencing, pace, and remediation. In a "learner controlled with advisement lesson," the learner makes the same type of decisions but is provided advisement about the decisions and other learner control options. This study used two learner control treatments: (1) learner control without advisement (No Advisement) and (2) learner control with advisement (Advisement). High curious subjects, who generally prefer a higher degree of unfamiliarity and uncertainty, were predicted to perform better in a learner control environment than low curious children; both treatments represented a learner control environment. All children regardless of curiosity level were expected to perform better in the Advisement condition than in the No Advisement condition. As predicted, there was a significant difference in achievement scores in favor of the high curious children in both learner control conditions. The results of this study suggested that differences in curiosity influenced performance within either type of learner control CBIV lesson. The differences were independent of grade level or gender. Research has shown curiosity to be independent of IQ. Although there were no significant differences overall for treatment, there was a significant interaction between grade level and treatment. Grade one subjects performed significantly better in the Advisement condition than in the No Advisement condition while grade two subjects performed significantly better in the No Advisement treatment. Examination of in-treatment data indicated that the grade one subjects heeded advisement more than the second grade subjects which might explain why that group performed better in the Advisement treatment. A possible explanation for the unexpectedly high scores of second graders in the Advisement treatment may have been due to the predominance of high curious subjects in that treatment group; high curious subjects would be expected to perform better in a situation of greater uncertainty than low curious subjects. Implications of the findings for instructional designers and educators in planning instruction are discussed.


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