Some Important Perspectives on Curiosity for Software Developers

Posted on August 3, 2010

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Author:  Sanjay Goel, http://in.linkedin.com/in/sgoel

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Curiosity is a very important trait for software developers.   Here are some very important perspectives on curiosity to help the software development community.

In 1960’s, Daniel Berlyne,   had identified two form of curiositydiversive (e.g., novelty seeking) and specific (e.g., uncertainty, conceptual conflict, information seeking).

According to Loewenstein’s information gap theory of specific epistemic curiosity, a feeling of deprivation occurs when an individual becomes aware of a difference between “what one knows and what one wants to know.”

Peterson et al view curiosity as one of the core cognitive virtues for all humans. According to their meta-analysis of various philosophical perspectives and research findings curiosity includes interest, novelty seeking, and openness to experience. It implies taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake, finding topics and subjects fascinating, as well as tendencies for exploring and discovering.

Peterson et al have given an excellent account of research on curiosity. Cognitive process theory of curiosity results from two traits of ‘openness to novel stimuli’ and a ‘concern for orderliness.’  According to this theory,  curiosity is a function of assimilating and accommodating novel stimulus into one’s cognitive map.

Personal growth facilitation model of curiosity suggests a four step process –

(i) allocation of attention and energy for recognizing and pursuing cues of novelty and challenge,

(ii) cognitive evaluation and behavioral exploration of challenging activities,

(iii) deep absorption of these activities, and

(iv) integration of curiosity experience through assimilation and accommodation.

In seemingly boring situations, highly curious people are more oriented towards finding novelty and also sensitive to cues that can increase interest in meaningful and unavoidable activities. Peterson et al cite research that has shown that in college, students with a high curiosity trait asked five times more questions than students with a low curiosity trait.

We need to reflect upon the following questions:

1.  How important is the trait of curiosity for tomorrow’s  software developers?

2.  Is curiosity an intrinsic trait or education can increase it?

3.  If education can increase it, what kind of  education is required to increase curiosity?

4.  Does commonly prevailing model of engineering education in India enhance curiosity?

5.   Does the selection process seek to select  curios students?

6.   Does the examination system in engineering education  nurture curiosity?

7.   Do student projects succeed in enhancing students’ curiosity?

In another article, “SERO Model for Inquiry Teaching in Software Development Education,”   I have briefly described how Inquiry teaching can be used for teaching computing courses.  

References:

1. Marilyn P. Arnone, Using Instructional Design Strategies to Foster Curiosity, 2003

2.  Christopher Peterson, Martin E. P. Seligman, Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification, Oxford University Press, USA, pp 125-141, 2004.

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4.    Theories that can help teachers/trainers/e-learning designers to think like educators, help students to improve their learning ability, and also help Software Developers in developing domain competence and readiness

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6. 

7.   SERO Model for Inquiry Teaching in Software Development Education

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