The Power and Complexity of “Interest” | Toby Elmore | 3 Min Read

Developing a nuanced understanding of the origins and nature of interest can help educators craft meaningful and engaging curricula and lessons.

How might we develop curricula and pedagogy that engages as many students as possible on as many occasions as possible? How might we leverage the intellectual and personal experiences of our students to create meaningful learning experiences across a variety of domains and lessons? 

Image courtesy of Braus Blog

Hidi and Renninger’s four-phase description of student interest development provides a useful model for us to understand what is meant by student “interest.” Situational interest references when an individual, student or otherwise, experiences “focused attention and the affective reaction that is triggered in the moment by environmental stimuli” (Hidi, 1990; Hidi & Baird, 1986) and may last or may dissipate. On the other hand, individual interest references an individual’s ongoing desire to reengage with an activity or task.

Research appears to support a Vygotskian and Brunerian socio-cultural understanding of the importance of one’s environment and surroundings with regards to the development of interest and the accordant learning processes. As learning is fundamentally both a cognitive and affective process, the environment in which interest…

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Toby Elmore

Toby Elmore is studying at the University of San Francisco School of Education.