The Expression and Enactment of Interest and Curiosity in a Multiple Source Use Task

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Grossnickle, Emily Marie
Alexander, Patricia A
Selecting and incorporating multiple text and non-text sources is an academic task that has been identified as both commonplace and challenging for undergraduate students. Although the term digital natives is frequently used to describe students of this generation, the degree to which undergraduate students prefer or effectively use digital as compared to print sources has been relatively unaddressed. Additionally, although individual differences such as knowledge have been identified as important for multiple source use and comprehension, the role of motivational variables has been under-examined and has focused on source use within a single medium (i.e., digital or print). This study investigated the role of two motivational variables, interest and curiosity. It examined the degree to which the confluence of these motivational variables in conjunction with knowledge predicted source selection, source use, and task performance when students were provided with multiple print and digital sources. Undergraduate students wore a head-mounted videocamera as they developed a PowerPoint presentation on Alzheimer's disease based on 16 available resources (8 print and 8 digital). Follow-up interviews were conducted to determine the degree to which interest and curiosity influenced students' selection and use of sources. Measures of topic knowledge, topic interest, and epistemic trait curiosity were assessed a priori. A coding scheme for capturing use of print and digital sources was developed for the purpose of this study. Differences across source medium and source type (e.g., textbook, image) were evident. Although students exhibited preferences for selecting several types of sources in a digital format, they spent twice as long using print sources, incorporated more print sources into their presentations, and developed more inferences based on print sources. Students with more knowledge, interest, and curiosity spent more time using print sources but less time using digital sources. Further, students' presentations revealed a tendency to replicate material from sources rather than to draw inferences, make conclusions, or integrate material across sources. Findings suggest the tendency for undergraduate students to focus their processes on the management of information rather source integration particularly when using digital compared to print sources.