Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl A. Getz, EdD, Committee Chair; Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Committee Member; Marcus Lam, PhD, Committee Member


curiosity, critical reflection, transformative learning, higher education, college classroom


Educators in higher education are faced with growing pressures to shift pedagogical practices in order to accommodate the growing population of learners and improve student learning outcomes. While the acquisition of knowledge and skills are important to the learning process, they are insufficient in preparing students to function in rapidly changing environments. Curiosity is a vital component in the learning process that, when stimulated, has the potential to increase students’ capacity to think critically. Implementing teaching practices that intentionally focus on how curiosity can be stimulated and enhanced develops students’ abilities to access higher levels of thinking that are essential for in depth learning to take place.

This study utilized a mixed-methods sequential explanatory design to determine the extent in which curiosity was stimulated and enhanced through critical reflection activities implemented in two sections of an undergraduate psychology course. The Curiosity and Exploration Inventory II (CEI-II) was administered as a pre-and post-assessment to 48 students to assess existing levels of trait curiosity (propensity to experience). Data from the assessments, as well as from the demographic questionnaire were then used to consider how critical reflection activities, as well as other external factors, impacted students’ state curiosity (curiosity evoked in a particular environment by situational factors). Critical reflection activities were developed using transformative learning theory and reflective thinking models. In the second step, 11 students were interviewed and a cross-case analysis was conducted to discover similarities and differences in how they understood and made meaning of course content.

The findings of this study indicated that critical reflection activities did impact students’ tendencies to be curious in a classroom setting. This was partly due to autonomous processing through journaling, but mostly due to their engagement with other peers about their thoughts, feelings, insights, and inquiries about course content learned. The findings suggest that curiosity in the classroom is stimulated and enhanced when students are able to understand how the content is relevant to their learning, and how they can apply and make meaning of it in their lives.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies