Learning Curiosity

We propose a RCT called Evaluating Learning Interactions (ELI) to examine the efficacy of two contrasting approaches to help low-income parents improve the school readiness skills of their 3-5 year-old children. ELI is a six-month text-based program delivered to a sample of 500 low-income families in Chicagoland. One treatment encourages parents to engage in “constrained learning” interactions and another treatment encourages “unconstrained learning” interactions. In constrained learning interactions, parents teach their children constrained skills—knowledge that has a correct answer, such as letter and number recognition. Unconstrained learning interactions are open-ended and convey skills with no correct answer (unconstrained skills), such as problem-solving and curiosity. Both constrained and unconstrained skills are necessary for school readiness. The outcomes of this RCT are measures of children’s constrained and unconstrained skills. Our hypothesis which follows from some preliminary evidence, is that motivating unconstrained parent-child learning interactions will increase children’s constrained and unconstrained skills more than motivating constrained learning interactions. This RCT builds on a pilot project funded by J-PAL that both demonstrated the feasibility of this project and built the community partnerships that will support the proposed new work.

RFP Cycle:
SPRI RFP XV [Sept 2021]
United States of America
  • Ariel Kalil
  • Susan Mayer
  • Full project