A Sense of Awe: A Tool for Enhancing Science Instruction

Recent research on awe has shown there are significant relationships between having a sense of awe and a range of other outcomes, including an increased sense of time, humility, comfort with uncertainty, increased motivation to learn, enhanced memory, a greater sense of curiosity, increased causal- explanatory reasoning, feeling a connection to others and prosocial behavior, work ethic, an openness to modify one’s worldview, and enhanced science reasoning. 

Most promising for teaching and learning science is the finding that awe evokes interest, curiosity and a desire to understand the unknown, and there is a dearth of research on the use of awe in science instruction. Schools today struggle with preparing students for achievement tests and often the more innovative aspects of teaching are put aside for test preparation. The broad goal of this project is to promote science pedagogy that is “intentionally designed to evoke meaning and connection by purposefully pushing toward a sense of the unknown, awe, and beauty” (Gilbert & Byers, 2017, p. 916). This team will document teachers’ experiences with awe, explore the contexts of these experiences, and determine whether or not teachers use awe in their instruction. Through focused case studies, they will investigate whether the inclusion of awe into science instruction can increase students’ interests and motivation in science. 

This project is funded by a Catalyst Grant from the Friday Institute and NC State College of Education.