The Curiosity Project

This is the third post in a series on the Student as Scholar initiative at UPEI.

“The eyes of my three-year-old daughter sparkle when she learns something new,” says Dr. Stacey MacKinnon, Associate Professor of Psychology at UPEI. “I think somewhere along the way, we train that sparkle out of kids, because a lot of my students wonder why I bother teaching them anything that won’t be on the final exam.”

Dr. MacKinnon wanted to redesign her Social Psychology 242 class in a way that restored that natural curiosity in students. The result is The Curiosity Project.

“I could give lectures on social psychology until the cows come home, but I don’t think that’s really going to engage students and make them feel like they own what they’ve learned,” explains Dr. MacKinnon. “With The Curiosity Project, I ask students to select one area of social psychology. Through the semester, though their own research, they become experts in these areas.”

Students write a series of ten learning logs about their project. They begin by writing about why they chose the topic and what they already know about it.

“They build their knowledge as the semester progresses,” says Dr. MacKinnon. “The learning logs don’t have a word count attached to it, but the students are so excited by what they’re learning, they often write many essays worth of text. They’re so excited about learning that it doesn’t seem like work.”

Sarah MacLeod was a paid TA in the pilot year of The Curiosity Project, but came back as a volunteer TA in this, the second offering of this innovative class.

“Many students are quite nervous, and frankly scared, when they first learn about The Curiosity Project,” says MacLeod. “They remain a bit apprehensive for the first few weeks, but slowly begin to find a groove. Some students begin with a narrow view or opinion about their topic. It’s extremely fascinating to watch these opinions change or at least broaden as the semester goes on.”

MacLeod came back as a volunteer TA because she believes learning can be enjoyable. She also enjoys the fact that students are giving each other useful and constructive feedback through online forums and weekly discussions.

"Many students have said that they have learned and retained more with The Curiosity Project than most other courses that they have taken at a university level," says MacLeod, "Even though the course load is quite large, many also enjoyed the process and were happy to do the work."

Meet three of UPEI’s author/editors

UPEI is celebrating the culture of writing and publishing in its Faculty of Arts at an event this week. Meet three of the author/editors whose work is being showcased at the Faculty of Arts Book Launch.

Dr. John McIntyre, Associate Professor of English at UPEI, co-edited the book Rereading the New Criticism, published by Ohio State University Press. Here, he speaks with the UPEI research blog about his book.

Dr. Ann Braithwaite, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at UPEI, co-edited Rethinking Women’s and Gender Studies published by Routedge. She sat down with the UPEI Research blog to discuss the book.

Dr. Richard Raiswell, Associate Professor of History, is co-editor of The Devil in Society in Premodern Europe, published by the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies. 

The Faculty of Arts Book Launch celebrates nine books from seven authors and editors. The event begins at 4:30 on Wednesday, January 16 in the Faculty Lounge of UPEI’s Main Building. View the event page for more information and a complete list of titles.

Watch: Education for Innovation

A recent study of Canadian students tells us they like school, but they dislike learning. At the next Research on Tap, Dr. Sandy McAuley will present his ideas for how we can better engage students by challenging them to problems, rather than filling them with knowledge.

Research on Tap begins at 7 pm, Tuesday, January 8 at The Pourhouse, above The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse in Charlottetown.

In this video, Dr. McAuley lays out the central ideas for his discussion.

Research on Tap is a series of public discussions led by UPEI researchers. For more information, contact Dave Atkinson at 620-5117 or

2012: The year in research

In January, we profiled UPEI’s newest Canada Research Chair. Dr. Sophie St-Hilaire is UPEI’s CRC in Integrated Health Research for Sustainable Aquaculture. Read about her in our post Sustainable Aquaculture.

Dr. Michael van den Heuvel, UPEI’s Canada Research Chair in Watershed Ecological Integrity, launched a three year project to build a monitoring network in the waters of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Read about it in our post Keeping an eye on the Northumberland Strait.

UPEI Business student Haley Beer wrote an award-winning paper about applying business practices to not-for-profit organizations. Read about it in “We can help them help more people.”

In early February, UPEI’s Office of Research Development changed its name to Research Services. Find out why at ORD becomes Research Services.

Along with the name change, Research Services shook things up by launching its new web-fillable forms. Read about them in Save a tree. Use our fillable PDF forms.

Dr. Trina Bailey at the Atlantic Veterinary College knows about knee injuries. She had her ACL damaged while hopping between rocks at Nova Scotia’s Peggy’s Cove. She’s investigating new treatments for the equivalent injury in dogs. Read about it “There has to be a better way.”

Dr. Robert Hurta was awarded funding for his research by the TELUS Motorcycle Ride for Dad. The group funds prostate cancer research. Learn more about the project at our post Watch: Bikers, and blueberries, and cancer.

Dr. Leigh O’Brien was a Fulbright Visiting Specialist at the University of Prince Edward Island. Her research into the challenges of students with special needs is both professional and personal. Learn about it in Professional expertise, personal passion.

Dr. Don Desserud, UPEI’s Dean of Arts and a professor of political science led a Research on Tap event entitled “Is it time we elected the Governor General.” Read his central arguments here.

The international media is following closely the progress of an exciting new drug that could be a useful tool in the fight against stroke. Did you know about its roots at UPEI? Read about it at Promising new stroke drug’s UPEI connection.

Dr. Richard Raiswell, assistant professor of history, wants his students to have first-hand knowledge of the ancient books he discusses in his classes. That’s why he set up a video link to the University of Toronto’s archives. Read about it at Old books, new technology.

Dr. Malcolm Murray, professor of philosophy, moonlights as an accomplished playwright. Read about a staging of his latest play, appropriately named, The Philosopher.

The UPEI Research Blog ran a series of videos featuring the research of the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiological Research (CVER). Watch: Maritime Quality Milk around the world, CVER in Southeast Asia, and AVC Research in Chile.

Dr. Ian Dowbiggin, professor of history, writes a blog for Psychology Today. Read one of his posts, hosted on the UPEI Research Blog, here.

June Countryman, assistant professor of music, is conducting research on some of the more playful ways children develop languages. Read about them at Playground songs, chants, and rhymes are forms of literacy.

Dr. Joshua MacFadyen, a research associate of the Institute of Island Studies, co-curated an exhibit at the Confederation Centre for the Arts. Read about it in PEI National Park: a story told in photos.

The UPEI Research Blog began a series of articles on the Student as Scholar initiative. Read about them in “We want to inspire creative thinkers”, Research as Learning, and Learning outside the book. Look for more of these articles in 2013.

In July, we introduced you to the new Margaret and Wallace McCain Chair in Human Development and Health. Learn more about Dr. William Montelpare’s research here.

Dr. Bruce Craig, of the history department, led a Research on Tap about the US election and boldly predicted Barack Obama to be the winner using indicators from history. Read about it here.

Dr. Marina Silva, associate professor of biology, launched a project in the fall where PEI residents can help track the movements and population of red foxes through a new website. Read about it at Spot a red fox? Report it at

Dr. Jim Sentance, professor of economics at UPEI, weighed into the hot topic of the proposed Harmonized Sales Tax on PEI. Read about it at Hate the politics, not the tax.

Dr. Adam Fenech, director of UPEI’s new Climate Lab, led a Research on Tap with his weather predictions for the winter of 2013. Watch his overview here and read a roundup of the discussion here.

Dr. Dan Hurnik is UPEI’s Industry Chair in Swine Research. He’s working to help detect infectious diseases with a new social media for pig vets. Read about it here.

Dr. Ian Dohoo has been at the Atlantic Veterinary College since it was literally a hole in the ground. Read about his incredible career in The godfather of epidemiology.

Dr. Phillip Smith, professor of psychology, is leading the PEI collection efforts for the International Parenting Survey. Find out how 15 minutes of your time can help influence policy on the Island here.

PEI dads and mums: participate in the International Parenting Survey!

The University of Prince Edward Island invites PEI parents of children aged 2-12 years to complete the International Parenting Survey. It takes just 15-20 minutes and will help Canadian researchers and policymakers better understand challenges and needs of parents.

“Parents across the country and around the world are taking this survey,” says Dr. Philip Smith, professor of psychology at UPEI and co-investigator with the International Parenting Survey. “The data collected on PEI will be used to compare our population with others around the world, but it will also give researchers and policymakers here a good indication of the challenges faced by Island parents.”

The anonymous survey asks parents about their child’s behaviour, their confidence in responding to problems, how they manage their child’s behaviour, and their preferences for how to get support in their parenting.

Data collection on Prince Edward Island is being led at UPEI by Dr. Smith, with the assistance of honours psychology student Elena Buliga. Dr. Smith says researchers are hoping for participation from both mothers and fathers in the survey.

“In other jurisdictions, they’re getting much more participation from mums than dads,” says Dr. Smith. “In fact, 92% of parents who took the survey in Ontario and Alberta were mothers. We’d love to have a more balanced reflection. We, of course, very much want mothers to participate, but we hope fathers will take a few minutes to complete the survey as well.”

Parents can find out more information and take the survey, in English and French, at

Dave Atkinson, Research Communications