Plenary Speaker Profile (2017)
K. Ann Renninger
Professor of Educational Studies
Swarthmore College
What is the relation between student interest and the development and deepening of STEM learning?

This talk will focus on the power of interest for deep learning in STEM, its malleability and its potential to develop. The triggering of interest (e.g. in solving applied problems, physics) initiates productive engagement and the potential for optimal motivation. Findings from neuroscience indicate that the triggering of interest results in an activation of the reward circuitry, providing an explanation of the facilitative effect of interest and insight into the benefits of both enabling and sustaining its development. Discussion will address differences among learners with less and more developed interest, and ways to support students with both profiles to develop and deepen interest and learning in STEM.

K. Ann Renninger is Dorwin P. Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action, and Chair of the Educational Studies Department at Swarthmore College. A former teacher, Ann has worked with teachers in classrooms at all grade levels (pre-K-16). Her research focuses on motivation and learning, specifically the benefit of supporting students to develop interest. Ann’s studies have been conducted across a variety of contexts both in and out-of-school, including children's play and students' work with: expository text, Latin, mathematical word problems, and science. Her studies are typically undertaken in collaboration with practitioners. She is co-editor of the American Educational Research Association volume, Interest in Mathematics and Science Learning (AERA, 2015), and recently co-authored The Power of Interest for Motivation and Engagement (Routledge, 2016).