During my years in the Swiss education system, frustration ensued early: Already in elementary school, I was told to sit still, keep quiet, listen, and focus on just one subject at a time. However, this conflicted with my desire to ask questions as they came up, and to understand how various topics connected. Fortunately, at home, I soon discovered the internet and the world of computers: My curiosity could run free on Wikipedia and in niche interest forums, as my questions were always welcome here. Before I knew it, I started skipping homework and studying to instead spend more time online, gradually reducing my academic efforts to a minimum. Although my school eventually noticed my disengagement, even allowing me to skip a grade and enter an accelerated program, it was already too late by then; the virtual world had taken over as my preferred place for learning. I took a particular liking to computer games and even played League of Legends competitively for a while!
I eventually graduated from high school in 2016, disappointed with my twelve years of formal education. Determined to serve in schools to help provide children with the learning experiences my younger self had wished for, I enlisted for civilian service. I first went to teach at a special education school, and thereafter worked as a childcare worker at a daycare center. Through these experiences, I came to wonder: As children enter school, why is there a shift away from letting children actively explore, play, and inquire, instead positioning them as passive recipients of knowledge for much of the time? Did this not make for a clear mismatch between children’s minds and school?
Without really knowing what I was getting myself into, I concluded that these questions were a case for Psychology, and that that was what I should go study. So, I enrolled in a corresponding bachelor’s program at a small university in Zurich. My first year was challenging, as I lacked basic study skills and also juggled part-time jobs to fund my studies. I could not turn to my family for advice either, given I was the first of us to go to college. Still, my growing fascination with the subject kept me going, and I did better every month. However, in learning about psychology’s subdisciplines, I struggled to identify which investigated the mismatch between children’s minds and school—was it cognitive, developmental, differential, neurocognitive psychology, or even psychometrics?
I went on to use the remainder of my undergraduate years as a broad exploration phase, and only as my studies drew to an end, I realized there was no single best-fitting field for me. Instead, I concluded that to study children’s minds, the key lay in synthesizing ideas and methods from cognition, pedagogy, child development, instructional design, and adjacent areas. Then, a lucky coincidence led me to a research internship at ETH Zurich, where I was introduced to the Learning Sciences, a research community leveraging exactly this interdisciplinary approach to investigate and enhance human learning. I was hooked and started searching for Learning Sciences master’s programs at once. LMU Munich ended up my first choice, and in September 2021, I commenced my studies in Germany.
In my first semester in Munich, I took a course on cognitive development with Prof. Beate Sodian. Here, I encountered the literature characterizing children as “little scientists” for the very first time. I was blown away—there was all this research investigating children’s minds, using creative yet rigorous research methods. I swiftly applied to join Prof. Sodian’s research group as an intern, where I am still working today. My enjoyment working on questions around the cognitive development of children has convinced me that I want to continue doing research with kids, focusing on the drivers and mechanisms of their learning, and in what ways these can be enriched.
I consider myself very fortunate that observing and thinking about how children’s minds work is what I now get to do on a daily basis!
Ultimately, I seek to use research-based insights to create formal and informal learning experiences that encourage children in their love for learning and foster their basic scientific literacy. Moreover, I aim to engage in science communication directed at educators and parents, sharing our current understanding of children’s minds in an accessible manner.
In my free time, I like to wander around cities and go on hikes, take deep dives into whatever topic piques my curiosity and blog about what I learn, play chess (terribly), and play some video games whenever I feel nostalgic!