Conflicted about cognitive conflict

Evidence into Practice

I’ve written before about the importance of challenging children’s misconceptions when it comes to teaching.

“Psychologists from Piaget to Sweller couch learning in terms of the acquisition and refinement of schema. One of the limitations, I hypothesise, of direct instruction techniques is the fact that students do not come to us ‘tabula rasa’ – rather they come with many preconceptions already in place. These preconceptions – Geary dubs them ‘folk physics’ or ‘folk biology’, etc – are sometimes extraordinarily difficult to change; even after the scientific knowledge has been taught and recalled successfully under exam conditions.”

Constructivist models of learning tend to focus on the role of cognitive conflict in the successful challenging of misconceptions. Cognitive conflict is the term educationalists use for the idea of cognitive dissonance and can be broadly defined as the mental discomfort produced when someone is confronted with new information that contradicts their prior beliefs…

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