July 1, 2022


It's Your Education

Leveraging Cognitive Dissonance to Enhance Student Learning

Leveraging Cognitive Dissonance to Enhance Student Learning

Most likely you recall the story of William Miller, the Baptist preacher who predicted that Jesus Christ’s 2nd coming would manifest on Oct. 22, 1844. When the arrival unsuccessful to come about as Miller foretold, many of his followers turned absent from the Millerite church in disappointment and disillusionment.

But some did not. In the encounter of Miller’s unsuccessful prophesies, genuine believers observed methods to preserve their previously beliefs.

Loyalists reinterpreted Miller’s prophesies. Some insisted that Christ had returned to earth spiritually on Oct. 22, marking the beginning of a new age of atonement. Many others claimed that the date witnessed the cleaning of the heavenly sanctuary, a precursor to Christ’s next coming.

These thoughts helped shape several religious sects, which includes the Seventh Working day Adventist Church and the Baháʼí religion.

We’ve all heard versions of Thomas Huxley’s 1870 phrase “the wonderful tragedy of Science—the slaying of a wonderful hypothesis by an ugly actuality.” Points may possibly certainly be stubborn items, but prior beliefs and ideological commitments generally trump details.

Why do debatable concepts persist even after they’ve been identified as into question?

The social psychologist Leon Festinger’s concept of cognitive dissonance delivers a greatly cited remedy. Just since an plan has been disconfirmed empirically is not sufficient to discredit it. Alternatively than rejecting the earlier suggestions, people come across strategies to reconcile, justification, rationalize and modify their prior sights in order to lower the dissonance or tension or contradictions involving all those earlier beliefs and recent realities.

In other terms, we see what we want to see.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when our predictions, choices and predilections are disconfirmed. As we will see, we can harness this thought to improve pupil learning.

Disconfirmation bias—the inclination to uncritically settle for proof that supports our beliefs and actively criticize, refute or low cost proof that challenges that belief—is particularly widespread, I regret to say, in the area of training.

The human tendency to cling to dubious, doubtful or even discredited strategies is as correct in larger schooling as in any other domain.

  • Why do students persist in examine habits—like cramming or mass exercise or looking through and rereading a looking at passage, instead of active retrieval, spaced repetition or outlining a complicated concept—that turn out to be suboptimal or counterproductive?
  • Why do schools go on to supply remedial classes as the remedy to educational unpreparedness, even even though educational evidence signifies that this sort of classes are generally a black gap?
  • Why never instructors make greater use of empirically validated ideal practices, these as frequent quizzing, timely opinions, demanding learners to reply “deep” questions and combining verbal and graphical and abstract and concrete representations of principles and data?

Partly out of ignorance, inertia and instinct. In part, mainly because the position quo seems easier or demonstrates someone’s self-fascination. But also due to confirmation bias, the tendency to lookup for, favor and interpret details in means that verify earlier held beliefs and pre-existing practices.

My takeaway: however unnerving, we have to normally be prepared to query the position quo.

Recently, some difficult thoughts have been raised about a number of greatly touted academic innovations.

Generally, of study course, the evidence is knotty.

Choose the instance of math pathways, which offer you unique sequences of math courses for group university pupils who intend to big in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, or STEM fields and element pedagogies that emphasize lively solving of serious-environment issues in small groups.

Randomized controlled experiments observed that this tactic did enhance the selection of math credits gained but did not result in an raise in the students’ tutorial development or diploma completion more than all. As a consequence, system content material and pedagogies have been through major redesign.

If any institutions ought to be eager to embrace proof-centered practice—replicable demanding analysis with verifiable outcomes—it should to be faculties and universities. However all far too normally large training fails to subject its procedures to the exact sorts of near critical scrutiny that we anticipate in other domains.

I am convinced that we can leverage the thought of cognitive dissonance to make improvements to scholar understanding.

How so? Listed here are some methods you can easily adopt.

  1. Inform your pupils to the presumptions, thoughts-sets and biases that interfere with mastering. College students usually enter classes with selected presumptions that can unfavorable have an effect on their finding out. For instance, that they dislike background or they’re bad in math or incapable of mastering a foreign language or understand very best kinesthetically, visually or by way of lectures or, alternatively, by way of conversations. Confront these presumptions head-on and make clear why they are wrong.
  2. Help your college students understand the cognitive distortions that adversely influence our thinking. Too normally, we jump to conclusions. Or motive emotionally. Or overgeneralize, exaggerate or price cut the constructive (or the destructive), or embrace extremely simplistic dualities. Or refuse to modify an opinion inspite of proof to the opposite. Recognizing these distortions is the first phase towards overcoming these cognitive predispositions.
  3. Actively confront affirmation bias, the tendency to cling to preconceived beliefs. Support your learners identify their present presumptions and introduce facts, resources, alternate perspectives and other information and facts that challenges these assumptions. Also, assist your college students to reflect on their emotional resistance to choice viewpoints or explanations.
  4. Obstacle your learners to consider much more deeply. Specifically simply because we have a tendency to reject, dismiss or reduce information that is inconsistent with our pre-present beliefs, vital wondering is necessary. Offer students with a variety of sorts of evidence or sources that can dispel myths, misguided assumptions and erroneous beliefs. Undertake inquiries or investigations that handle existing interpretations, beliefs or perceptions.
  5. Persuade metacognition. Make prospects for self-reflection into your classes. Nurture mindfulness and self-consciousness and bolster students’ skill to track and appraise their mastery of course content and modify their research techniques.

Cognitive dissonance concept rests on the recognition that soreness, strain and stress and anxiety crop up every time there is a stress or contradiction in between pre-existing beliefs and conflicting realities. Persons frequently attempt to cope with this pain through a assortment of mechanisms: denial, evasion and several excuses, rationalizations and justifications.

But mastering involves irritation. Clumsiness, awkwardness and embarrassment usually accompany the early stages of the learning procedure. We reveal our ignorance. We make problems. We get answers erroneous.

Precisely mainly because discovering tends to be annoying, emotionally unpleasant and disgrace-inducing, prosperous finding out necessitates bravery.

It is our position as instructors to challenge learners if we want them to improve and mature cognitively and emotionally. If pupils are not exterior their consolation zone, they’re not likely to actively system information and facts or find out new techniques or internalize a new thought.

To be sure, the have to have to make students unpleasant is in no way an excuse for demeaning, disparaging or patronizing pupils. Our goal—to foster significant and metacognitive thinking—is to build their analytic and evaluative capacities, not to belittle their inherited opinions or deeply held beliefs.

But do make it distinct to your students: complacency undercuts finding out, which automatically needs us to question our presumptions, the typical wisdom and generally approved theories and understandings.

Steven Mintz is professor of history at the College of Texas at Austin.