Ernst von Glasersfeld's answers
January 1999


Subject: Constructivism - cognitive conflict

Prof von Glasersfeld - one quick question: In your opinion, how does cognitive conflict promote learning in science - or does it?

Danielle Duggan

Dear Danielle Duggan,

The answer is as brief as your query: If a student has a theory, say about electric current, that has so far worked for him, he/she is not likely to change it just because the teacher says it's "wrong". But if you give him/her a problem involving electrical switches, lamps, resistors, etc. of which you know that it will show the insufficiency of his theory, he will eventually be ready to listen to a suggestion from you, try it out, and change his theory. If you are a good teacher, you will be satisfied and will refrain from telling the student that he/she now knows how the world works.

Best wishes, EvG




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