Strategies for Engagement #10

…to consider contrasts and dissonance

Encouraging learners to engage with contrasts and dissonance (clashes between different frameworks or pieces of information) can provoke them to rethink their assumptions. Researching contrasts can make students more aware; for example the contrast between the calories eaten per day by an average person in Europe or North America compared to the calories eaten in the Two-Thirds World. Dissonance, if used appropriately, can create a productive kind of unease; an example would be using body language that did not match verbal language in drama to stimulate student reflection.

  • Learners could, for instance, discuss care for the environment in a littered classroom and have their attention drawn to the dissonance between fine words and actual surroundings so as to focus on the question of responsibility.
  • Learners could encounter a work of art in a personal development (PSHE) lesson that has some dissonance between the title and their first impression of the image, provoking them to wonder how the title fits and explore the tension it creates.
  • Learners can be asked compare and contrast traditional images of the nativity and images of a modern Christmas, or the way we say we should treat others and some behaviours accepted in competitive sport (as in this example).

In examples like these, making contrasts and tensions apparent to students and having them engage in thinking them through can promote serious reflection on important questions.

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