Thursday, 17 December 2015

Creating Cognitive Conflict

Creating “Cognitive Conflict” 

When I teach Indices I usually give this sort of worksheet. Which I think is ok, I have insisted that they must show their working and by the end I can gauge whether the student understands the concept or not.

After hearing Dr Malcolm Swan talk about “creating conflict", I wondered what that would look like in practice. I then came across this absolute cracker from Andrew Stadel (@mr_stadel)on his blog. Andrew gave them this worksheet (below) in which all the questions have been answered incorrectly. When I initially looked at this I did think this was not as powerful as a worksheet mixed with correct and incorrect answers. The richness of this activity is because all of the answers are common misconceptions and as Dylan Wiliams said: "good feedback causes thinking" I think the same applies to questions - "A good question causes thinking". 

After hearing Malcolm Swan speak about “creating conflict”, I believe this hits the spot and it places the student on the back foot and creates conflict.

For many students when they see:

Question 1, creates conflict with many students because they believe it to be correct, when I am adamant that none of the answers are correct - let the battle commence! Suddenly between the two students they start making suggestions as to what it could be. 

Another favourite of mine is question 5. This is a classic misconception that exposes students who do not have an understanding that the power of a half is the same as the square root.
One question which caused a lot of discussion among the mathematics teachers I showed this to was question 3.

Some teachers were not happy with this question, which to me means it is causing conflict with them, and therefore likely to cause discussion within the classroom.

How do I use it?
I believe the activity works best in pairs with the sheet printed and laminated with a set of post-it notes. I like students to work together so they can share solutions, argue in more logical and in reasoned ways which allows them access to mathematics and to take more ownership. It’s much more fun to try to think and reach solutions collaboratively so students don’t feel so isolated and are less likely to think of the task as a threatening business. 
The post-it notes allow me to see which students are making progress, and which students might need some support. It allows me to check their reasoning, and also to share best practice with the class.
After they have completed the activity - I then ask them to write up the correct method and answer in their exercise book. 

I write this blog and @robertkaplinsky throws this into the mix, another great idea, something else to try out.

If you have any thoughts or perhaps similar activities please share them in the comments section below.