Cognitive conflict

It is generally agreed that moral thinking can only be developed through engaging in a good deal of debate, that stimulates us to grapple actively with moral issues in order to formulate better arguments (Kohlberg et al., 1975).The method of inducing cognitive conflict involves learners becoming confused by discrepant information, and then resolving the confusion by forming a more advanced and comprehensive position. The method is also the dialectic process of Socratic teaching. The students give a view, the teacher asks questions which get them to see the inadequacies of their views, and they are then motivated to formulate better positions

One of Kholberg findings was that those students who reported that they were most “interested” in the discussions made the greatest amount of change. This finding is in keeping with Piagetian theory that thinking is develop, not because they are shaped through external reinforcements but, because their curiosity is aroused.

The findings from the different research studies in Northern Ireland (Barton & McCully 2009; Bell et al 2010) indicated that young people

  1. found history relevant only when it was related to the more recent past; and that
  2. they sought greater relevance in linking past and present than was likely to be offered in school.

The purpose of these resources is to provoke thinking about the past both in its appropriate historical context and in the context of the present to explore history’s relationship with the concept of citizenship and ‘shaping the future’. As the ‘Facing History and Ourselves’ project, studying history is about analysing choices. Small choices, big choices, sometimes tragic choices in order to be capable of making better choices in the future, and in that sense to change the course of history:

  • by asking challenging questions;
  • by empathising rather than stereotyping;
  • by thinking critically rather than conforming; and
  • by making moral and ethical choices that are thoughtful, tolerant and humane

The Facing History and Ourselves journey: see