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

  • Learners could 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 an art lesson that has some dissonance between the title and their first impression of the image, provoking them to wonder how the title fits and to explore the tension it creates.
  • Learners can be asked to 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 behaviors accepted in competitive sports (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.