Energizing Learning: The Instructional Power of Conflict

Jan. 28, 2009

Source: Educational Researcher, Vol. 38, No. 1, 37-51 (2009).

Intellectual conflict may be an important instructional tool, because of its potential constructive outcomes. However, conflict is rarely structured in instructional situations because of its potential destructive outcomes. Many educators may be apprehensive about instigating intellectual conflict among students because of the lack of operational procedures to guide them. Ideally, operational procedures should be based on social science theory that is validated by research. Constructive controversy is an instructional procedure that is designed to create intellectual conflict among students and that meets these criteria. The authors of this paper summarize the theory underlying constructive controversy. They also review the results of their meta-analysis of the validating research. The positive outcomes indicate that intellectual conflict can have important and positive effects on student learning and well-being.

Updated: Apr. 06, 2009