Why Does Dissonance Provoke Curiosity in Some But Rejection From Others?

It has been a while since posting anything in my Question Quest but this question has been developing over the past few days.

Whilst at ULearn there was lots of discussion about the ideas being presented in keynotes, workshops etc. but also about educational ideas that have been shared over the year.

The most interesting conversations for me were about when people disagreed with the ideas being presented. When these ideas caused dissonance in people’s minds there seemed to be 2 main reactions: curiosity to find out more OR outright rejection of either the idea and/or of the person presenting those ideas.

I wonder why there is such extreme reactions to when our minds encounter dissonance? Is this linked at all with Growth vs Fixed Mindsets?


How Might We purposefully develop students’ learning dispositions?

At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we focus on developing both academic and personal excellence. This mirrors recent changes globally in education where learning dispositions are becoming a more important focus for many schools.

So far we have been focusing on doing this in our Learning Hubs (our version of an advisory system). But there are also moves amongst some staff to have these being developed within the learning modules as well. This makes sense. I can think of last term where I focused on developing students curiosity as well as increasing their skill level within my robotics class.

We have 10 learning dispositions we focus on called the Hobsonville Habits:

Hobsonville Habits courtesy of Sally Hart

Hobsonville Habits courtesy of Sally Hart

This term we are focusing on making the learning more explicit for students. They have eportfolios set up to track their own progress and need teachers to help advise them to tag their progress accordingly – learning areas, Habits, phase of our Learning Design Model etc.

As an attempt to make the Habits explicit, our Learning Community (Taheretikitiki with the other coaches being Megan, Lea, Bryce and Danielle) are taking on a Hobsonville Habit Challenge. Each week this term we are challenging each other to share how they are using 1 of the Habits.

  • Week 1: Purposeful
  • Week 2: Refective
  • Week 3: Curious
  • Week 4: Resourceful
  • Week 5: Contributive
  • Week 6: Adventurous
  • Week 7: Creative
  • Week 8: Resilient
  • Week 9: Compassionate
  • Week 10: Responsive

Students and teachers are going to share on a wall in our area plus on social media using #hobbyhabitschallenge how they (or someone else they notice) are using that habit.

My modules really kick into gear this week so I have been purposeful in planning to develop dispositions amongst the lesson plans (helped in massive amounts by the Key Competencies for the Future book I finished reading last week!). Will let you know how this develops over the term to see if I get better at doing this (already seems better in my head at least than just doing a tick box “of course I taught that Key Competency” type approach I have done in the past!). For a great example of how this can work see the section in Sally’s post on how her and Lisa purposefully focused on 4 habits for their Thought in Sport module.

How do you develop learning dispositions with your students?


This post is Day 27 of My Questioning Quest

Why do we find it so hard to switch off?

I have noticed recently (in myself and in many others) that we as teachers seem to find it extremely difficult to switch off from our jobs.

It’s the weekend at the end of our first week back and many of my PLN are currently at Edu Camp Auckland. Others who aren’t there are sending tweets that pretty much apologise for not being there but promising to check in on the hashtag throughout the day. The recent holidays saw lots of conferences occurring where similar situations happened each time.

Twitter chats bring on the same type of comments. Those heavily involved sharing their ideas throughout the hour, supplemented by those apologising for not being able to make it or for only being able to pop into the chat briefly.


Other teachers in the last break were going on overseas holidays excited at the chance to catch up on educational readings – those books that look like they will help us improve but there was just no time during term. Do other professions take their professional development reading with them on break???

I know my connections online are all extremely committed professionals who not only want to improve their practice but want to help others do the same. I’m also certain that there are thousands of other educators around New Zealand (and possibly millions around the world) who are doing the same things we are.

I am currently looking at taking up some more opportunities to get involved further in the education system and talked last night with my partner about the implications of this for our family. Her response: “it’s what you do.”

Why is it that as educators we find it so hard to switch off from learning, discussing, reflecting etc.?


This post is Day 26 of My Questioning Quest. It was prompted by observations of myself and my PLN plus this awesome post by Brie Jessen-Vaughan on switching off from twitter for 6 weeks and is feeling so refreshed because of it.

What If you had $200,000 to spend on research in your school?

What would you focus the research on?
Who would you get involved as the researchers?
How long would you run the research for?
What would you hope to gain out of it?
How would you share these findings?
What would the funding be spent on that you couldn’t do as a school already?
How important is it for your school and your learners to find this information out?
Is it possible to do these things without the funding?
How will you try to get funding?
How might you make the research happen without the funding?

This post is Day 25 of My Question Quest

How Might We encourage young people to stay hopeful, without sweeping hard questions under the carpet?


I am currently reading Key Competencies for the Future by Rosemary Hipkins, Rachel Bolstad, Sally Boyd and Sue McDowall and have found it incredibly inspiring. At the end of a chapter about making meaning across the different disciplines, they pose 6 questions for educators to discuss. One of these questions is the (very slightly reworded) question for today:

How Might We encourage young people to stay hopeful, without sweeping hard questions under the carpet?

To me, this is a key challenge as we strive to make learning more authentic. So many of the issues facing the world at the moment and into the future can be such powerful learning prompts but so overwhelming.

As a social scientist I completely believe we have to embrace controversy and complexity in the classroom and have always striven to do so. This term I am co-teaching a module with Danielle Myburgh called Apocalypse Now which is Continue reading

Why do kids lose interest in Science?

This post is 100% prompted by the awesome time my family had this morning with Nano Girl. Last week she put out the call for kids to do science experiments with so my partner and I took our 4 1/2 year old daughter along today (who was extremely excited to get to meet a “real scientist” as she kept saying at home).


Starting off with a small group of 6 it quickly ballooned into a large group of excited budding scientists.


From fun, easy experiments with ingredients you have in your cupboard at home such as baking soda, vinegar and detergent through to liquid nitrogen and hydrophobic polymers, the kids were having a ball!


Most of the kids there were 10 or under and they found it all amazing. As we left a few older kids were arriving so impressions may change but I noticed that the younger kids were all vocally involved but as the ages went up there were a few very vocal boys whilst the girls got quieter. That all said, it was an amazing morning where Nano Girl definitely inspired curiosity and perhaps some passionate future scientists.

What happens during school that stops kids being so excited about Science (and in particular girls)?

This post is day 13 of my Question Quest.

How might we use e-tools to amplify the learning in Design Thinking?

In teaching, if an e-tool will amplify the learning we are aiming for then it is worth using that tool. Today I started musing on the learning occurring when I use Design Thinking in my classes and where e-tools may have an amplification effect.

Late last year I wrote about why I feel Design Thinking is a powerful pedagogical approach and recently I wrote about what this looks like for one of my modules.

Within this module students used e-tools to:

  • collaborate on Google Docs when generating and refining questions
  • a variety of tools for prototyping – Minecraft, house design sites, Google sites
  • a couple had website products they developed

Now these are all good uses of e-tools but I don’t feel they are unlocking an extra level of learning that other tools wouldn’t. I’m sure there is an opportunity here, I just can’t see it yet.

So, how might we use e-tools to amplify the already awesome learning that occurs during the Design Thinking process?


This post was Day 9 of My Questioning Quest.

What If school wasn’t compulsory but learning was?

How would schools need to change to stay a part of learning pathways?

What do we lose by not having compulsory curricula?

What do we gain by not having compulsory curricula?

Who else would start becoming a major part of peoples’ learning? Businesses? Churches? Community workers?

Would there be impacts on health and welfare?

How would learning be evidenced?

Why? (for all of the questions above!)

This question storm is Day 6 of my Question Quest.

What if we rewarded questions instead of answers?

While I have been interested in developing curiosity and creativity for a while, I have been very influenced lately by A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger.

One of the things I have been pondering lately is that if the ability to question is an important skill for students to develop, how do we recognise those students leading the way? Schools regularly reward students who can provide great answers, how could we reward those who provide great questions?

Could this be how we unlock and develop the creativity and innovation in students? Provide something to strive towards.

I’m imagining school prizegivings where alongside the top sports people and top subject prize winners there are awards for the students who asked such amazing questions that it unlocked a whole new area of inquiry for them or fellow students.

School honour boards replaced (or to give people something to hold onto, perhaps alongside) by Question hall of fames. In fact these don’t have to be school-wide, you could implement this in your class straight away. It’s something I’m planning to do next term!

Or, go along the path that Meghan Cureton from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta has and create an honours programme for those questioners and innovators. Their Innovation Diploma is an incredibly inspiring programme that I am already bugging our Principal to consider how we could adapt this for our school (and we don’t even have final year students for 3 1/2 years yet!).

How else could we reward questions and questioners in our schools?

This post is Day 5 of my Questioning Quest.

What if assessment was replaced with evidence of learning?

I am just one of many who believe that the way forward for education is to have assessment that falls naturally out of the learning. This stops assessment being the driver and puts the important thing – the learning – back in focus.

So much of our education system here in NZ – and what I see, read and hear about from overseas – is happening the wrong way around. The importance of assessment in an outcomes based, quality assurance system that effectively pits schools against each other in competition means that we can’t make progress in getting the learning to be the driver.

I propose a shift. Lets stop talking about assessment and just start focusing on evidence of learning. In this fashion, the evidence should naturally fall out of the learning occurring. You may still choose to do this with a formal assessment. But now it’s an opt-in system rather than an opt-out system.

We all know the quality of learning that occurs when it can be focused on authentic tasks and this allows that to occur far more regularly. I wonder how long it will take for NZQA and other qualifications authorities to catch up?

This post was Day 4 of my Questioning Quest