‘Opposites attract’ may sound as a plausible advice used in dating site commercials but would be a questionable approach in education. As a deeply moral enterprise education values sensitivity in teaching and instruction to be adaptive to the learner. This must be since we proclaim that the learner is at the center of the whole enterprise. A crude “pass or fail’; “attained or not”; “true or false” is unlike and in contrast with (good) teaching and (deep) learning (1). “There will always be another approach to reach a good solution” might be the typical reaction by a teacher when a pupil gets stuck in a difficult assignment. Indeed, trying in (a) different way(s) may contribute to consolidation of a learning result. `That is at least what Herbart in his teaching pedagogy advocated (2). There is no good or bad in learning; only multiple ways in which a learning process unfolds to reach acceptable outcomes (3). If this is true than there is no case to be made for teaching aimed at avoiding mistakes. It may be even be a good strategy to create mishaps, perhaps.
So, what to think of a research study in case based learning that offered a course in writing in which both good and bad examples of texts were presented? The assumption was that by contrasting exemplars learners would focus on the essential elements of a good writing piece. It turned out that this contrasting approach was successful in creating good stories by the learners. Students were better able to identify the weak parts in their own writing.
It certainly could be the case that analyzing good and bad exemplars elicits an active comparison and processing. The idea is being advocated quite strongly currently (1). And it may be true that in this way students develop a concrete and fuller understanding of what key criteria are in the assessment of their work. But why then did students learn most about the weak parts of their writing? Is focusing on the “good and the bad” a good strategy? Or is it more that capturing similarities and differences, looking for generalizations, and synthesizing key elements describe the learning process more adequately? It may be not so much the meeting of good and bad but the get-together of multiple perspectives which laid open insights that prospered students.
Contrasting case instruction can improve self-assessment of writing, by Xiaodong Lin Siegler, David Shaenfield, & Anastasia D. Elder. In: Education Tech Research Dev (2015) 63:517–537.
Published online: 20 June 2015, Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2015
Link: DOI 10.1007/s11423-015-9390-9