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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Stimulating Issue Conflict to Support Engaged Student Learning

Granger Macy, Cornelia Rae.

Drawing on concepts from the learning organization and experiential learning, this article presents a highly student centered approach to student learning based in concepts of dialog and conflict. Students bring their personally developed theories into the classroom, many of which can be misleading and inhibit their learning. This paper develops the idea of dialog or generative-conversations that presume an understanding of other viewpoints and seek to uncover the assumptions and viewpoints underlying personal theories. Learning methods based in conflict and using dialog can help to encourage the type of deep learning needed to overcome student personal theories and invigorate student understanding of the discipline.
Many may believe that conflict should be avoided. Indeed, personal conflict is usually destructive. However, issue conflict can encourage deeper cognitive processes, and new ways of understanding an issue. Guidelines are presented to aid teachers and student in distinguishing issue conflict from personal conflict. In this paper, we will carefully distinguish beneficial from harmful forms of conflict and explain the value of conflict in encouraging deeper learning. The paper will also present a number of viable methods to induce beneficial conflict in the classroom such as debates, dialogic analysis, and other collaborative methods. A detailed description of each approach is provided along with appendices that could be used as handouts to help prepare students to use key techniques. The appropriate use of each method will be discussed along with advantages and disadvantages that would be relevant to its use. The discussion will be supported with relevant research and evidence from the classroom. Suggestions are offered on opportunities to develop a scholarship of teaching and learning based in the utilization of conflict. The article closes with some reflections on usage of conflict


Granger Macy  (United States)
Associate Professor
School of Business
Ithaca College

Dr. Granger Macy earned his Ph.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington. He is presently an Associate Professor of Management at Ithaca College. Dr. Macy has published widely in management, organization development, organizational behavior, and leadership. His current research interests are focused on values, leadership, and conflict management. He has published articles in numerous journals including the Journal of Organizational Change and Development, Innovative Higher Education, and Organization Development Journal, among others

Cornelia Rae  (United States)
Assistant Professor of Psychology

Tompkins Cortland Community College

  • Conflict
  • Dialog
  • Active Leaning
  • Experiential Learning

(30 min Conference Paper, English)