Expectation failure

(adapted from Ken Bain, What the Best College Teachers Do, 2004)


What is it?

A situation in which existing mental models of reality will lead to faulty expectations.


We learn from our mistakes often better than from our successes.

How to create an expectation failure?

An expectation failure is usually created from some sort of intellectual challenge or cognitive dissonance. Teachers must carefully select mental models or paradigms which students bring to class that can cause this incongruity. We need to put the learners in a situation where their existing paradigm does not work, and then encourage them to rebuild it from there.

Learners must care that their mental model does not work strongly enough to stop and grapple with the issue at hand.

Provide emotional support if needed

Learners must be able to handle the emotional trauma that sometimes accompanies challenges to longstanding beliefs, especially when dealing with most religious convictions, which are very difficult for students to question, let alone consider alternatives.