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Abstract

This chapter integrates theory, research, and practice on constructive controversy and its role in conflict in interpersonal, intergroup, organizational, and international contexts and in constructive conflict management. In well-structured controversies, participants make an initial judgment, present their conclusions to other group members, are challenged with opposing views, grow uncertain about the correctness of their views, actively search for new information, incorporate others' perspectives and reasoning into their thinking, and reach a new set of conclusions. This process significantly increases the quality of decision making and problem solving, relationships, and psychological health. Although constructive controversy occurs naturally, it may be consciously structured in decision making and learning situations. This involves dividing a cooperative group into two pairs and assigning them opposing positions. Engaging in the constructive controversy procedure skillfully provides and example of how conflict creates positive outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
114 / Small Group Learning in Higher Education
Throughout the southwest region of the United
States there are communities built about a thousand
years ago high on cliffs. The builders and inhabitants,
known as the Anasazi, lived in their cliff dwellings for
almost a hundred years and then abruptly abandoned
them. In a three to four year period, the Anasazi walked
away from their communities and never came back.
Why? No one knows. Many classes are to students what
their cliff dwellings were to the Anasazi. Students en-
roll in a course, pay the tuition, and spend consider-
able time attending class sessions, completing assign-
ments, and passing tests, but when the course is over,
they walk away and intellectually, never come back.
Why? No one knows.
It is possible for students to become so involved
in the subject they are studying that they sparkle with
energy, get deeply involved in the topics being dis-
cussed, rush to the library or internet to get more infor-
mation and resources, continue discussing the topics
over lunch and at night, seek out experts in the field to
consult, and impatiently wait for the next class session
to begin. How do you get students that interested in
what you are teaching? An essential and often over-
looked part of the answer is, “Stir up intellectual con-
flict.”
Conflict gains and holds attention and interest.
All drama, for example, hinges on conflict. When play-
wrights and scriptwriters want to gain and hold view-
ers’ attention, create viewers’ interest and emotional
involvement, and excite and surprise viewers, they cre-
ate a conflict. A general rule for television shows is that
if there is not a conflict portrayed in the first 30 sec-
onds, viewers will change the channel. Creating a con-
flict is an accepted writers’ tool for capturing an audi-
ence. A general rule of modern novels is that if a con-
flict is not created within the first three pages of the
book, the book will not be successful. There should be a
general rule of teaching that states that if an instructor
does not create an intellectual conflict in the first few
minutes of a class period, students will not intellectu-
ally engage in the lesson and their attention will drift
away to other things. By avoiding conflicts, instructors
miss out on valuable opportunities to capture and emo-
tionally involve students and enhance their learning
Intellectual conflict provides the spark that ener-
gizes students to seek out new information and study
harder and longer. By structuring intellectual conflict
in a lesson, instructors can grab and hold students’
attention and energize students to learn at a level be-
yond what they may have intended.
Cooperation and Controversy
Conflict is an inherent part of cooperation. Intel-
lectual conflict among group members, if not essential
for cooperation’s success, has the potential for enhanc-
ing the effectiveness of cooperation. The more coopera-
tive learning is used, the more group members need to
understand how to disagree with each other’s ideas,
conclusions and opinions, and challenge each other’s
reasoning and information in constructive ways.
It is difficult to discuss cooperative learning with-
out discussing intellectual conflicts. There is a dual
relationship between cooperation and conflict (Johnson
& Johnson, 2005, 2007). On the one hand, to be con-
structive, conflict must occur in a cooperative context.
On the other hand, to be most effective, cooperation
must involve conflict among students’ initial: (a) an-
swers and conclusions; (b) strategies for completing
tasks or solving problems, ways in which their groups’
work could be organized, and approaches to complet-
ing assignments; and (c) perspectives, points of view,
and frames of reference. In order for these conflicts to
be managed constructively, students need a procedure
for engaging in intellectual conflicts and to master the
social and cognitive skills inherent in the procedure.
In this chapter, the nature of constructive controversy
will be explained, the instructional procedure will be
discussed, the underlying theory will be outlined, and
the validating research will be discussed.
Constructive Controversy: Energizing Learning
David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson
Part IV: Applications of Small Group Work and a Look to the Future / 115
Nature of Constructive Controversy
Constructive controversy exists when one
person’s ideas, information, conclusions, theories, and
opinions are incompatible with those of another, and
the two seek to reach an agreement (Johnson & Johnson,
1979, 1989, 2007). Constructive controversies involve
what Aristotle called deliberate discourse aimed at syn-
thesizing novel solutions. Related to controversy is cog-
nitive conflict (which occurs when incompatible ideas
exist simultaneously in a person’s mind or when infor-
mation being received does not seem to fit with what
someone already knows). Constructive controversy is
most commonly contrasted with concurrence seeking,
debate, and individualistic learning. Concurrence seek-
ing occurs when members of a group emphasize agree-
ment, inhibit discussion to avoid any disagreement or
arguments, and avoid realistic appraisal of alternative
ideas and courses of action. Concurrence seeking is
close to Janis’ (1982) concept of groupthink (i.e., mem-
bers of a decision-making group set aside their doubts
and misgivings about whatever policy is favored by
the emerging consensus so as to be able to concur with
the other members). Debate exists when two or more
individuals argue positions that are incompatible with
one another and a judge declares a winner on the basis
of who presented the best position. Individualistic ef-
forts exist when individuals work alone without inter-
acting with each other, in a situation in which their
goals are unrelated and independent from each other
(Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 2008).
Constructive Controversy
Instructional Procedure
Have you learned lessons only of those who admired you,
and were tender with you, and stood aside for you?
Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced
themselves against you, and disputed the passage with
you?
Walt Whitman, 1860
A United States history instructor is presenting a
unit on civil disobedience. The instructor notes that in
numerous instances, such as in the civil rights and
antiwar movements, individuals wrestle with the is-
sue of breaking the law to redress a social injustice. In
the civil rights movement in the United States, indi-
viduals broke the law to gain equal rights for minori-
ties. In the past few years, however, prominent public
figures felt justified in breaking laws for personal or
political gain. The central question is, “Is civil disobe-
dience in a democracy constructive or destructive?”
Students are placed in groups of four members and
given the assignments of writing a report and passing
a test on the role of civil disobedience in a democracy.
Each group is divided into two pairs. One pair is given
the assignment of developing and advocating the best
case possible for the constructiveness of civil disobedi-
ence in a democracy and the other pair is given the
assignment of developing and advocating the best case
possible for the destructiveness of civil disobedience
in a democracy. The overall group goal is for students
to reach consensus as to the role of civil disobedience
in a democracy. To develop their positions, students
draw from such sources as the Declaration of Indepen-
dence by Thomas Jefferson, Civil Disobedience by Henry
David Thoreau, Speech at Cooper Union, New York by
Abraham Lincoln, and Letter from Birmingham Jail by
Martin Luther King, Jr. The students are to learn the
information relevant to the issue being studied and
ensure that all other group members learn the informa-
tion, so that: (a) their group can write a high-quality
report on the issue, and (b) all group members can
achieve high scores on tests.
Constructive controversy may be used with al-
most any topic being studied. In doing so, the teacher
organizes students into cooperative learning groups of
four, divides each group into two pairs, assigns the
pro position on an issue to one pair and the con posi-
tion to the other pair, and then guides students through
the following steps (Johnson & Johnson, 1979, 1989,
2007):
1. Research and Prepare a Position: Each pair devel-
ops the position assigned, learns the relevant infor-
mation, and plans how to present the best case pos-
sible to the other pair. This involves both cognitive
generation and cognitive validation. Pairs are en-
couraged to compare notes with pairs from other
groups who represent the same position.
2. Present and Advocate Their Position: Each pair
makes its presentation to the opposing pair. Each
member of the pair has to participate in the presen-
tation. Students are to be as persuasive and con-
vincing as possible. Members of the opposing pair
are encouraged to take notes, listen carefully to learn
the information being presented, and clarify any-
thing they do not understand.
3. Engage in an Open Discussion in Which They Re-
fute the Opposing Position and Rebut Attacks on
Their Own Position: Students argue forcefully and
persuasively for their position, presenting as many
facts as they can to support their point of view. The
group members analyze and critically evaluate the
116 / Small Group Learning in Higher Education
information, rationale, and inductive and deduc-
tive reasoning of the opposing pair, asking them for
the facts that support their point of view. While re-
futing the arguments of the opposing pair, students
rebut attacks on their position. Students keep in
mind that the issue is complex and they need to
know both sides to write a good report.
4. Reverse Perspectives: The pairs reverse perspec-
tives and present each other’s positions. In arguing
for the opposing position, students are forceful and
persuasive. They add any new information that the
opposing pair did not think to present. They strive
to see the issue from both perspectives simulta-
neously.
5. Synthesize and Integrate the Best Evidence and
Reasoning into a Joint Position: The four members
of the group drop all advocacy, and synthesize and
integrate what they know into factual and judgmen-
tal conclusions that are summarized in a joint posi-
tion to which all sides can agree. They may: (a) fi-
nalize a report on the issue, (b) present their conclu-
sions to the class, (c) individually take a test cover-
ing both sides of the issue, and (d) process how well
they worked together.
Theory of Constructive Controversy
Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation
and memory. It instigates invention. It shocks us out of
sheep-like passivity, and sets us at noting and
contriving...conflict is a ‘sine qua non’ of reflection and
ingenuity.
John Dewey
A number of developmental, cognitive, social, and
organizational psychologists have theorized about the
processes through which conflict leads to positive out-
comes. On the basis of their work, we have proposed the
following process (Johnson & Johnson, 1979, 1989, 2007):
1. When individuals are presented with a prob-
lem or decision, they have an initial conclusion
based on categorizing and organizing incom-
plete information, their limited experiences, and
their specific perspective. They have a high de-
gree of confidence in their conclusions (they
freeze the epistemic process).
2. When individuals present their conclusions and
rationales to others, they engage in cognitive re-
hearsal, deepen their understanding of their
positions, and discover higher-level reasoning
strategies.
3. When individuals are confronted with different
conclusions based on other peoples’ informa-
tion, experiences, and perspectives, they become
uncertain as to the correctness of their views and
a state of conceptual conflict or disequilibrium
is aroused. They unfreeze their epistemic pro-
cess.
4. Uncertainty, conceptual conflict, or disequilib-
rium motivates epistemic curiosity, an active
search for: (a) more information and new experi-
ences (increased specific content), and (b) a more
adequate cognitive perspective and reasoning
process (increased validity) in hopes of resolv-
ing the uncertainty.
5. By adapting their cognitive perspectives and rea-
soning through understanding and accommo-
dating the perspectives and reasoning of others,
new reconceptualized and reorganized conclu-
sions are derived. Novel solutions and decisions
that are qualitatively better are detected.
The process may begin again at this point or it
may be terminated by freezing the current conclusion
and resolving any dissonance by increasing the confi-
dence in the validity of the conclusion.
Conditions Determining the
Constructiveness of Controversy
He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and
sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
Edmund Burke
Whether controversy results in positive or nega-
tive consequences largely depends on the conditions
under which it occurs. These conditions include the
context within which the constructive controversy takes
place, the heterogeneity of participants, the distribu-
tion of information among group members, the level of
group members’ social skills, group members’ ability
to engage in rational argument, and the active involve-
ment of all participants (Johnson & Johnson, 1979, 1989,
2007).
Cooperative Goal Structure
The context in which conflicts occur has impor-
tant effects on whether the conflict turns out to be con-
structive or destructive (Deutsch, 1973). There are two
possible contexts for conflict: cooperative and competi-
tive. In a cooperative context, constructive controversy
tends to result in open-minded inquiry which leads to
refined conclusions (Johnson & Johnson, 2007). It also
tends to induce feelings of comfort, pleasure, and help-
fulness in discussing opposing positions, an open-
minded listening to opposing positions, motivation to
Part IV: Applications of Small Group Work and a Look to the Future / 117
hear more about opponents’ arguments, more accurate
understanding of opponents’ positions and perspec-
tives, and the reaching of more integrated solutions
(Johnson & Johnson, 2007; Tjosvold, 1998). These pat-
terns of interaction in turn promote social support and
safety, creativity, performance, and quality solutions
to which participants are highly committed (Tjosvold,
1998). Controversy within a competitive context tends
to induce competence threat and result in closed-
minded rejection of opponents’ ideas and information
while rigidly adhering to the same conclusion (Johnson
& Johnson, 2007; Tjosvold, 1998).
Skilled Disagreement
For successful implementation of constructive
controversy the following norms need to be developed
(Johnson, 2009; Johnson & F. Johnson, 2009).
1. I am critical of ideas, not people. I challenge and
refute the ideas of the other participants, while
confirming their competence and value as indi-
viduals. I do not indicate that I personally reject
them.
2. I separate my personal worth from criticism of
my ideas.
3. I remember that we are all in this together, sink
or swim. I focus on coming to the best decision
possible, not on winning.
3. I encourage everyone to participate and to mas-
ter all the relevant information.
4. I listen to everyone’s ideas, even if I do not agree.
5. I restate what someone has said if it is not clear.
6. I differentiate before I try to integrate. I first bring
out all ideas and facts supporting both sides and
clarify how the positions differ. Then I try to iden-
tify points of agreement and put them together
in a way that makes sense.
7. I try to understand both sides of the issue. I try to
see the issue from the opposing perspective in
order to understand the opposing position.
8. I change my mind when the evidence clearly in-
dicates that I should do so.
9. I emphasize rationality in seeking the best pos-
sible answer, given the available data.
10. I follow the golden rule of conflict (i.e., I act to-
wards opponents as I would have them act to-
ward me). I want my opponents to listen to me,
so I listen to them. I want them to include my
ideas in their thinking, so I include their ideas in
my thinking
Rational Argument
During a constructive controversy, group mem-
bers are encouraged to follow the canons of rational
argumentation (Johnson & Johnson, 2007). Rational
argumentation begins with each side constructing its
pro and con arguments. An argument consists of an
assertion or claim, a rationale, and a conclusion (which
is the same as the claim). Constructing an argument
includes generating ideas, collecting relevant informa-
tion, organizing it using inductive and deductive logic,
and making tentative conclusions based on current
understanding. One person’s position is then presented
to another person holding the opposite point of view.
A dialogue subsequently takes place. Rational argu-
mentation requires that participants keep an open
mind, changing their conclusions and positions when
others are persuasive and convincing in their presen-
tation of rationale, evidence, and logical reasoning.
Active Involvement of All Participants
The likelihood of controversy resulting in posi-
tive outcomes tends to increase as the active involve-
ment of both partners increases. Participants must not
be able to avoid the conflict, yield to the other, be pas-
sive, or have the power to impose his or her view on
others without explanation. In a constructive contro-
versy, all participants tend to engage actively in open-
minded inquiry which includes advocating their posi-
tions and critically challenging the opposing positions,
while remaining focused on creating a synthesis that
incorporates the best reasoned judgment of everyone
involved.
Outcomes of Controversy
General Characteristics of Controversy
Research
The research on constructive controversy has pri-
marily been conducted in the last 40 years by research-
ers in a variety of settings using many different partici-
pant populations tasks in both lab-experimental and
field-experimental formats. (Johnson & Johnson, 2009).
In eighty-two percent of the studies participants were
randomly assigned to conditions. All but two of the
studies were published in journals. Participants ranged
from first grade students, to college students, to adults.
The duration of the study ranged from one to over
twenty sessions. Taken together, their results have con-
siderable validity and generalizability.
118 / Small Group Learning in Higher Education
Achievement, Retention, and Quality of
Decision Making and Problem Solving
Controversy tends to result in greater mastery and
retention of the material and skills being learned than
does concurrence-seeking (ES = 0.70), debate (ES =0.62),
or individualistic learning (ES = 0.76). More specifically,
participation in a constructive controversy tends to re-
sult in: (a) significantly greater ability to recall the infor-
mation and reasoning contained in own and others’
positions; (b) more skillfully transferring of this learn-
ing to new situations; and (c) greater generalization of
principles learned to a wider variety of situations than
do concurrence-seeking, debate, or individualistic efforts
(Johnson & Johnson, 2009). In addition, constructive
controversy tends to result in higher-quality decisions
(including decisions that involve ethical dilemmas) and
higher-quality solutions to complex problems for which
different viewpoints can be developed.
Cognitive and Moral Reasoning
Students who participate in academic controver-
sies end up using more higher-level reasoning and
metacognitive thought than students participating in
concurrence seeking (ES = 0.84), debate (ES = 1.38), or
individualistic efforts (ES = 1.10). In these studies, stu-
dents progressed in their stage of reasoning when con-
fronted with reasons that opposed their own views and
were one stage above their way of reasoning. Students
also developed cognitively when confronted with
counter arguments at the same stage of reasoning.
The same result happens with students’ levels of
moral reasoning. There are a number of studies that
demonstrate that when participants are placed in a
group with peers who use a higher stage of moral rea-
soning, and the group is required to make a decision as
to how a moral dilemma should be resolved, advances
in the students’ level of moral reasoning result (Johnson
& Johnson, 1989). In a recent study, Tichy, Johnson,
Johnson, and Roseth (in press) found that controversy
tended to result in significantly higher levels of moral
motivation, moral judgment, and moral character.
Perspective Taking
In order to discuss difficult issues, make joint rea-
soned judgments, and increase commitment to imple-
ment the decision, it is helpful to understand and con-
sider all perspectives. Constructive controversy tends to
promote more accurate and complete understanding of
opposing perspectives than do concurrence seeking (ES
= 0.97), debate (ES = 0.20), and individualistic efforts (ES
= 0.59). Engaging in controversy tends to result in greater
understanding of another person’s cognitive perspec-
tive than the absence of controversy and individuals
engaged in a controversy tend to be better able to predict
what line of reasoning their opponents would use in
solving future problems than were individuals who in-
teracted without any controversy. The increased under-
standing of opposing perspectives tends to result from
engaging in controversy regardless of whether one is a
high-, medium-, and low-achieving student. Increased
perspective taking tends to increase individuals’ ability
to discover beneficial agreements in conflicts (Galinsky,
Maddux, Gilin, & White, 2008).
Open-Mindedness
Individuals participating in controversies in a
cooperative context tend to be more open-minded in
listening to the opposing position than individuals
participating in controversies in a competitive context
(Tjosvold & Johnson, 1978). The researchers note that
when the context was competitive there was a closed-
minded orientation in which participants compara-
tively felt unwilling to make concessions to opponents’
viewpoints. Within a competitive context the increased
understanding resulting from controversy tended to be
ignored for a defensive adherence to their own posi-
tions (Tjosvold & Johnson, 1978).
Creativity
Proponents of creativity often view conflict as
necessary for creativity to occur. From the research it
may be concluded that controversy tends to promote
creative insight by influencing individuals to: (a) view
problems from different perspectives, and (b) reformu-
late problems in ways that allow the emergence of new
orientations to a solution. There is evidence that con-
troversy increases the number of ideas, quality of ideas,
feelings of stimulation and enjoyment, and originality
of expression in creative problem-solving (Johnson &
Johnson, 2009). Controversy encouraged group mem-
bers to dig into problems, raise issues, and settle them
in ways that showed the benefits of a wide range of
ideas being used, as well as resulting in a high degree
of emotional involvement in and commitment to solv-
ing problems. Being confronted with credible alterna-
tive views has resulted in the generation of more novel
solutions, varied strategies, and original ideas. Indi-
viduals with a cooperative orientation tend to produce
more creative syntheses than do individuals with indi-
vidualistic or competitive orientations.
Part IV: Applications of Small Group Work and a Look to the Future / 119
Task Involvement
Creating knowledge through disagreement tends
to arouse emotions and increase involvement. Task in-
volvement refers to the quality and quantity of the
physical and psychological energy that individuals
invest in their efforts to achieve. Task involvement is
reflected in participants’ attitudes. Individuals engaged
in controversies tend to like the task better than do in-
dividuals engaged in concurrence-seeking discussions
(ES = 0.63) or individualistic efforts. Individuals in-
volved in controversy (and to a lesser extent, debate)
liked the procedure better than did individuals work-
ing individualistically, and participating in a contro-
versy consistently promoted more positive attitudes
toward the experience.
Motivation to Improve Understanding
Participating in a controversy tends to have more
continuing motivation to learn about the issue and come
to the better reasoned judgment than does participat-
ing in concurrence seeking (ES = 68), debate (0.20), or
individualistic efforts (ES = 0.59). Participants in a con-
troversy tend to search for: (a) more information and
new experiences (increased specific content), and (b) a
more adequate cognitive perspective and reasoning
process in hopes of resolving the uncertainty. There is
also an active interest in learning others’ positions and
developing an understanding and appreciation of them.
Attitudes Toward Controversy
Individuals involved in controversy liked the pro-
cedure better than did individuals working individu-
alistically (and to a lesser extent, debate), and partici-
pating in a controversy consistently promoted more
positive attitudes toward the experience than did par-
ticipating in a debate, concurrence-seeking discussions,
or individualistic efforts (Johnson & Johnson, 2009).
Controversy experiences promoted stronger beliefs that
controversy is valid and valuable. Overall, individu-
als who engaged in controversies tended to like the
controversy task better than did individuals who en-
gaged in concurrence-seeking discussions (ES = 0.63).
Attitudes Toward Task
If participants are to be committed to implement-
ing decisions and participate in future decision mak-
ing, they must consider the decisions worth making.
Individuals who engaged in controversies tended to
like the decision making task better than did individu-
als who engaged in concurrence-seeking discussions
(ES = 0.35), debate (ES = 0.84), or individualistic efforts
(ES = 0.72).
Interpersonal Attraction Among Participants
Within controversy and debate there are elements
of disagreement, argumentation, and rebuttal that
could result in individuals disliking each other and
could create difficulties in establishing good relation-
ships. They seem, however, to have the opposite effect.
Constructive controversy has been found to promote
greater liking among participants than did concur-
rence-seeking (ES = 0.32), debate (ES = 0.67), or indi-
vidualistic efforts (ES = 0.80). Debate tended to pro-
mote greater interpersonal attraction among partici-
pants than did individualistic efforts (ES = 0.46).
Social Support
Constructive controversy tends to promote greater
social support among participants than does concur-
rence-seeking (ES = 0.50), debate (ES = 0.83), or indi-
vidualistic efforts (ES = 2.18). Debate tended to pro-
mote greater social support among participants than
did individualistic efforts (ES = 0.85). Constructive con-
troversy has been found to be significantly correlated
with both task support and personal support.
Self-Esteem
Participation in future controversies may be en-
hanced when participants feel good about themselves
as a result of being involved in the current controversy,
whether or not they agree with it. Constructive contro-
versy tends to promote higher self-esteem than does
concurrence-seeking (ES = 0.56), debate (ES = 0.58), or
individualistic efforts (ES = 0.85). Debate tends to pro-
mote higher self-esteem than does individualistic ef-
forts (ES = 0.45).
Psychological Health
Predisposition to engage in constructive contro-
versy has been found to be significantly positively cor-
related with life satisfaction and optimistic life orien-
tation (Tjosvold, XueHuang, Johnson, & Johnson, in
press). In addition, controversy was significantly re-
lated to a sense of empowerment and egalitarianism/
open-mindedness values.
Values
Participating in the controversy process implic-
itly teaches values such as: (a) you have both the right
and the responsibility advocate your conclusions, theo-
ries, and beliefs; (b) “truth” is derived from the clash of
opposing ideas and positions; (c) insight and under-
standing come from a “disputed passage” where ideas
and conclusions are advocated and subjected to intel-
120 / Small Group Learning in Higher Education
lectual challenge; (d) issues must be viewed from all
perspectives; and (e) you seek a synthesis that subsumes
the seemingly opposed positions (Johnson & Johnson,
2000, 2007). In addition, it teaches hope and optimism
about the future, a sense of empowerment, egalitarian-
ism, the importance of keeping an open-mind, mutual
respect and support, and respect for organizational
superiors (Tjosvold, XueHuang, Johnson, & Johnson,
in press).
Ability to Engage in Political Discourse
For students to be “good” citizens, they need to
learn how to engage in collective decision-making
about community and societal issues (Dalton, 2007).
Such collective decision making is known as political
discourse (Johnson & Johnson, 2000). Thomas
Jefferson, James Madison, and the other founders of
the American Republic considered political discourse
to be the heart of democracy. The clash of opposing
positions was expected to increase citizens’ under-
standing of the issue and the quality of decision mak-
ing, given that citizens would keep an open mind and
change their opinions when logically persuaded to do
so. When students participate in a controversy, they
are also learning the procedures necessary to be citi-
zens in a democracy. The combination of cooperative
learning and constructive controversy has been used
to teach students in such countries as Azerbaijan, the
Czech Republic, Armenia, and Lithuania how to be
citizens in a democracy (Johnson & Johnson, 2010).
Concluding Comments
It is difficult to discuss cooperative learning with-
out discussing intellectual conflicts. The effectiveness
of cooperation depends largely on the occurrence of
intellectual conflict among group members and the con-
structiveness with which it is managed. The more co-
operative learning is used, the more group members
need to understand how to disagree with each other’s
ideas, conclusions, and opinions and challenge each
other’s reasoning and information in constructive
ways. Students need a procedure for managing intel-
lectual conflicts constructively. Constructive contro-
versy is a procedure that teaches students how to im-
prove the quality of the cooperative efforts to achieve
mutual goals. The underlying theory posits that intel-
lectual opposition will result in uncertainty, which will
lead to epistemic curiosity and then to a more refined
conclusion. The conditions under which controversy
is effective include a cooperative context, skilled dis-
agreement, rational argument, and active participation.
The outcomes that result include higher achievement,
higher level reasoning, greater motivation to learn,
greater creativity, more positive relationships, and
greater self-esteem. In addition, each time students par-
ticipate in a constructive controversy, they are also
learning how to engage in political discourse and how
to be citizens in a democracy.
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... Opportunities to communicate with people who may have relevant and unfamiliar ideas, within an ''atmosphere that values innovation and originality, encourage the exchange of such ideas'' (Deutsch & Coleman, 2000, p. 356). According to Johnson et al. (2000): ...
... With the addition of some explicit training in productive argumentation strategies, Brandonburg teachers might better realize the power of the very experiences they themselves structured for their students through academic exhibitions and senior thesis defenses. In following the tenants of rational deliberation, that is, generating ideas, collecting relevant information, structuring logical arguments, advancing tentative solutions based on current understandings, and keeping an open mind to alternative perspectives (Johnson et al., 2000), teachers would begin to build confidence in their ability to ''use conflict to understand opposing positions, develop alternatives, and integrate apparently disparate positions'' (Tjosvold & Tjosvold, 1991, p. 141). ...
... Participants then assume the opposing position and argue from this stance. Finally, a synthesis or integration of positions is derived from the ensuing discussions (Johnson et al., 2000). Critical Friends groups at Brandonburg already came close to realizing this approach. ...
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Conflict, though often unsettling, is a natural part of collective human experience. It can leave participants ill at ease, so it is often avoided and suppressed. Yet conflict, when well managed, breathes life and energy into relationships and can cause individuals to be more innovative and productive. Conflict is present within our schools whether we like it or not. Educators must find ways to legitimize critique and controversy within organizational life. This article examines constructive conflict within the context of a comprehensive Midwestern high school engaged in significant reform efforts. Here conflict is employed as a means to promote individual and organizational learning and growth.
... It is related to issues and ideas based on difference in opinions about the task. Research suggest that when there is a conflict, the members start to think about the adequacy of their current ideas; then, they try to understand the other's perspective in order to think more adequately (Johnson, Johnson, & Tjosvold, 2014;Tjosvold, 2008;Tjosvold, Sun, & Wan, 2005). By confronting with conflicts, teams are able to reflect on their experiences to enhance their performance (Tjosvold, Hui, & Yu, 2003). ...
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... Cooperation and competition theory posits that individuals, groups and organizations, seek goals which will stimulate their interests and enhance their values. At the same time, they can facilitate and frustrate each other's goal attainment, making them mutually dependent in that others affect the likelihood of achieving each individual's goals (Deutsch, 1949b(Deutsch, , 1962Johnson & Johnson, 1989Johnson, Johnson, & Tjosvold, 2000). ...
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... It is important to acknowledge the difference between a controversial comment and an offensive comment. Controversy can aid effective discussions (17). However, when someone says something particularly offensive, you may choose to pause the conversation. ...
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Discussion can be an important and powerful tool in efforts to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future for STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). However, facilitating discussions on difficult, complex, and often uncomfortable issues, like racism and sexism, can feel daunting. We outline a series of steps that can be used by educators to facilitate productive discussions that empower everyone to listen, contribute, learn, and ultimately act to transform STEM.
... Cognitive ability of an individual determines how well he/ she processes information and proactively challenges his/her own intellectual potential to create novel solutions (Leung et al., 2014). Theory of constructive controversy suggests that people who use constructive conflict process and openly discuss about conflicts and disagreements are cognitively flexible (Johnson et al., 2006). They have wide range of ideas and strategies to make choices from and they are open to all options. ...
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