THE INPUT STORY

The deep learning story begins with the input story, which consists of a problem, a question, or a situation for the learner to grapple with (Bain, 2004). The input story introduces new knowledge about the discipline or task that students are trying to learn, such as any aspect of law or criminal justice, and it sets the whole learning process into motion (Bain, 2004). For example, in Other Desert Cities (Baitz, 2010) a play directed by Robert Egan, the question “What happened to him?” resounds in Brooke Wyeth’s mind and guides all her writing process of a novel based on her brother’s suicide. She ponders this question for a while and decides to go back home for the first time in 6 years in search for an answer. This question will remain in her head while she embarks upon a journey that will eventually lead to a profound change in her life. In The Exorcist (1973), directed by William Friedkin, Chris McNeil faces a desperate problem that will make her revisit her longstanding religious position in order to find a solution for her daughter. Chris’s daughter, Regan McNeil suffers inexplicable physical and personality transformations. When she sees that physicians and psychiatrists are unable to find a cure for Regan, Chris, an atheist, re-examines her beliefs and seeks the services of a priest to perform an exorcism on her daughter.

An effective input stoiy shocks, perplexes, amazes, or intrigues the learner, who, as a consequence, becomes fully immersed in the learning process. Furthermore, effective input stories “are authentic: they seem important to students and are similar to those that professionals in the field might undertake” (Bain, 2004). An input story is also effective when teachers help students see its significance and connection to both issues that students are already interested in and issues of social, cultural, and personal significance beyond the discipline (Bain, 2004).

In order to help advance the deep learning process, the input stoiy must contain new knowledge that is within the learner’s zone of proximal development. There is a level of effective development, which is what the learner can do independently and a level of potential development, which is constituted by what the individual is capable of doing with the help of other adults or more capable peers. The distance between effective development and potential development is the “zone of proximal development” (Vygotsky, 1978). Learning takes place when knowledge is within students’ zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978). If it is within the level of effective development, students can deal with that knowledge without having to change their cognitive structures. If knowledge is beyond their zone of proximal development, students will be unable to comprehend it and will not be capable to change their cognitive structures. For example, when discussing the theory of offense in criminal law, it is difficult for students to understand the notion of attendant circumstances if the other types of social harm (wrongful result and wrongful conduct) are not yet part of their cognitive structures3. In The Lord of the Flies (Hook, 1990), because the twins’ cognitive structures lack many of the stories about aerial battles, they do not understand why a pilot may have parachuted down the island, so they mistake the pilot for a beast.

THE STORY CONFLICT: THE COGNITIVE CONFLICT

The deep leanring story conflict includes the challenges and obstacles that the learner faces, known as the cognitive conflict, which constitutes the driving force that impels the process toward its resolution, and the actions that the learner takes individually and together with peers in order to overcome those challenges.

The cognitive conflict in the deep learning process is an internal conflict where the learner is at odds with himself or herself. It is a situation in which the attempt to explain the new knowledge by means of the existing cognitive structures leads to faulty expectations (Bain, 2004). The cognitive conflict generates an unbalance in the learner’s knowledge structure (Pozo, 2008). This is produced when the learner’s cognitive structure does not coincide with, or cannot explain, the new knowledge in the input story, or cannot explain it in a coherent way. To solve the conflict, the learner creates responses, asks questions, investigates, and discovers until the

’Social hann is the negation, endangering, or destruction of a socially valuable and legally protected interest, whether individual, societal, or state. It may adopt the form of a wrongful result, wrongful conduct, or attendant circumstances. Social hann is expressed as a wrongful result when the offence is defined in terms of a prohibited result. Social harm takes the form of wrongful conduct when the offence is described in terms of injurious conduct, and no harmful result is required, such as the case of possession of prohibited fireaims. In this case, the social interest—to live peacefully without penis that may be triggered by the use of firearms—is endangered by the possession of illegal fireaims. The definition of an offence may include other elements defined as attendant circumstances. An example of attendant circumstances can be found in the offence of bribery, which takes place when a judicial officer or a member of a legislature corruptly accepts money. The acceptance of money only by those who hold such offices constitutes the social hann m the bribery offence. Thus, judicial and legislative officers are the attendant circumstance, whose corruption constitutes social hann.

learner constructs knowledge that restores that balance (Carretero, 2009; Pozo, 2008).

The default student attitude to the input stoiy is to adopt a surface approach by ignoring the conflict, or by trying to make it fit somehow within their existing cognitive structures (Bain, 2004). This is because we all have a tendency to tiy to understand new information in terms of existing knowledge (Bain, 2004), just like Ms. Horrible Harriet Hare's students did with Boss Baker’s explanation that the thief had a stained red shawl. Since Tiny Tessie wore a red shawl the next morning, then she had to be the thief. This stoiy is easy to understand. It does not require changing anyone’s cognitive structure.

When we need to explain something to ourselves, which happens eveiy time we fail to understand something, we choose, if we can, a standard explanation, and we tiy to adapt it to our cunent situation. [...] We rely upon familiar explanations because we can find them easily, and similarly, others will easily accept such explanations because they are also familiar with them (Schank, 1986).

Rapunzel's tale (Grimm and Grimm, 1884) also helps illustrate how the cognitive conflict works. A witch has locked Rapunzel in a room at the top of a tower in the middle of the woods. The tower has no stairs and no door. There is only a window in the room. At first, Rapunzel tries to escape. She tries to push down a wall by kicking and punching it, but the wall is too hard for her. She makes several attempts, but she is not successful. Then, she gives up and convinces herself that she cannot escape. Trying to escape is a conflict (albeit not an academic one) that Rapunzel has tried to solve always in the same way. Instead of trying a different approach (shouting, using her own hair to climb down the window, jumping off the window, getting out with the witch when she comes to visit her), Rapunzel has ignored the conflict and has resigned to live in a locked room with no contact with the outside world. She does not tiy to modify her preconceived idea that tiying to push down a wall is the only way to escape from an apartment4.

■•Furthermore, the actual cognitive conflict in the deep learning process is produced through interaction with the social context (Vygotsky, 1978). In Rapunzel’s example, she probably failed to change her cognitive structure because the cognitive conflict did not arise from, and did not even have, a collective instance. Later m the story, we leam that only after Rapunzel interacts with a prince does she succeed to escape.

Such outcome results because, as discussed above, we all have a tendency to try to understand new information in terms of existing knowledge (Bain, 2004). But students can instead take a deep approach to learning if they modify their cognitive structures while working to solve the problem or situation. For this to occur, learners must actually care that their cognitive structures cannot help them deal with the problem, question, or situation in the input story (Bam, 2004). As discussed in Chapter 4, students must be motivated enough to try to solve the problem. Otherwise, they will not change their existing cognitive structures.

 
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