Harnessing surprise: tales from students' transformational biographies

Anna Eckerdal, Carol Zander, Lynda Thomas

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Transformational biographies are used to shed light on situations when students have experienced 'surprise.' These biographies are examined in light of a philosophical position that surprise is useful in engendering learning, and, that as educators, we should try and set up situations in which our students experience it more often. The paper reports on a grounded-theory inspired examination of 108 students' transformational biographies for evidence of surprise. Students clearly perceived an 'anomaly or contradiction to a previous belief or understanding' in just under half of them. The paper then goes on to further identify different kinds of surprise and the triggers that caused them and concludes with suggestions for enhancing learning by capitalizing on students' surprise.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2011


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