Expectations make the difference

In a discussion about the ‘Pedagogy of Harmony’, Stephen Downes and Laura Ritchie addressed something that highlights the importance of expectations.

“I think that learning is the process of adjusting our expectations to align with experience so we are not taken by surprise and thrown off balance by what comes next.” (Downes, December 13, 2017)

Depending on what usually comes next, the very same event may be experienced in very different ways.

This can also be beautifully demonstrated with musical chords. While Laura (as a music expert) has much more to say about this and draws much wider connections, for me (as an absolute amateur) already a small example was very impressing:

When a chord with a ‘nonharmonic tone’ is played out of context, it sounds awful, but when we hear it as a ‘passing tone’ or as a ‘neighbor tone’, we don’t notice the dissonance — because we expect that it will immediately be resolved.



Thanks Laura for the explanation and for the link to Tim Poulin’s video whose intervals I used for my smaller example.

The role of expectations was even more fascinating for me since Downes’s recent writing about the brain as a ‘prediction machine’ (here and here) and the short-term memory’s role of making temporal perceptions similar to spatial perceptions (here and here).


This entry was posted in Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Expectations make the difference

  1. Pingback: Harmony and hope as pedagogies for 2018 – Jenny Connected

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.