Fostering deep understanding in geography by inducing and managing confusion

An online learning approach


  • Amaël Arguel
  • Rod Lane



Online module, geography, confusion, conceptual change, academic emotions


Confusion is an emotion that is likely to occur when learning complex concepts. While this emotion is often seen as undesirable because of its potential to induce frustration and boredom, recent research has highlighted the vital role confusion can play in student learning. The learning of topics in geography such as tropical cyclone causes and processes can be particularly difficult because it requires the reconstruction of intuitive mental models that are often robust and resistant to change. This paper presents the design framework for an online module designed to enhance university students’ depth of knowledge of tropical cyclones. In particular, the intervention aims to manage the level of confusion during learning. We hypothesise that in this way learners can engage with the cognitively demanding ideas in this topic and they are less likely to experience emotions such as frustration and boredom, which would be detrimental to the development of deep understanding.