This is more obvious in the Humanities and related disciplines where there may exist diverse points of view on any important issue. However, literary analysis offers conflicting opinions as well. The perspective of the historian or the philosopher can also be brought to bear when discussing literary works as can the views of critics.
In the Sciences important discoveries or theories may have a variety of implications—Einstein and the development of the Hydrogen bomb for example. Notable scientists like Newton were greatly influenced by the epoch in which they lived and, in some cases, have shaped those historical periods. These interactions are also evident today in the way in which Science, Politics, and Economics interact in the debate over climate change.
Brain science has clearly demonstrated that the brain extends its capacities through increasing and re-organizing neuronal connections. Indeed our brains organize new material by making new connections to existing networks. In a remarkable parallel public knowledge is being extended through the network connections of social media. It should not be surprising that connections are what make it possible for us to integrate new knowledge. Through encouraging students to connect multiple perspectives in their learning activities we help them to better integrate facts, concepts, and ideas.
The practice of introducing multiple points of view also helps to keep us honest as teachers. It can ensure, that as co-learners in the classroom, we have not allowed ourselves to become attached to a single and possibly limiting perspective. Teachers and students may have difficulty incorporating multiple points of view in their work because they have come to believe that, as learners, they should confine their attention to a simple and singular perspective. Ellen Langer, in an excellent book on mindful learning, describes its opposite, mindless learning as “an entrapment in old categories; by automatic behavior that precludes attending to new signals; and by action that operates from a single perspective“.
Students doing research often go straight to Google or similar search tools. Well designed Active Learning activities require learners to use a variety of resources. It may be that the school or local community has experts who can be called upon for input. Students in higher education often have access to databases indexing articles from professional journals. Traditional media such as newspapers, television, and radio can also be tapped. Librarians are often the best advisors for teachers who are designing Active Learning activities that draw on a wide range of resources.
Using multiple resources and exploring diverse perspectives will require students to sift through material selecting the most appropriate content for their research and the eventual output they will produce. Students should be encouraged to consider multiple conclusions. Weighing different possibilities is intellectually more stimulating than simply taking an easy position. Most real world issues are more gray than black and white. Furthermore, there are few facts or principles that have not been challenged by someone at some time or other. The comparing and contrasting of competing ideas is more consistent with the work of real world professionals than is a blind adoption of a single view.