The purpose of this exploratory study was to discover under what conditions teachers’ comments create transformative moments for students. This study shows that emotional arousal, frequently triggered by surprise, appears to be a catalyst for the spontaneous and profound restructuring of a student’s personal schema or worldview. Our brains evolved to respond to emotionally intense challenges rapidly and reflexively. These challenges are instantly processed by the brain’s innate, stress-driven, conceptual, problem-solving system. Our reflexive brain system is organized to accept the most expedient solution, not necessarily the best one. It’s thus quite vulnerable to making impetuous responses that may generate self-fulfilling prophecies (Sylwester, 2010) I collected 179 anecdotes of “life-changing events” from graduate students in a teacher education program. Qualitative analysis shows when these moments are most likely to occur. Emotional arousal is always present and surprise appears to be a critical catalyst.



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