Teacher Tap


Inventing a new way to build a backyard fort, creating an innovative approach to recycling, and building a case against a new coal power plant all involve applying evidence to solve problems and make decisions.

Evidence is necessary to support a claim, justify change, or make an informed decision.

"If you can recycle plastic, why not reuse shoes?"

Seeking Patterns of Evidence

Students must learn to identify, process, and judge evidence. This begins with looking for patterns of evidence. Ask:

Look for patterns of evidence in visual materials. Examine photos, make inferences, and show conclusions.


bugRethink an assignment.
Focus on the collecting evidence and building convincing arguments.

Developing Convincing Arguments

Arguments provide evidence to support a claim. To develop useful arguments, inquirers must evaluate evidence, examine different points of view, and determine the most logical approach or meaningful conclusion. Ask:

tickObservations and visual notes can be helpful to making decisions.

An easy approach for younger students involves three statements:

"I’m a Junior CSI trying to figure out what caused the death of Mr. Lymen."

Ask more experienced students to build on the visual documentation begun by others.

"One pond contains an invasive plant called lythrum salicaria. Last year the plant was removed from the second study location. We’re looking for convincing evidence showing whether removing the invasive species makes a difference in the habitat."

Involve more mature students in dealing with topics containing multiple perspectives and many possible solutions.

"While reading the historical fiction book, The Big Burn, by Jeanette Ingold I became interested in learning the facts behind the role of the Forest Service in managing fires, so I watched documentaries, read books, examined websites, and conducted online interviews to gather information and identify the different perspectives."

bugDiscuss the different perspectives on how wildfires should be managed. What types of evidence will you seek to support your point of view.
Use the questions above as a guide.

Deductive arguments apply general principles and theories to specific situations. This is the most effective educational technique. Students are asked to explain their hypotheses, experiments and conclusions.

Provide opportunities for students to try out their ideas and apply what they've learned to real-world problems. For example, children might apply the four principles of flight to predict which paper airplane will work best. Rather than simply reading about machines and write a report, children design and test an invention. Go to the Forces of Flight website.

Another approach is to ask students to turn facts into a visually convincing argument that can be shared. For example, show me that this computer game is or isn't accurate. In a recent NPR program titled E.O. Wilson and Will Wright: An Lovers Unite! Wilson stated "I think games are the future in education. We're going through a rapid transition now. We're about to leave print and textbooks behind." Use the following gaming sites:

simple machinesWhen designing persuasive messages, ask:

For instance, children may become "machine detectives." After collecting information at EdHeads about simple machines, their job is to collect evidence of simple machines by identifying and photographing them around the school. Rather than a traditional powerpoint presentation, they created a comic using PowerPoint.

Facilitate Inquiry

Use guiding questions to facilitate inquiry:

  1. Is there a single solution or alternate solutions?
  2. Does the solution make sense? Is it reasonable? Why or why not?
  3. What evidence supports my conclusion?
  4. How does this result compare to my original guess?
  5. How will I explain this conclusions to others or take action?
  6. Is my conclusion correct or valid?
  7. How can the result be visualized?
  8. How can the result be shared?
  9. What can I or others use this information? How can this be applied to other problems?
  10. What are the sources of errors or problems in the solution?
  11. How is my answer like and unlike others?
  12. Do you want to share with people in your class or the world?
  13. Do you want to share temporarily or permanently?
  14. Could you write a letter or email?
  15. Could you make a sign for the kitchen, hallway, or area business?
  16. Could you make a group decision and create a "Science Squad" shared announcement?

Inferring and Technology

treeUse public domain resources such as the NOAA Photo Library for images. Rather than using standard images, be creative:

Use technology to create and share solutions.

Assimilating and Inferring - A Recursive Cycle

assimilate infer cycleIn most academic situations, inquiry involves accumulating evidence that supports inferences that seem reasonable, logical, and persuasive. Students ask:

bugTry It
The cycle of assimilating and inferring is often skipped over.
What can be done to ensure that this stage gets the time it deserves?

With each inquiry cycle, inquirers must revisit questions with an open mind.

bugTry It
Try a creation tool such as a comic generator like Make BeliefsComix.

Create a sample product for your classroom that you could use as an example.

For a more in-depth exploration, read the graphic book Graphic Inquiry by Annette Lamb and Danny Callison available from Libraries Unlimited, 2011.

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