Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sufficient and Relevant Evidence, Part 2

By Linda Barrett

At the beginning of the school year, I wrote a blog post concerning the Common Core State Standards' focus on supporting ideas with evidence. That post stayed on mind as I worked in K-5 classrooms the past nine months and I found myself paying close attention to the way students develop the ability to use textual evidence to support their interpretations of texts.

I've always had a general sense of how students develop this skill, but this year I made a conscious effort to notice the following:
  • What I was doing to facilitate the use of evidence in my courses and demonstration lessons
  • How experienced Shared Inquiry leaders develop their students’ ability to use evidence
  • How students were using sufficient and relevant evidence in their written responses to interpretative questions about a text
My very informal observations left two distinct impressions. First, I see a distinct progression in the way students develop the ability to use text-based evidence to support their interpretations of text within and across the grades. And second, I realize that skilled and flexible teachers can use questioning to greatly strengthen students’ ability to use evidence. In this questioning stance, just as the Common Core standards demand, students do the thinking, while teachers use questions to stretch and scaffold.

The following chart illustrates the types of questions teachers can use to promote students' effective use of evidence.
Student Skills Improved Teacher Questions to Scaffold
Clearly articulate an idea about text.
  • Can you help me understand what that means?
  • Can you tell me more about that?
Recognize when ideas come from the text and when ideas come from outside the text.
  • Did that happen in our story?
  • What did you think when that happened in the story?
Identify the approximate place in the text where the idea originated.
  • Did you start thinking about that in the beginning, middle, or end of the story?
  • What did the character say or do that helped you decide that?
Cite specific quotes from the text to support an idea.
  • Which words helped you decide that?
Articulate the connection between relevant evidence and interpretation.
  • Can you help me understand how that supports your idea?
Explain the logic of their evidence.

  • Does that hold true throughout the text?
  • If you are saying that, how do you explain what happens here?
 Weigh the evidence for alternate interpretations.
  •  Is your interpretation as well- supported as this other possibility?
Write a well-supported argument for a particular interpretation

While much of this is intuitive, this progression and the recognition that students move through it in different ways and at different times, inform how we can strengthen students' use of evidence not only in Shared Inquiry but also in other contexts through the flexible and strategic use of questioning. In addition, it suggests that teachers can build the foundation for this skill in the earliest grades and continue to develop it by meeting each student where they are in that moment and guiding them toward the next level.

Linda Barrett is a Senior Training Consultant for the Great Books Foundation. She has a master's in education from Rutgers University, and a BA in geography and sociology from the the University of Leeds (UK). The training and classroom coaching she conducts in the Shared Inquiry method of learning provides teachers and students with support in recognizing and using “sufficient and relevant evidence.” 

1 comment:

  1. This article was very helpful and clear. I have worked for Great Books for years and still learn from our teachers and trainers. Thanks.