According to Dean et al. (2012), teachers can introduce methods for generating and testing hypotheses as a tool to strengthen cognitive processes in all learning, classroom and life. Hypothesizing, predicting, deducing, and theorizing are all cognitive processes that fit under the umbrella of testing and hypothesizing. Two thinking processes that can be taught to enable generation and testing of hypotheses are deduction and induction. Deduction involves students using prior knowledge of general rules to make a prediction. For example, if students look out the window and acknowledge that it’s raining they might deduce that they will need their rain jackets. Induction requires students to use information that they possess, or have been presented with to make inferences. The process of inferring requires more support and scaffolding on the teacher’s part to ensure that students are not getting caught in misconceptions about the subject matter.
One common example of induction in classroom instruction is when students make predictions about a literary piece based on the clues that a story offers. During my residency teaching with k/1 students last year, my mentor and I carefully modeled and supported the process of making inferences relative to a read aloud story. During a read-aloud we would ask students to make inferences based on their perceptions of pictures and text in a story. We would emphasize, or think aloud about key events in a story to support students’ inferences. We revisited the academic term “infer” with each read aloud and gave positive acknowledgement when students practiced inferring. Dean et al. (2012), emphasize that early primary students need consistent and easily accessible scaffolding to master the skill of inference. While initially reflecting on the practice of inferring as an instructional strategy, I confused it with the practice of predicting. One of my cohort mates politely made the distinction that predictions are made from information that is provided in a text, and inferences are a more complex comprehensive practice of reading into textual content to interpret meaning.
I plan to incorporate generating and testing hypotheses into all my curricula because this process is essential to thinking critically and problem solving in all facets of life. Furthermore, when an individual is challenged to generate and test hypotheses, they appropriate new knowledge to have personal meaning, which will support students in committing new knowledge to long-term memory.
Dean, et al. (2012). Classroom instruction that works. 2nd ed. ASCD. Alexandria, VA.
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