Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup



Big Ideas in Literacy

Evidence-Based Understanding

Students have a lot of prior knowledge and commonsense reasoning about how the natural world works. After all, they’ve felt gravity, floated in the water, weathered the seasons, and bent their limbs throughout their lives. Prior knowledge is an important platform for disciplinary learning, but along with useful intuitions come misconceptions. When it comes to underlying mechanisms, or to probing things that are invisible to direct human experience, prior knowledge, intuition, and common sense can let us down. In many respects, science is a tool that humans have invented to protect us from our flawed intuitions.

For this reason, the discipline of science overwhelmingly focuses on evidence; in the case of experimental science, <p><strong>experimental science</strong><br /> Disciplines or subdisciplines of science that involve manipulating variables in controlled lab settings in order to establish cause and effect and mechanistic understanding of natural phenomena. Experimental science can be contrasted with historical science, such as aspects of geology and paleontology, where efforts are focused on understanding events and processes that occurred in the past. Much of modern science combines historical and experimental approaches.</p> this is typically just called “data.” It doesn’t end with data, since analyzing and interpreting data is essential to drawing useful conclusions. The centrality of evidence to scientific literacy is very well represented in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which emphasize literacy practices in science focused on the identification, interpretation, and articulation of evidence for a scientific claim. <p><strong>scientific claim</strong><br /> A firmly established conclusion that is typically established by multiple lines of evidence and represented by an entire body of supporting literature rather than by a single research report. Scientists do not frequently use the term, favoring hypothesis and conclusion. In education, the term is used help students understand how to frame a conclusion that is supported by evidence.</p> In the school setting, evidence might come from myriad sources: reading research reports, articles, charts, posters, advertisements, exhibits, hands-on activities, lab or field experiments, and measurements. Identification of evidence involves observation, description, and illustration.

Video: Watch Supporting Claims with Evidence and Reasoning to see how a 10th grade chemistry teacher motivates student lab work with a guiding question and works with students to apply the standards for a strong claim. You may want to take notes on the questions below.

  • Before you watch: What do you typically tell your students about the purpose of a lab? Do you usually have students pool their results, or just work with their own data?
  • Watch the video: As you watch, consider what kind of statements are claims, and how long should they be. How are the students interacting, helping, and challenging each other?


Supporting Claims with Evidence and Reasoning

Chemistry teacher Martin Berryman shows how to help students write strong claims based on evidence, reason, and the interpretation of data.

Teacher: Martin Berryman

School: Malden High School, Malden, MA

Grade: 10

Discipline: Science (Chemistry)

Lesson Topic: Gravimetric analysis

Lesson Month: December

Number of Students: 32

  • Reflect: How often do you have students check the results they’ve obtained with published results from the scientific literature?