Teaching approaches: Reasoning

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Teaching Approaches

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While argumentation involves weighing up sides, reasoning is more general and although it can involve assessing arguments, it can also involve working through any other sort of problem including in enquiry based learning. Reasoning - and particularly higher order reasoning is valuable learning component and is related to higher order questioning, dialogue, language use, visualisation use, and so on. Teaching pupils to collaborate and reason together through group talk and dialogic teaching is an important consideration - the use of subject based language is an important element of reasoning, mathematical thinking and scientific thinking, and one that is well supported by effective group work.

Relevant resources


Acids Forensic Science Investigation
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A who-dunnit circus of activities
This lesson introduces inquiry(ta)-based learning through the topic of forensic science. It engages pupils in higher order(ta) reasoning(ta) solving a variety of forensic problems.
Argumentation Starting an Argument in Science
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Strategies to get discussion going
This resource provides a table of useful activities and effective prompts to stimulate reasoning(ta) argumentation(ta) and discussion(ta) in science teaching.
Blogs Getting a buzz out of blogging
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Starting with the basic principles of blogs(tool) and blogging, this primary course looks at their use within education and how they can be used to improve teaching and learning. The focus is particularly on blogs as an ICT(i) tool for collaboration(ta) which encourages the effective use of reasoning(ta) and language(ta). The unit also discusses practical elements such as e-skills(topic) and copyright(topic) issues you might encounter in blogging.
CPD Approaches to Reading
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Do we have to read it? Thinking about using 'reading' effectively in the classroom
This resource highlights a range of approaches to reading in the classroom and the reasons we ask pupils to engage in reading activities, including the importance of subject language(ta), study skills(topic), and conceptual reasoning(ta) and visualisation(ta) arising from subject based reading activities.
CPD Questioning - Bloom's Taxonomy
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Developing questioning through Bloom's taxonomy
This resource discusses questioning(ta) and Bloom's taxonomy - which, at the higher levels, can be linked to higher order(ta) thinking skills and reasoning(ta).
CPD Common Pitfalls in Questioning
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Exploring problematic questions and ways to avoid them
Questioning(ta) is a key classroom practice, and skill, and can sometimes fall into the trap of focusing on lower levels, as opposed to higher order(ta) reasoning(ta) and discussion(ta) skills. This resource covers some reasons why this - and other pitfalls - occur, with some practical advice for ensuring high quality questioning in your classroom.
CPD Understanding the Purposes of Explanations
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Explaining why we explain - Thinking about how explanations are used in the classroom
This resource focuses on 'explanation' in relation to learning objectives(ta), concept and process learning, and engaging higher order(ta) reasoning(ta) skills.
CPD Teaching for Metacognition
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Thinking about Thinking, in the classroom context
This resource describes some strategies to engage metacognitive reasoning(ta) - thinking about thinking, for example, asking pupils to think about their own learning techniques. It includes activities to assist teachers in planning(ta) for their own teaching.
CPD Using Thinking Skills
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What do you think? Exploring thinking skills for the classroom
This resource highlights higher order(ta) reasoning(ta) skills and activities to prompt their use in classroom contexts.
Capacity Smoothie Capacity Challenge
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Investigating capacity and getting wet wet wet...
This is a practical session to be used with a whole class in small groups(ta) of 2 or 3 –perhaps with the added supervision of a teaching assistant if the class is excitable or particularly young. There is scope within this activity for the following different methods of learning:
  • Whole class(ta) dialogue - Discussion of each part of the activity
  • Open-ended questions(ta) – How can we find out if the containers hold the same amount? What can we tell just by looking at them?
  • Project work – as part of a wider maths topic on measuring volume and capacity.
  • Enquiry-based learning(ta) – children are discovering the answer to questions that they are encouraged to pose themselves.
  • Arguing and reasoning(ta) – persuading each other about their ideas.
  • Exploring ideas – developing practical, physical understanding of key mathematical principles.
Consecutive Sums Using Prime and Square Numbers - How Old Am I?
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Last year I was square, but this year I am in my prime. How old am I?
This short activity offers opportunity for pupils to engage in mathematical thinking(ta) and higher order(ta) problem solving/reasoning(ta). They should be able to make links between different areas of mathematics and explore their ideas in whole class(ta) discussion(ta) and questioning(ta).
Ethics Cloning
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Cloning - Potential and Issues
The topic of the ethics(topic) of modern biology needs to draw on a wider range of sources than a printed book may provide. This resource uses a web tutorial interspersed with external links to news and comment. Rather than leave the students to explore too many interests, a worksheet with questions enables the teacher to focus the students on a subset of the material. You can adapt this to your particular need, for example, if you wanted students to have a discussion(ta)in small groups. You might also consider using a blog, chat room or other ICT tools to record the questioning(ta) and reasoning(ta) around this topic. The lesson-planning proforma (or draft lesson plan) includes a list of objectives that shows the scope of the material.
Ethics Designer Babies
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When does life actually begin?
By using an informative web tutorial, this resource aims to stimulate discussion(ta) on the ethics(topic) of modern biology. A worksheet asks students where they stand and reassures them that their response might be kept private. You might also consider using a blog, chat room or other ICT tool to record the questioning(ta) and reasoning(ta) around this topic. A teaching section offers guidance on 'teaching argument' using 'Toulmin’s model of argument' and 'The IDEAS project'.
Ethics Ethical issues in human reproduction
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Why does reproduction raises so many ethical issues? When does life begin?
This lesson outline stimulates A-level students to engage in discussion(ta), develop their reasoning(ta) skills and increase their awareness of the bioethical(topic) issues involved in human reproduction.

Background texts and open-ended questioning(ta) about human reproduction, contraception and IVF are provided as the stimulus. Small group discussion about these topics, writing on post-it notes, and reading case studies aim to get students reasoning(ta) to justify their opinions, and to compare and evaluate competing views. Finally, whole class(ta) discussion synthesises the emerging ideas and encourages students to consider changing their positions or adding additional issues to a recording table.

Force What makes a good paper airplane?
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This activity supports these learning types:
  • small group work(ta) - groups conduct an investigation and report back to the class.
  • whole class(ta) dialogue(ta) - they discuss 
open-ended questions(ta): why did this happen? what do you think causes this movement?
  • peer assessment(ta) – do peers agree?
  • project work – the activity connects with others in this OER on forces, with literacy and numeracy and with topic work in design and technology.
  • inquiry(ta)-based learning – an initial presentation to the class can be framed as a problem to solve; children work collaboratively (co-enquiry)
  • arguing and reasoning(ta) – children persuade each other about their explanations.
  • exploring ideas – the activity develops understanding of key scientific principles.
Force Building bridges from a piece of A4 paper
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A bridge too far...
This activity supports a number of learning types:
  • small group work(ta) - investigation conducted by small groups reporting back to the class.
  • whole class(ta) dialogue(ta) - discussion of each situation 
open-ended questions(ta) – why did this happen? what do you think causes this movement?
  • peer assessment(ta) – do peers agree?
  • project work – linked in with the rest of the activities in this OER, topic work in design and technology, literacy, numeracy
  • inquiry(ta)-based learning – initial presentation to the class can be framed as a problem for them to solve; co-enquiry – children working collaboratively
  • arguing and reasoning(ta) – persuading each other about their explanations.
  • exploring ideas – developing understanding of key scientific principles.
Force Which material makes a good parachute?
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A simple investigation into parachutes and air resistance
This activity supports a number of learning types:
  • small group work(ta) - investigation conducted by small groups reporting back to the class.
  • whole class(ta) dialogue(ta) - discussion of each situation 
open-ended questions(ta) – why did this happen? what do you think causes this movement?
  • peer assessment(ta) – do peers agree?
  • project work – linked in with the rest of the activities in this OER, topic work in design and technology, literacy, numeracy
  • inquiry(ta)-based learning – initial presentation to the class can be framed as a problem for them to solve; co-enquiry – children working collaboratively
  • arguing and reasoning(ta) – persuading each other about their explanations.
  • exploring ideas – developing understanding of key scientific principles.
Force What floats and what sinks
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Is getting in the bath a way to lose weight?
This activity supports a number of learning types:
  • small group work(ta) - investigation conducted by small groups reporting back to the class.
  • whole class(ta) dialogue(ta) - discussion of each situation 
open-ended questions(ta) – why did this happen? what do you think causes this movement?
  • peer assessment(ta) – do peers agree?
  • project work – linked in with the rest of the activities in this OER, topic work in design and technology, literacy, numeracy.
  • inquiry(ta)-based learning – initial presentation to the class can be framed as a problem for them to solve; co-enquiry – children working collaboratively
  • arguing and reasoning(ta) – persuading each other of their explanations.
  • exploring ideas – developing understanding of key scientific principles.
Group talk Group Talk & Argument in Science Teaching
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Activities and practical examples to use group talk in science lessons
This Teacher Education resource covers background information, practical activities, and practical examples for engaging dialogue(ta) in the context of group work(ta) and whole class(ta) work effectively in the classroom, in particular to ensure high quality reasoning(ta). The resource encourages teachers to think about situations and prompts for argumentation(ta) and how these might be used to support the science curriculum.
Probability Playing with Probability - Efron's Dice
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I have some dice that are coloured green, yellow, red and purple...
Efron's dice provide a discussion(ta) topic for joint reasoning(ta) - whole class(ta) or in group work(ta). Pupils can explore aspects of mathematical thinking(ta) particularly with relation to probability.
Problem Solving Problem Solving in Primary Education
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Encouraging primary pupils to think about problem-solving.
Problem-solving and reasoning(ta) are important skills to learn, and engage with in teaching. This document provides some guidance and practical examples on how to use problem-solving skills in the primary curriculum.
Questioning Questioning
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Why Question? A unit exploring the use of questioning in your classroom
This resource discusses questioning(ta) and its relationship to engaging reasoning(ta), active learning(ta) and discussion(ta) as well as aspects of planning(ta) such as writing learning objectives(ta).
Sampling Sampling techniques to assess population size
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This lesson offers students an opportunity to use their existing knowledge to analyse a ‘real scientific publication’ and its language(ta) and link this to scientific method(ta).
  • They use study skills(topic) to skim read, make sense of complex language, and use visualisation(ta) to select relevant information
  • They engage in collaborative(tool) group work(ta) using reasoning(ta) and skills in peer assessment(ta)
  • They engage in dialogue(ta) and questioning(ta) to explore ideas together
  • They also think about how to present information using ICT(i) tools)
Science Primary Science Investigation
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What is involved in 'doing a science investigation'? And what is there to assess?
This resource describes the process of doing an investigation for inquiry(ta)-based learning. Teachers could share practice(i) and lesson planning(ta) ideas using the list of pupil skills (e.g. observing). It also lists learning goals for investigation skills (e.g. observing, predicting, problem solving) and ideas for exploring different types of practical work(ta) in science.

It could be used for discussion(ta) or brainstorming on how to apply these skills to different content areas. The resource emphasises engaging pupils in the scientific method(ta) - using higher order(ta) thinking skills, group work(ta) and dialogue(ta) to facilitate knowledge building(ta)/reasoning(ta).

Shape Getting Your Formulae in Shape
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Solving a card sort for perimeter, volume and area formulae
This resource provides an opportunity for some revision of shape formulae - perimeter, area, and volume. It encourages pupils to engage in effectivereasoning(ta), and group talk(ta), and could be used as an effective assessment(ta) tool. The task could be differentiated(ta), or extended for a whole class by cutting the 'formulae' lines off the bottom of each hexagon, and asking students to match these to the shapes, prior to matching the shapes to the formulae type.
Simultaneous Equations Love Food, Hate Waste - Simultaneous Equations
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Using real world data to explore simultaneous equations
Using a source that was not intended by its creators as a mathematical resource, pupils are introduced to informal ways of solving simultaneous equations.

The lesson starts with an intriguing ‘hook’, pupils are able to use reasoning(ta) skills to find an answer to the problem and can then, later, formalise this in an algebraic context, using their informal work to support the transition to mathematical thinking(ta). whole class(ta) work supports this inquiry(ta) into the data provided. Using a resource not targeted at mathematics specifically encourages pupils to think about maths outside of the classroom.

Statistics Analysing the performance of Olympic runner, Usain Bolt
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Exploring real world statistics using the GeoGebra program
Using real world data to engage pupils in mathematical thinking(ta), language(ta) and reasoning(ta). This resource provides opportunities for group work or whole class exercises, with engaging questioning(ta).
Visualisation GeoGebra STEM Exploration
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Develop 'real world' GeoGebra mathematical modelling applications which reach out to a wide range of users both students and teachers
The half-term activity consists of 3 half-day workshops interspersed with home-working and on-line collaboration. Each workshop is part tutorial and help in GeoGebra, part development, presentation and feedback on their emerging work. The three half-day sessions become gradually less structured as students become more confident taking the initiative in developing their own work:

An initial GeoGebra tutorial session features ‘real life’ examples such as mathematical modelling(ta) and visualisation(ta) from photographs of patterns and structure in flowers and architecture; exercises such as “math aerobics” where students model algebraic functions kinaesthetically; and data analysis and exploration such as from astronomy (Kepler's 3rd law) and athletic performance (Usain Bolt’s 100m sprints). Realistic examples such as these, or from students’ previous work, are essential to get the ball rolling. Following this, the onus is very much on the student’s own initiative. The focus on ‘real life’ and student ownership of ideas and project development increases student motivation.

The activity engages pupils in group talk(ta), mathematical thinking(ta) and vocabulary(ta). This open ended(ta) task develops higher order(ta) reasoning(ta), and encourages whole class(ta) discussion(ta)/questioning(ta) and inquiry(ta) projects.