Habits of Mind for Evidence-Based Reasoning through Discussion and Writing

  • by Jennifer Dines

    Evidence-Based Reasoning is central to solving problems and making decisions across many disciplines - including science, medicine, law, history, art, and literature. Evidence can be defined as any piece of information (visual, auditory, or written) from which conclusions may be drawn to prove a premise. Evidence-Based Reasoning is a complex activity that synthesizes deep discipline-specific knowledge with the ability to form a logical argument.

    Because of the complexity in developing skillful Evidence-Based Reasoning through discussion and writing across disciplines, it is necessary for teachers to understand how to guide students through meaningful experiences so that it becomes intrinsic - a methodical way of approaching evidence that engenders deeper thinking on the part of the student.

    It is essential that the habits of mind, given below in the form of questions, are practiced on a daily basis through instruction across disciplines in order to prepare students for real-world empirical decision-making.
    What are some sources of data*? 
    What questions do I have about the data?
    How have I analyzed data? 
    Which data might become evidence by leading to a thesis statement/claim?
    What is my thesis/claim?
    What evidence supports my thesis/claim?
    What is the reasoning behind the evidence, that connects the evidence to the thesis/claim
    What is the best way present my understanding of the evidence in the context of my thesis statement/claim?

    *Please keep in mind that all sources of data are discipline-specific. For example:

    Data in Science: lab observations, chart of changes over time, model of atoms
    Data in Mathematics: symbols and notations, given measurements, given equations
    Data in Language Arts: an author’s words, podcast of an interview with an author, book review
    Data in History: primary and secondary sources, maps, portraits of historical figures and events, infographs
    Data in Visual Art: painting, sculpture, biography of an artist

    Boicu, M., Marcu, D., Tecuci, G., & Schum, D. (2011, March). Cognitive Assistants for Evidence-Based Reasoning Tasks. In AAAI Fall Symposium: Advances in Cognitive Systems.

    Evidence. (n.d.). Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/evidence/

    Hillocks, George. Teaching argument writing, grades 6-12: Supporting claims with relevant evidence and clear reasoning. Heinemann, 2011.