Archive for February, 2010

Predict, Observe, Explain

One of the most productive intersections between learning, thinking, and writing occurs when students are asked to explain a technical or theoretical concept from the course, apply that concept to a specific case or instance, draw conclusions about the outcome, and argue for their conclusions using reasons and evidence. Tasks of this kind help students practice and reinforce content-area knowledge while at the same time giving them a context for critical thinking and writing. Predict-Observe-Explain is one version of this task that can be used in almost any discipline. Here’s how it works.

After teaching a concept or principle, introduce a case, scenario, or situation in which that principle applies. Ask students to PREDICT what they think will happen in the scenario. Then continue the demonstration (or allow the scenario to play out) so that students can OBSERVE what actually happens. And finally, ask students to report the outcome as it actually occurred and EXPLAIN the outcome using reasons and evidence.

The Predict-Observe-Explain approach has been widely adopted in the sciences, but only a very little ingenuity is required to develop Predict-Observe-Explain tasks for any field in which the theories of the field are used to explain how things happen.

If you’d like more information about POE tasks in general or for your discipline, or if you have a POE you’d like to share, please e-mail me at jzeperni@pittstate.edu.

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