Effective Reasoning

Using a logical scientific reasoning process to develop and test a hypothesis related to a learning challenge.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

A five-step reasoning model (scientific reasoning) can be applied to any question, problem, claim, or theory to determine how well the evidence supports an answer, solution, position, or theory.

Method Components

As students undertake an activity, the educator leads them through the five-step model of effective reasoning to improve lucidity and logical development of thought. Each step can be conducted individually, in small groups, or in whole-group instruction.

Five steps of effective reasoning

  • Explore the challenge: Consider a wide range of possible answers, solutions, positions, or theories that could be the right response to the challenge, question, problem, issue or theory (see the Idea Generating and Choosing Learning Strategies micro-credentials). Suggested activities include:
    • Discuss similar types of questions, problems, positions, or theories from the past, what happened, and whether these results are useful to your own challenge.
    • Brainstorm multiple possibilities and alternative ways of looking at the challenge (not an either/or approach but a both, and many more view of potential responses to the challenge) and list these different approaches (see the Idea Generating micro-credential).
  • Formulate a hypothesis: Generate a potential answer, solution, position, or theory that can be tested to see whether the collected evidence confirms or disproves the hypothesis (see the Productive Researching micro-credential). Suggested activities include:
    • Research what answers, solutions, positions, or theories others have come up with for similar challenges in the past.
    • Look for information that might disprove your early hunches about the right solution.
    • Look for statistics that support or contradict your current best hypothesis.
  • Research and test a hypothesis: Use online resources, experts, experiments, prototyped solutions, observations, surveys, and other tools and record all the evidence that supports or refutes the hypothesis. Suggested activities include:
    • If the challenge is a question, research what experts have to say about your hypothesis (see the Crafting Driving Questions micro-credential).
    • If the challenge is a problem, research how others have solved the problem before coming up with your own solution, then prototype a model or small version of your solution (see the Design Thinking & Doing and the Designing Effective Solutions micro-credentials).
    • If the challenge is an issue in a debate or argument, research the strongest evidence to both support and refute your position (see the Evidence-backed Positions micro-credential).
    • If the challenge is creating a theory of how something works (or doesn't), devise an experiment whose outcome can prove or disprove the theory.
    • Make sure to record all the evidence you gather so you can evaluate it in the next step.
  • Evaluate the results: Summarize the case for a well-supported answer, solution, argument position, or theory, or come up with a new hypothesis based on the evidence and repeat the process. Suggested activities include:
    • Use a three-column chart to list supporting evidence in favor of the hypothesis, opposing evidence that refutes the hypothesis, and neutral evidence that neither supports nor refutes the hypothesis, but is related and interesting.
    • Decide what further evidence is needed to more convincingly confirm or deny the hypothesis and collect this evidence.
    • Summarize your results, present them to others, and get constructive feedback.
  • Reviewing: Reflect on what was learned from the reasoning process and identify what can be done to make the process better the next time. Suggested activities include:
    • Discuss what went well and what didn't.
    • Discuss what could be done better the next time you're confronted with an important challenge to tackle.

Suggested preparation

  • Students recall a time when they had answer an important question, solve a difficult problem, offer a strong position in an argument, or create a theory about something they care about, and list the steps they used to develop their answer, solution, argument, or theory.
  • Students discuss in small groups which thinking and reasoning strategies were effective and which were not in trying to solve these challenges, noting how what they thought was the truth might have changed during the process, and present their findings to the other groups.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Research on developing effective reasoning strategies has supported a scientific method approach that includes five steps: exploring the challenge, whether it is a question, problem, issue, or theory; formulating a hypothesis, a potential answer, solution, position, or claim; researching and testing the hypothesis and gathering evidence for or against it; evaluating the evidence and summarizing the results; and presenting and reviewing the outcomes and the reasoning process to improve the results of tackling the next challenge.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items you must submit to earn this micro-credential and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1, 3, and 4 and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview questions

(200-word limit for each response)

  • Activity Description: What kind of project activities did you and your students engage in to become more proficient in effective reasoning? Describe the learning activities and strategies you used.
  • Activity Evaluation: How do you know your students increased their proficiency by engaging in the effective reasoning activities and what evidence did you collect that demonstrates these learning gains?

Part 2. Evidence/artifacts

Please submit work examples from two students (such as links to writing, audio, images, video, or other products) that demonstrate progress toward the effective reasoning competency, including such items as examples of writing goals and strategies charts, multiple drafts of work, critiques and reflections on the writing, or other relevant items.

Part 3. Student reflections

For the two students whose work examples were included above, submit student-created reflections on their experience of the effective reasoning activities. Use the following questions as a guide (200-word limit for each reflection):

  • How did the effective reasoning activities help you come up with more logical, effective, and evidence-based answers, solutions, positions, and theories to your challenge?
  • How did the reasoning strategies change your view of the value of using a step-by-step process to ensure that your results are more reliable and “truthful”?

Part 4. Teacher reflection

Provide a reflection on what you learned, using the following questions as a guide (200-word limit):

  • What was the impact of engaging your students in the effective reasoning activity?
  • How will experiencing these project activities shape your daily teaching practice in the future?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Download to access the requirements and scoring guide for this micro-credential.
Requirements for Effective Reasoning
How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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