High Yield Strategy: Generating and Testing Hypotheses

If you conduct a Google search regarding “hypothesis generation,” in less than a second you will have access to 154,000,000 links to articles and examples of such activity.  That may make you think that the generation and testing of hypotheses is far too great a task to undertake in your classroom.  Rest assured, it isn’t.  

In his book Classroom Instruction That Works, Robert Marzano and his team conclude through meta-analysis that the generation and testing of hypotheses regularly in the classroom correlates to an effective size of .61 as it relates to increased student achievement.  Below are a few thoughts that might help bring such activity into your classroom:

  1. Keep it simple.  A hypothesis is merely a guess regarding a potential outcome.  Simply asking your students to provide a guess regarding the direction of an action is enough to start the ball rolling.
  2. Incorporate hypothesis language regularly.  Ask students “what if” questions.  Frame hypothesis testing as “let’s try this.”
  3. Ask for explanations.  When students provide you with their best guess related to an outcome, ask questions.  Have them explain why they think things will turn out the way they have articulated.  Remember to go five “why’s” (or more) deep.
  4. Use real world examples to spur thinking.  The “real world” for young students might be only within the classroom (“What would happen if we all turned our desks toward this wall?”).  The real world for older students can extend well outside of the classroom (“What would happen if a dormant volcano under Yellowstone suddenly became active?”).  These kinds of questions are great for getting students thinking.  
  5. Reflect frequently in writing.  If you remember any of your educational philosophy courses you might recall John Dewey saying, “We do not learn from our experiences. We learn from reflecting on our experiences.” 

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can bring hypothesis generation and testing into a variety of content areas in your classroom.  You and your students will be glad you did!

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