Book a Call
Join a Training

Part 3: 3 Small Tweaks to Set Students Up for More Success with Data in the New Year

data moves & topics

Data Moves & Topics 


Oooh this is tweak is something that really doesn’t take more time, but can have HUGE payoffs in terms of students really “getting it” when it comes to making sense of data.

As a reminder, we want to share three small tweaks that you can use NEXT WEEK regardless of whatever curriculum you are using AND regardless of whatever ways your students are graphing (as a note see “How Are/Should We Make the Graph?” blog post on ways to graph and “Benefits & Limitations of Different Graphing Tools” blog post on our perspective on graphing tools).

In this series we are discussing three tweaks and what it could look like in your classroom. To see the previous tweaks shared check out:

Tweak #3: List evidence before making a claim

Let’s think through a scenario…

You have an idea of what you may see based on your previous experiences.

You are shown an image of a crime scene.

You are asked to make a claim about whether the defendant is guilty or innocent.

Then, you are asked to listen to or look for pieces of evidence that support your claim.


And so goes NO crime TV show/movie, and hopefully no actual court rooms, ever in the US.

Beyond the fact that in the US the intended approach is that you are “innocent until proven guilty”, we do not ask for a claim/verdict before we present evidence.

In fact, most court cases spend hours to days to weeks with lawyers, experts, and witnesses presenting different pieces of evidence and the reasoning for how that evidence supports a particular claim. It is then up to the jury (or judge depending on the case type) to look at all those pieces of evidence in their entirety to decide on which claim/verdict is supported by the most evidence presented.

In other words: 1) evidence, 2) reasoning, and then 3) claim.

But, then why do SO many of our worksheets, graphic organizers, digital notebooks, facilitation prompts, etc. in K-12 these days look like this example from the Texas Gateway?

We ask kids to:

  1. Write in a question

  2. State their claim

  3. List evidence

  4. Explain how that evidence supports their claim

*Note, I am not critiquing Texas Gateway as they have a lot of great resources, but rather just using this as an example.

Beyond the fact that question and evidence are singular, which can lead to some one-and-done misconceptions about science, there is also the issue of the order disconnect here. We dive more into different ways to think about the ordering of CER activities in our 12/9/21 blog post “CER vs ERC vs ECR?” so I won’t repeat that too much (as I recommend you check it out).

But I will summarize two key takeaways here:

  1. As experts looking at data we naturally notice features or components (evidence) first when looking at a graph. Then with more time we begin to think through to a claim we could make or questions of why that is the case about that evidence. So rather than fighting this tendency, let’s help our students to see that they too should not immediately be able to identify a claim from data, but rather should look for the evidence pieces.

  2. If we lead with a claim, before we have evaluated and considered the evidence, really what we are doing is teaching our students to learn into and/or reinforcing their tendency of confirmation bias. Rather than helping our students learn to make arguments/claims in a sequence that stresses evidence finding first to use to form a claim.

Ok, so you may be asking: but what would this look like?

Well, good news it does not require huge shifts or changes…just some small tweaks.

Look at the example from Chem Ed Xchange, even if the specific content does not work for you, for their structure. They also lead with a question, though shout-out for calling it a Guiding Question (aka to guide the thinking or exploration) rather than just question at large.

Then they provide students with the thing (in this case a diagram, but this could also be where a graph or map could go).

Then — and this is the big part — they have a place for students to write down their observations…aka EVIDENCE.

Before finally asking students to make a claim about the diagram. (As a note, this structure then goes on to provide a claim and asks students to evaluate it based on what they observed in the diagram…great for deepening CER skills.)

Just visually switching up the order of the worksheet, graphic organizer, etc. can be HUGE for your students in terms of:

  • What you are role modeling in terms of approach,

  • What they subconsciously take in as the order of events, and

  • What they can accomplish with the task at hand.

I encourage you to give it a try and let us know how it goes!


Now before we launch off into the world of changing the order around on everything for CER…I want to pause and remind us that when writing out our findings, results, explanations, understandings, etc. the most efficient way to do it is to:

  1. State your claim (thank you topic sentence),

  2. Provide your evidence (as many of us learned ideally 3 supporting sentences), and

  3. Hammer home the point with your reasoning (or wrap it up with your concluding sentence).

So, it is not that C->E->R is bad as an order all the time…just that it can cause hiccups, missteps, misunderstandings, and/or frustrations when originally exploring something to figure it out.

Like when we first look at a graph :)

As in, if we are expecting our students to be exploring something new for meaning and then sharing what sense making they achieve…don’t skip steps on the graphic organizer. Set it up in a way that works with the sequence that we want to be teaching (and that we ourselves use)…Evidence first.

When we want our students to tell us what they found (after they have made sense of it), then by all means…write me that beautiful essay with a claim/topic sentence leading the way. But I cannot, and should not, jump to this claim first while I am first making sense of something.

All it takes is knowing what we are after: exploring something

new to find meaning (then lead with evidence) or explaining something they already know (then lead with claim).

So my next challenge to you (should you choose to accept it :)) is: Where in the New Year can you make small adjustments to

the sequence on your graphic organizers to stress that we look for evidence first?

Share your thoughts, comments, wins, and flops! We would love to hear.