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Convince a Skeptic


^21st Century Skills All Ages Strategy


Flexible Thinking Expressive Language Verbal Reasoning Abstract Reasoning

Convince a Skeptic

If your student understands a concept and you want them to be able to explain and communicate their reasoning

How To Apply It!

  1. One of the best ways to develop and solidify understanding is being able to effectively communicate and explain your reasoning to others and answer their questions.
  2. Teachers can use this hierarchy with a delicate touch in the classroom, usually with the teacher playing the "skeptic". Starting with a leading question such as "Why is it that..." "But, why doesn't it apply here..."
  3. While this hierarchy was originally developed for the math classroom, it can easily translate to all subjects.
  4. As students become more comfortable with the idea of being challenged they can work in pairs and challenge each other.
  5. Teachers will likely want to be sensitive to pairings, in some cases pairing students with similar levels of knowledge and at other times turning this more into a peer teaching exercise when students have very different levels of understanding.
  6. a) Convince yourself (relatively easy): Speak aloud to yourself at home to explain a concept. Ask yourself questions to challenge your understanding.
  7. b) Convince a friend (harder but still relatively easy): Work with a peer who is at the same level.
  8. c) Convince a skeptic or an expert (challenging): Work with the teacher, an older sibling, or a parent who has more knowledge in the subject and can challenge your thinking.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Boaler & Humphreys (2005) established this "hierarchy of convincing" that leads to deeper understanding. When students can effectively convince a skeptic, using sound facts and logical explanations, then they know they have a clear understanding of the concept in their own mind.