Can we teach students to make inferences?

Good stuff from Andy Tharlby

Reflecting English


Image: @jasonramasami

Good readers make inferences. They dive beneath the surface of a text. They reveal rich seams of meaning not immediately obvious to the naked eye. They draw insightful logical conclusions by synthesising a range of information. They deftly translate their findings into finely crafted academic language.

It seems sensible, then, to teach children the skill of inference (or whatever you want to call it: reading-between the lines, interpretation, insight, etc). But does such a reading skill truly exist? What is inference? Might it perhaps be little more than an illusion, a phantom? If indeed it does exist, might it take the form of a squirming, slippery, almost-translucent mass? Like a raw chicken breast?

Unfortunately, technology and science do not as yet allow us to eavesdrop on the thoughts of our students. We cannot enter a student’s mind as they are drawing together clues and ideas…

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