In the ever-changing realm of education, educators must be constantly seeking new and innovative practices to enhance student learning. Direct student engagement is imperative for ultimate deep student learning of concepts as well as life applications that drive learning more deeply. Students are constantly being pulled to areas of interest both in the classroom and without. As educators, we must be constantly looking for ways to excite students in the area of not just learning, but deep, long lasting learning. By “turning students on” to concepts in the classroom and employing more student-centered strategies, student learning increases and oftentimes career opportunity ideas are born to a student as interest peaks.

What is the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning Model?

One method used especially in the area of science is the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning Model (CER). CER is a model in education that directs students to make a claim that answers the initial question. The student is also directed to collect data (evidence) to support that claim. Finally, through reasoning, the student applies scientific principles or rules that support the claim.

The CER model is important in science because learning concepts that drive to newer and deeper questions is what drives student learning in science more deeply. Basically, it is a hands-on model, whether it is physical (experimentation) or data-driven through research already established. Of course the CER model can apply both and can become a valuable tool in not only finding answers to questions, but just as importantly drive student interest to new heights.

How to Introduce Students to CER

Once the teacher has introduced and modeled the concept to the students, they must then begin the process of helping their students get started on their own CERs. Students should be working on how to answer essential questions such as: what do I want to know? What data will I collect and how? How will this help verify or refute my claims? Inquiry-based learning is a perfect vehicle for this kind of thinking.

Guiding students with examples will help students come up with their own ideas (claims) that peak an interest for them. Teachers should set parameters but allow free thinking and fresh ideas to be born. While a student idea might need a little “tweaking” to make it doable, the teacher should do their best to allow the student-born idea to be as original as possible.

Once the claim has been solidified, students need to be allowed freedom, resources, and time during the critical data collection period. Teachers should be there to guide but allow students to dig and find the truth based on the data. Learning to follow the data is also an important life lesson. However, if the teacher sees imminent failure coming due to mistakes that have been made, for example, a mathematical error, they should gently attempt to guide the students in an alternate direction. The teacher does not want to hover over, but gently suggest or ask guiding questions to keep the student on track or prompt them to alter their track toward the goal. It is important to remember just because an outcome is not what we expected, does not mean that it is a bad outcome.

Also, it is just as important to remember that outcome (reasoning) often leads to a new and possibly more innovative question, which begins the journey all over again. If a student is guided and self-guided to that end, then you have a student that is now on a scientific journey.

One other important part of CER is presentation. Students should know up front that there will be an expected presentation. Students should also understand that the process is the most important part of the presentation. The outcome is what it is but the process and the “bumps” along the way create an interest in the journey the student has taken. Students should be cautioned that accuracy is important and to stick with the facts regardless of the outcomes. By making a compelling presentation, not only will the student presenting be excited about the topic, but the possibility exists that other students will become motivated in this area as well. As with any experimentation-type model, one never knows at the end what direction they will be led to next.

Guiding students to self-education through research and development is a great educational practice that all too often is left by the wayside. In an effort to cover the material and make sure all benchmarks are met, we often get caught up in teaching the material instead of teaching the student. There is definitely a balance that must be met in all teaching strategies. However, we must remember that if we “turn a student on” to a topic, then they just might become a life learner in that area and possibly many others.

Remember the old proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” We can give fish to our students all day long through books, videos, and lectures; but if we can teach them to fish for the answers themselves, we will have created a true life learner. In our ever-changing educational world, we must teach our students to think for themselves and not just recall the answers to multiple-choice questions. We must teach students to question everything and not only learn to, but have a desire to, think for themselves.