The Reasonable Student

How to get students to think about their learning

The Reasonable Student


Unfortunately, if you are looking for an article that will turn your hormone fuelled, irrational class of teenagers into reasonable human beings then, my apologies for the misleading title. However, there are some ways which we can use key elements of Mastery learning to help turn our students into more self-aware, critical and evaluative thinkers - thus creating 'the reasonable student', or better put, a student who can reason well.


Student Habits


Students, unknown to themselves, are constantly reasoning and evaluating. Whether they are choosing their lunch, following an instruction, or deciding to misbehave. It is this self-questioning which naturally occurs subconsciously that can be harnessed and taught as a conscious skill in order to create students who can evaluate and reason purposefully in the classroom. The aim is that the development of this skill will then become a natural aspect of a student’s learning process and will ultimately be re-internalized as a habit of learning.


Why is Reasoning Important?


Reasoning is particularly important as it allows a student to develop a sense of self awareness. By understanding the ways in which they learn, students can take ownership of their learning. Reasoning is a key critical thinking skill which can be applied to all curriculum areas as it promotes self-evaluation, error seeking and enables students to rehearse the justifications behind their thinking.


Creating a Culture


The transition from subconscious to conscious reasoning can be achieved by drawing awareness to innate thought processes and by creating a culture of discovery in the classroom. Build an environment which supports and provokes inquisitiveness by allowing students the time and opportunities to discuss not just what they know but how they know it through a range of interesting and purposeful activities. Here are a few ways that we can bring the thinking process to the forefront of our classrooms and develop our students reasoning skills.


Classroom Tips


· Peer talk – using peers to drive learning forward is a key element of Mastery learning, but we can use this dialogue to a greater extent by training our students not just to talk, but to question.

Partner 1 becomes the Why partner and Partner 2 becomes the How partner. Each student can answer a question phrased by the teacher using these question stems, or if you’re feeling adventurous, they can come up with their own how and why questions based on the stimuli.



· Teacher questioning- During the AFL cycle of our lesson, teachers can build in questions which enable students to better understand their thinking behind an answer. Instead of accepting what is right or correcting what is wrong, encourage students to think more deeply by asking them to justify their answer. This will allow students to consider their reasons for providing an answer and help students to recognize their own errors when their ideas cannot be justified.



· Peer Assessment - WWW and EBIs are great, but in the hands of students they can often morph into a quick fix activity. Students can identify what the error is and what needs to be added in to fix it; it doesn’t always address the error in thinking or understanding behind the mistakes made. In order to get students to engage critically with their own work and that of others, why not ask your students to peer ask assess their partners work using only questions. A ‘Why did you write this?’ Or ‘How do you know this?’ can often result in light bulb moments and help students to be more self-reflective and conscientious when responding to tasks.

Critical Thinking