Design Question 4

Helping Students Generate and Test Hypotheses


Participants will be able to:

Understand Design Question 4: Engaging in Cognitively Complex Tasks.

Create and have students engage in short or long term cognitively complex tasks that move them beyond the basic levels of content knowledge; consequently, allowing the student to gain the abilities and confidence to analyze their own understanding of content in novel situations.

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Cognitively complex tasks are those that demand higher-level thinking skills from the students. These are the skills that ultimately lead to the generation and testing of hypotheses about knowledge that has been acquired in the classroom. This includes investigating, problem-solving, decision-making, experimental inquiry, inventing, and student-designed tasks.

Please note that the core of this process stems from the student and teacher establishing and maintaining a structured and rigorous method to produce and support claims. Students must also own the content in order to reach the cognitively complex level.

Students need to learn, practice, and deepen their understanding of content before they can generate and test hypotheses about it. "Engaging in Cognitvely Complex Tasks: Classroom Techniques to Help Students Generate & Test Hypotheses Across Disciplines (Marzano Center Essentials for Achieving Rigor)" by Deana Senn & Robert J. Marzano


Each of the following instructional techniques when used correctly, consistently, and monitored using a student performance scale can lead to an increase in student achievement.



The students generate and test a hypothesis by investigating what others have said or written about a specific idea, event, or concept. There are 3 types of investigations:

· Historical: Construct plausible scenarios for events from the pass for which there is no general agreement among sources.

· Projective: Use the knowledge gained during an investigation to make projections on future or hypothetical events.

· Definitional: Describe characteristics of places, things, or concepts.

Teacher Advice: Spend some time (if necessary) modeling how to find and analyze errors in logic. Provide a template or checklist for the students to follow to keep them organized. Employ peer coaching to verify if and when students are on the right path. Develop a list of potential resources for the student to start. Provide a list of possible sentence starters for those students not comfortable with forming claims.

Monitoring: Have students turn and talk about why they stated their claims. Have students use post-its to annotate their sources for reading and then discuss. Use post-its to write down any confusion or contradiction that was found. Students can also write down related logical errors that were found and then form related groups for discussion.



The students generate possible solutions to overcome an obstacle or constraint, and then test and defend their possible solutions.

Teacher Advice: Begin the problem-solving lesson with a motivating prompt. Find a problem and solution map that can aid your students in problem solving. Plan how and when you want your students to work collaboratively and independently. Provide choices for how the students might document and present.

Monitoring: Use whiteboards to have your students write out their solutions. Circulate and question students directly to see where they are in their problem-solving. Have the students highlight the key information that will use from their evidence as support.



The students use information gathered from critical content to select among various possible choices.

Teacher Advice: Encourage students to use their academic notebook or previous work as a way to make connections between what they have already learned and this project. Provide the students with a list of the following 8 steps:

1. Identify the goal.

2. Identify the alternatives.

3. Predict the alternative that will satisfy the most criteria.

4. Generate the criteria that will determine the alternative you chose.

5. Weigh the criteria to which is the most important.

6. Rank alternatives in terms of how they satisfy the criteria.

7. Decide which alternative meets the criteria best.

8. Based on your original hypothesis, explain how the alternative you chose fits best.

Monitoring: Circulate and question students directly to see where they are in their decision-making.



The students collect evidence by direct evidence (ie. reading a text, watching a video, observing a physical change, etc.) to test a hypothesis they have generated. Experimental inquiries start when students observe something they are unable to explain and want to investigate further. The students determine or design the procedures needed to test their hypotheses.

Teacher Advice: Develop a set of resources to aid the students in developing their procedure in order to set boundaries in the interest of safety and logistics. Provide a template or graphic organizer for the students to follow as a guide.

Monitoring: Have students come to you for approval before starting their procedure. Circulate and question students directly to see where they are in their experimental inquiry. Use feedback strips (where necessary) to identify areas of needed support.



The students analyze their own thinking as they brainstorm how to design something that achieves a specific goal, select the design that achieves the goal, and then create a prototype.

Teacher Advice: Plan how and when you want your students to work on each phase of development. Provide ongoing feedback and celebrate success towards the goal. Develop guiding questions to use in peer response groups to help students focus their work. Employ self-reflection to help students remain focused on the essential skills and knowledge.

Monitoring: Have students number each of the criteria and then number the part of their designs that correlate to that criteria. Circulate and question students directly to see where they are in their experimental inquiry. Use feedback strips (where necessary) to identify areas of needed support.



The students design their own tasks by deciding what their focus will be and having the freedom to pursue specialized interests. Students need to have a firm grasp of how to conduct a cognitively complex task since they will now be responsible for designing and conducting one independently.

Teacher Advice: Develop timelines and intermediate goals for the students to keep them focused. Employ peer coaching to verify if and when students are on the right path.

Monitoring: Have students do a quick write on their reasoning behind picking their topics. Provide the students with "Please look at..." post-its to use on their task allowing you to focus your feedback where it is most needed. Employ self-reflection through an exit ticket to see what students have learned thus far as it relates to the learning target.