One of the reasons why teachers grow so much is because students are a wonderful source of questions. Through their questions, I have to clarify my thoughts, question my assumptions, fill the gaps and improve on what I already know. Recently, a student of mine did just that. The students had to submit a written assignment - Preliminary Ideas - for Project Work. This is her question and the reply I gave:
How to differentiate between reason and evidence?
A reason is the point you wish to make. In other words, what you use to justify your project. Evidence is to substantiate your point - to show why your reason is true. While explanation is to use reasons to support the main reason or point you wish to make.
- Soccer is a popular game:
- 280 million play in 200 countries worldwide
- 28 million watched the world cup
Not all reasons require evidence for substantiation. Some reasons may require further explanation - further reasoning to explain the main reason.
- Soccer is a popular game:
- most widely played sports
- most widely watched programme
Examples and elaboration are meant to illustrate or provide more detail about what you want to do. That's different from a reason (why).
- Create a unique jump photography style
- Example: Quidditch and Hadoken
- Elaboration: Participants jump to mimic the Chinese zodiac characters and are photographed mid-air giving the impression of mysticism.
I have presented in a point form so as to show clearly the structure between a reason and the supporting evidence and explanation; and the statement (what) together with the example and elaboration that serve to illustrate and provide sufficient details.
Justification & Substantiation
Over the past years, we have often drilled into our students that they need to justify and substantiate their points. However, students do struggle to justify and substantiate because of the lack of clarity which in turn affects their performance.
I followed up in the following lesson by drawing a table to show the difference between justification and substantiation. In essence, justification is to show why while substantiation is to show why it is true. Hence, justification through reasons, substantiation with evidence.
Tell Then Show
Now that justification and substantiation were clear, it was only natural to ask what it is that had to justified and substantiated. In other words, what is your point?
A common problem I have with students is that after years of narrative writing, they had become very comfortable with showing and not telling. In other words, don't tell the reader that it was a beautiful day, show through descriptive imagery and vivid poetry. That becomes a difficulty when writing a proposal such as this Preliminary Ideas where the purpose is to persuade. Unlike narrative writing, the points have to be direct and explicit rather than concealed behind literary embellishments.
Using the soccer example above, I gave an example to the class in which I read only the reasons but left out the point. Students were better able to grasp why I commented that their drafts were rambling without any direction of purpose.
As a follow up exercise, I got the class into a simple activity where they had to summarise their proposal in three words - three points. The students very soon discovered that a simple activity isn't necessarily an easy one. A large number struggled to identify the word that capture the essence of the point. It was a good exercise that revealed why they were having difficulty producing a persuasive proposal in the first place.
Once the words were identified, it became much easier to find reasons that justify as well as evidence to substantiate the point.