Skip To Main Content

Header Bottom

Drawing Together Evidence-Based Explanations

Use the Evidence-Based Practices Order Form to purchase foldable versions of this tool for educators in your school or district.

The information presented in this evidence-based practice resource is adapted from Core Practice Set #4, Ambitious Science Teaching.

All you have to do is remove barriers that prevent students from showing what they can do.” –Ambitious Science Teaching


Attending to Equity

  • Remove the barriers that prevent students from showing what they can do.
  • Students may need assistance to complete assignments, such as
    • Directions read to them.
    • More time.
    • Questions written in their primary language.
    • Illustrations that accompany the items.
    • Options to talk out rather than write responses.
  • Use records of work and thinking over the course of the unit, such as
    • Models
    • Changes in hypotheses
    • Lab notebooks
    • Reflections

“But stockpiling knowledge is not the goal of AST; instead, we want students to develop more robust understandings by pulling together different ideas and bodies of evidence, in order to advance their current explanations and models” –Ambitious Science Teaching


Co-Constructing a Gotta Have Checklist


Supports metacognition by exploring with students: “What will we agree, counts as a credible and complete explanation? What do we still need to find out?”


A set of ideas that have to be included in the student’s final explanation and models.

  • What are the most important ideas we’ve explored during this unit?


Teachers actively moderate public construction of the list using familiar discourse moves.

  • Aim for 4-5 powerful ideas
  • Look back at Summary Table. “Should any ideas here be a part of our final explanations?

“Your critique and prompts are not supposed to ensure that all students’ models are carbon copies of one another.” –Ambitious Science Teaching


Pressing for Gapless Explanations and Models


Allows students multiple forms of evidence and information to revise causal accounts of how the world works.

Making Critical Decisions Before

  • Do students work individually? In pairs? In small groups?
  • Strategically pair students.
  • What resources are available for students to use for explanations?

Middle of Unit

  • Revising models
    • Sticky note revisions on initial models
    • Bring out models for sticky note revisions only once in the middle of the unit.
  • Revising hypotheses
    • Can we modify our original ideas?

End of Unit

  • Moving among the tables for directive critique.
    • Spend about 3 mins with each pair or small group
    • Offer more critique of what students are writing and more directive in conversations than earlier in the unit.

“You won’t get what you don’t ask for.” –Ambitious Science Teaching


Assessing for Understanding


Reveals depth and generalization of what has been learned. Provides feedback to the teachers about the efficacy of instruction, including tools and routines that have to change.

Principle 1: Assess What Was Taught

  • All learning events should be assessed in some way

Principle 2: Use Authentic Assessments Tasks

  • Use realistic scenarios
  • Combine with more traditional formats and short or long open-response items

Principle 3: Make Criteria for Success Clear to Students

  • Use Gotta Have Checklist as rubric for grading

Principle 4: Use Combinations of Lower- and Higher-Cognitive- Demand Items

  • High-cognitive demand tasks
    • Ask students to apply science ideas they’ve learned to new situations
  • Low-cognitive demand items
    • Basic questions and tasks that separate out selected science ideas

Principle 5: Provide Equitable Opportunities for Students to Show What They Know

  • Special forms of assistance
  • Maintain the full rigor of the assessment questions and tasks



Additional Resources