Why teach inference?

  • Inference is a "foundational skill" — a prerequisite for higher-order thinking and 21st century skills (Marzano, 2010)
  • Inference skills are used across the curriculum, including English language arts, science and social studies.
  • Because inferring requires higher order thinking skills, it can be difficult for many students. However, it can be taught through explicit instruction in inferential strategies

How to teach inference

One simplified model for teaching inference includes the following assumptions:

Marzano (2010) suggests teachers pose four questions to students to facilitate a discussion about inferences.

  • What is my inference?
    This question helps students become aware that they may have just made an inference by filling in information that wasn't directly presented.
  • What information did I use to make this inference?
    It's important for students to understand the various types of information they use to make inferences. This may include information presented in the text, or it may be background knowledge that a student brings to the learning setting.
  • How good was my thinking?
    According to Marzano, once students have identified the premises on which they've based their inferences, they can engage in the most powerful part of the process — examining the validity of their thinking.
  • Do I need to change my thinking?
    The final step in the process is for students to consider possible changes in their thinking. The point here is not to invalidate students' original inferences, but rather to help them develop the habit of continually updating their thinking as they gather new information.

One model that teachers can use to teach inference is called "It says, I say, and so" developed by Kylene Beers (2003). Take a look at these graphic organizer examples from Goldilocks and the Three Bears, as well as the steps to solving a math problem about area and diameter. 


Review Game Zone: Inference