Working with the Truth Ideal

Working with the Truth Ideal over a period of several weeks involves three things: students exploring truth in connection with content, reflecting on what they understand about truth and how it works, and detecting situations where truth is at issue. Let's look at each of these areas in turn.

Exploring Curricular Connections

Working with the Truth Ideal is mostly a matter of combining content students are studying with the thinking routines for truth. Try to use several truth routines per week, ranging across different subject matters if you teach more than one. You can also use school and community issues.

One of your key tasks is to make those curricular connections day by day, week by week. Often teachers engage students in choosing too. How can you look for good connections in various subject areas? First of all, remember that there are tips for choosing topics as part of our write up for each routine. But in general, many issues of truth arise around the following themes (there's some overlap but that's okay)...

Interpretations - the interpretation of a work of literature or art, or the implications of a recent political event or statement. (Often it's impossible to resolve the "right' interpretation in a final way; but the aim of exploring truth is insight into the issues and skill building as much as final answers, so that's okay.)

Judgments - whether a law is good or bad, a person on trial is guilty or not, an historical figure a positive or negative force. (Again, such questions may be impossible to resolve in a final way but that's okay as above. Same point for the other ideas below.)

Estimates - What budget will the government need next year? What budget will we need for a school project? How much water will our community need in 50 years?

Decisions - was it wise for some historical or literary figure to make the choice he or she did? Or a current political figure?

Unsettled theories - is there life on Mars? How did the universe begin? What happened to Amelia Earhart? Are we really undergoing global warming?

Complex "right answer' situations - These are situations where students commonly come up with multiple answers even though there's a right answer. Getting them to argue from evidence is a great way of building their understanding and skills. E.g. where a fraction goes on the number line (a common source of confusion for students), what some complex numerical expression evaluates to, the answer to a tricky question in chemistry.

Explicit situations of proof and evidence - court trials, seeking proofs or counterexamples in mathematics, designing experiments (not just doing "canned' experiments) in science, testing hypotheses in history.

There are more of course. They are right there on the surface or just under the surface. Often in classrooms we breeze by them because we want to get to the right answers as directly as possible, or at least to the "official story" of the textbook as quickly as possible. But they offer tremendous learning opportunities.

Reflecting on truth

Throughout the module you will want to have students reflect back and think about their thinking about truth. You could do this informally through a class discussion or by using a routine designed for reflection

Connect Back Routine. This routine helps students consolidate their growing understanding of the concept of truth. It helps students to reflect on the truth routines they have been learning and see how they are connected to the larger concept of truth as illustrated in the Truth Map

I used to think..., But now I think... In this routine, students write and/or discuss what they used to think about the topic of truth and seeking evidence. Then they write down what they now think and look at the contrasts.

These routines can be used multiple times. For one time, many teachers try to use them sometime near the middle of the Truth Module, to consolidated and deepen learning.


Detecting opportunities: Developing awareness of when truth is a concern

A big challenge in developing students' thinking is their detecting when thinking is needed. It's easy simply to miss important issues of truth. Indeed, as mentioned earlier, in classroom situations we often keep them out of sight in quest for the "right' answer or the "official story'. Building students' alertness to situations where truth is a concern is an important part of the agenda.

We can help students detect problems of truth. Students need opportunities both to think about the types of occasions where truth is an issue and to try to identify them as they naturally occur in situations they find themselves in.

Truth discussion: Sometimes it's hard to know . To foster this awareness you can ask your students to identify occasions when it is hard to know when something is true or not. You can follow this up by asking students what they can do to figure out truth in situations like the ones identified. Some teachers may have asked a version of these questions when introducing the module, many in the middle. It is fine to repeat them as students' responses often change.

The Truth Thermometer. This activity asks students to spot occasions outside of the classroom where truth is at issue. This is a good one to do several times, since it keeps students' "radar' for problems of truth on the alert.

The next page, Looking at Students' Conceptual Development, sketches how you might bring the Truth Module to a close.