Examining student work is an excellent way to practice drawing inferences. Though teachers have always examined student work as part of their grading process, the new focus on accountability and standards fosters a more structured and collaborative examination of student work. The focus of the examination of student work needs to shift from a summative assessment of student performance to a formative assessment that provides a diagnostic evaluation of student performance, teacher assignment, and implications for instruction.
David Allen, a researcher at the Harvard Project Zero, believes that educators who look at student work in a collaborative process "hope to learn about the effectiveness of their instruction, better understand students' learning and development, develop more effective curriculum and assessment, and find ways to help students do higher quality work."
How can we draw inferences from think-alouds?
Another good way to better understand how students are thinking through questions is to ask them to orally think-aloud about their answer. Bruce Van Sledright, professor at the University of Maryland, uses think-alouds to solicit formative assessment information from 5th graders to better understand how they think and what they know and still need to learn.
Listen to an Interview with Bruce Van Sledright about his research