HomeAuthorSAUCEQuestioningInquiry LearningLearning LinksArticles and Handouts

ICT in Learning and TeachingInformation Literacy ModelsFuture Learning Now BlogQuestioning Skills Wiki


The Reasoning Process


A major resource for this was:  http://www.dartmouth.edu/~compose/faculty/pedagogies/thinking.html#elements


The reasoning process is something we do all the time, usually we do it unconsciously.


We are always making observations.



From our observations we establish facts and theory.



From facts we draw inferences.




From our inferences we make assumptions.



We use our observations, facts, inferences and assumptions to form our opinions.



We then create arguments to defend our opinions.



We use analysis to critique our own and other peoples observations, facts, inferences, assumptions, opinions, and arguments.


Here is a simple example of the reasoning process in action.


As you drive your car down the road you see a child bouncing a ball on the footpath, she loses control of

the ball and it bounces across the road in front of you.


You observe and draw these facts:

A child is bouncing a ball

the child loses control of the ball

the ball is bouncing onto the road

From these facts you predict that the ball is going to continue bouncing and will bounce in front of the car

From the facts you you draw an inference:

the ball will go in front of your car.


You also have a feeling that the child is going to run after

the ball


From the inference you now form an assumption:

The child is going to run after the ball

You can see a potential accident


From all the above you have now formed an opinion:

This is a potential accident


At this point you make a decision which may be to take evasive action, brake, swerve, slow down or do nothing.

Decision and action


Afterwards you will create arguments to defend your reasoning process and action

Create arguments to defend your choices


You will very likely reflect on and analyse the incident later in the day, if a wrong decision was made you may reflect on it for years.

Reflection and ananalysis


This is a simple example, but it does serve to illustrate the reasoning process. It also serves to illustrate the clear difference between inferences and assumptions. Inference are only one step removed from facts, the facts are accepted as being true, and inferences are usually taken as being true. Assumptions, by comparison, are two steps removed from the facts. Assumptions are much less likely to be true because they are drawn from one or more inferences.


It is important to realise that the whole reasoning process can be coloured b y a number of factors, and these impact right through the whole process, but the most obvious point of initial impact is at the stage where observations are made. One factor that can colour our observations are emotions. For instance if I am angry, hurt, or suspicious at the point I make an observation then the inferences I draw from those observations are likely to be different to what they might have been if the filter of that emotion wasn't present at the time of making the observation. There are a range of 'filters' including: emotion, culture, world view, and experiences.


Once we become aware of the reasoning process, it becomes apparent that it plays a major role in our lives every day. If we want to empower our students as effective thinkers then the reasoning process is a very powerful place to start. I believe we need to raise our own and our students' awareness of the reasoning process, and the filters operating in themselves and others, as well as assist our pupils to be far more conscious about the process so that we equip them to make reasoned decisions and actions instead of just reacting. The reasoning process provides us a workable starting point with students to empower them as effective thinkers.