Online Evidence Charts to Help Students Systematically Evaluate Theories and Evidence

Alex O Holcombe, Hal Pashler

Abstract


To achieve intellectual autonomy, university students should learn how to critically evaluate hypotheses and theories using evidence from the research literature. Typically this occurs in the context of writing an essay, or in planning the introduction and conclusion sections of a laboratory project. To be successful, a student must distill relevant evidence from the research literature, evaluate evidence quality, and evaluate hypotheses or theories in light of the evidence. To help students achieve these goals, we have created a web-based “evidence-charting” tool (available at www.evidencechart.org). The main feature of the website is an interactive chart, providing students a structure to list the evidence (from research articles or experiments), list the theories, and enter their evaluation of how the evidence supports or undermines each theory/hypothesis. The chart also elicits from students their reasoning about why the evidence supports or undermines each hypothesis, and invites them to consider how someone with an opposing view might respond. The online chart provides a summary view of the evidence the student has indicated to be most important, and discussion tools to elaborate on this information. Upon completing a chart, the student is well positioned to write their essay or report, and the instructor has an at-a-glance view to provide formative feedback indicating whether the student has successfully reviewed the literature and understands the evidence and theories. These benefits are being evaluated in the context of introductory and advanced psychology classes.

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