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The Most Reasonable Answer

reviewed by Emily Reeves

coverTitle: The Most Reasonable Answer
Author(s): Alina Reznitskaya & Ian A. G. Wilkinson
Publisher: Harvard Education Press, Boston
ISBN: 1682531228, Pages: 240, Year: 2017
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The Most Reasonable Answer by Reznitskaya and Wilkinson is a timely book given the overwhelming amount of misinformation that permeates society today. Students are constantly bombarded with information and need a way to distinguish what information is credible and reasonable. This book provides clear strategies to guide teachers in promoting metacognition in their students as well as self-study to improve their own teaching.

Example conversations are provided throughout the book that allow the reader to envision what the inquiry dialogue should look like. This concretizes the theory component of the book, which is beneficial for practitioners who are working to implement these strategies. The book also discusses argument literacy and provides an explicit and thought-provoking definition of this concept that focuses on higher level thinking skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Discussion is emphasized and promoted throughout the book, something which has been supported by educational psychologists for decades. Most educators agree that when students are able to discuss material, they are more likely to retain it. This book provides a framework for guiding discussions in order to facilitate a more meaningful metacognitive experience. This type of practical support makes the book accessible; it’s not only a book to keep on the shelf, but rather a book to reference often and actively use with students.

To engage in inquiry dialogue, an argument must first be presented. The authors carefully describe the anatomy of arguments, breaking down each component so that the reader fully understands their complexity. This is an example of the scaffolding for teachers found throughout the book. Once the main concepts of inquiry dialogue and arguments are clear, the authors move forward to tackle facilitation and answer questions that many practitioners would naturally ask. For example, Chapter Three, “How to Facilitate Collaborative and Rigorous Argumentation,” provides visuals, a checklist, and a discussion guide to support teachers. Many reading teachers in particular are familiar with “before, during, and after” strategies. Reznitskaya and Wilkinson take this model and apply it to discussions. The familiarity of the model along with the continuous support provides a clear format that should bolster practitioner confidence in implementation of the process.

Using familiar frameworks to help students develop oral arguments helps to provide a type of comfort zone for practitioners as they tackle new material. This is a major benefit of The Most Reasonable Answer; many case studies and reflection questions are provided for practitioners, allowing them to develop confidence and a willingness to try the approach. Chapter Eleven also serves as a self-study guide that involves peer coaching and mimics an action research model, a best practice in the classroom that practitioners should adopt on a continuous basis.

Reznitskaya and Wilkinson did not stop with professional development. The book also includes a helpful list of “Frequently Asked Questions” (Chapter Twelve), along with checklists, informal and formal rubrics, and general assessment tools. These not only serve as time savers for practitioners, but also provide additional support and boost confidence. We live in an assessment age, and the book also provides a variety of assessments to use not only for grading but also for providing feedback to both practitioners and students. In short, this book offers practical support for teachers who want to promote higher order thinking and develop their students’ ability to have an argument and look at different sides of an issue.

High stakes testing has trained decades of students to focus on preparing for standardized, multiple-choice assessment, and this book’s focus on inquiry dialogue and argument literacy through discussion is a strong counter to the current state of education. I highly recommend this book not only for practicing teachers but also for graduate coursework. The book is pedagogically sound and ready to be used as a tool, not just as a book to read and put on a shelf. Additionally, it promotes professional development that closely resembles action research, one of the best ways for teachers to think about their own teaching and make adjustments based on findings.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, 2018, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22353, Date Accessed: 10/18/2018 12:22:44 AM

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