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Inductive Reasoning

Description of Lesson: Inductive reasoning involves finding the path that leads to a known solution. Inductive reasoning is the ability to combine pieces of information that may seem unrelated to form general rules or relationships. It is a primary attribute in scientific theory formulation. As an example of inductive reasoning, in a crime, you have the evidence, the goal is to use inductive reasoning to determine how the evidence came to be as it is.

Appropriate Content Areas: All. Often used in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Forensics to name a few.

This lesson is also available in Ukrainian

arrow button Herr, N. (2001). Activities for stimulating inductive reasoning. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from
arrow button Hutchinson, J. (2005). Concept development studies in chemistry. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from
arrow button Luthy, M. (2003). Inductive reasoning and the branding exercise. Retrieved February 2, 2007, from - using inductive reasoning to teach marketing.

< Goals & Objectives:

The goals of an inductive reasoning exercise are generally to develop the students skills at finding patterns or for them to create rules to explain phenomena. Sample objective statements include:

During and after performing the Group Report activity, students will...

  • evaluate observations for validity and applicability to developing theories,
  • uncover themes and recognize key facets within a given set of information,
  • synthesize information from numerous sources,
  • recognize key features within observations,
  • integrate current contexts with pre-existing knowledge, determined by successfully attending to 80% of rubric items.



Materials and Resources:

These will depend on the activity, but usually can be limited to Web resources provided by the instructor. At times, various Java (or other forms) of simulations may be used from which students may derive their theories.

Guiding Questions for this Lesson:

Students may be asked the following questions: What is the pattern that leads us to the current state of things? How can the given phenomena be explained based upon what we already know?

Lesson Outline and Procedure:

  1. Students are provided with a pattern. This pattern may be pre-existing or may be one that the students develop through some earlier exercise such as a simulation or laboratory experiment.
  2. Based upon the information provided, the students propose theories for why the phenomena observed occur as they did or a process that leads to the given final state (such as a geometric proof).
  3. The student then articulates theories or provides proof for the given process
  4. In some cases, additional activities may be proposed in which theories may be tested.

Teaching Strategies:

  • Inductive reasoning can be included with other assessments. It does not have to be a stand-alone exercise.


What accommodations may be needed for students with disabilities or other special needs? Blind students may need accomodations for inducation based upon visual evidence. Some students with learning disabilities have a severe lack of inductive reasoning capability, but are still capable in many other areas. For that reason among others, variety in assessments should be employed.


An inductive exercise can take as little as one minute, whereby an instructor presents data and asks students to quickly formulate reasons for that data. An inductive exercise as a stand-alone assignment would typically be given two days in an online classroom. Often, it would occur in conjunction with a group of exercises.

Ideas for Lesson Evaluation and Teacher Reflection:

How did the students like the lesson? End of semester evaluations should ask about the usefulness and learning accomplished through such activities. Also, the conversation that occurs during the activity will help guage how the students are enjoying various aspects and whether they are learning and/or participating.

Questions the instructor should ask when evaluating the lesson include: Were the students engaged in efficiently working towards a solution? What are the alternative explanations?

How was student learning verified? Participation can be assessed in discussion sessions and communications archives. A rubric can also be set up to help guage the quality of final proposals and the process by which the final solution was reached.

Additional Readings : (in no way an all-inclusive list)


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