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What Would Happen if? Making Predictions


Before you discuss a current event, or explain a theory or a piece of research, ask studentes what they think would happen if ________? Or, “What do you think [famous person in your field] would think about this?


As Lang states in Small Teaching, “…making a prediction nudges me to pay close attention to what happens…Predictions make us curious…”


“What if” questions also force students to bring to mind what they already know from previous classes and apply it to a new situation.


A few examples from Small Teaching:

  • “…predict what will happen in the graph of a function when [you] change a parameter”
  • Ask students what they would do in a specific situation and then ask them what they think other people would do in that situation. Use an anonymous survey tool to make this technique work well (ex: PollEverywhere)


Make sure, as part of this activity, that you ask students to justify their prediction. Why do they think X will happen? What previous learning or experience are they drawing from to make this prediction?


Finally, make sure students’ predictions are rewarded with some kind of answer. This could be from you showing them exactly what happens (if it’s a math or physics problem for example), or from a discussion on the research that uncovered the answer to the question.


Lang, J. M. (2016). Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.