Analyze Cause and Effect

Analyzing for cause and effect requires students to go beyond simply summarizing information. Background information is an essential first step, but students must also make connections between and among events, actions or items of information.

Learner outcomes may not always explicitly use the term “cause and effect.” The following language may be used within outcomes to signal the skill of analyzing cause and effect.

Current Curriculum

explain impact of _____ on ______

describe influence of _____ on ______

modify/adapt ____ for the purpose of ______

analyze changes as a result of ______

determine effect of ____ on _______


New Curriculum

The following list is a sampling of outcomes from the new curriculum that require students to engage in analysis.

Social Studies 2
Students describe how fairness can affect interactions with one another.

English Language Arts 4  
Students explain how language has the power to influence themselves and one another.

Science 4  
Students explore and analyze how plants and animals have adapted to environmental change over time.

Art 4  
Students analyze and apply artistic choice for the expression and communication of ideas and experiences. 

Math 2  
Students design and test a simple process that achieves a desired outcome.

Wellness 4  
Students describe the cause-and-effect relationship between engagement in physical activity and motivation.

The Competencies of Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Communication are integral to the skill of analyzing cause and effect. Depending on the specific curricular context, other competencies may also be developed.

Teaching the Skill of Analyzing Cause and Effect 'through the Lens of Assessment'

The skill of analyzing cause and effect recurs throughout the grades and subject areas. As such, it is worth spending time to help students develop this skill.  

We can’t always assume that students understand what ‘analyzing cause and effect’ means. Support and feedback are integral to helping students develop this skill over time. Eventually, students will be able to internalize this skill so it becomes part of their repertoire of critical thinking skills.  

While the following instructional strategies have been described within the context of a Grade 5 English Language Arts outcome, they can be easily adapted to other grade and subject areas.

Keep the Task on Track

When designing instruction and assessment, it is important to be clear about what the outcome is asking. Many engaging ideas for student tasks are available on the web; however, teachers need to ensure that the tasks involve students in the skills the outcomes require, and not just the topic of study. 

Let’s Talk about It

Revisit the outcomes in your grade or subject for an upcoming unit. Where do you find examples of analyzing cause and effect? How well does the student task or product you have planned allow the students to demonstrate their skill with analyzing cause and effect? Make a note of things that you think might require adjustment.

Plan Effective Questions and Support with Graphic Organizers

Take time to plan clarifying questions to help guide students to be successful in meeting the learning goal.
Graphic organizers can help students focus on the background information that is required in order for them to engage in the analysis. 

Let’s Talk about It

What clarifying questions could you pose to help students focus their responses on analysis rather than simply retelling information? 
How might you modify or develop a graphic organizer to assist students with the skill of analyzing cause and effect?

Rethink the Student Product

The focus now shifts from a specific product to the process of thinking. 

Let’s Talk about It

How might you modify or develop a task that would allow students to demonstrate their ability with the skill of analyzing cause and effect?

Assessing the Skill of Analyzing Cause and Effect

When a careful examination of the outcomes has guided instructional planning, the links between instruction and formative assessment can be seamless. It follows that assessment tools, both formative and summative, also must be focused on the desired end goal. 

The following examples of assessing the skill of analyzing cause and effect can be easily adapted to other grades and subjects.

Focus First on Feedback

While students are learning a skill, it is essential that they have feedback on their work while there is still time for them to make improvements. These two sample feedback tools provide a structure for students to engage in conversation and provide feedback to their peers about the skill of analyzing cause and effect.

These tools can be adapted for other grades or subjects. 

Grade 7: Social Studies
Peer Coaching Tool: Analyze Histrical Context 
Plains of Abraham Revisited 

Click on image to download PDF. 

Grade 9: Social Studies
Peer Coaching Tool: Analyze Historical Context
Papaschase Land Claim

Click on image to download PDF. 

Let’s Talk about It

Work with grade level colleagues to identify what the skill of cause and effect ‘looks like’ within your grade/subject area. What questions or prompts could you include in a formative feedback tool for an upcoming task to support students in analyzing cause and effect? 

Build a Better Rubric

Rubrics are not just a scoring tool for teachers. A well designed rubric can help students understand what the learning destination ‘looks like’ and guide students to improve their work in progress. 
The sample rubric excerpt for analyzing cause and effect is based on  Grade 4 Science outcomes. However, the discussion can be useful for teachers working at all grades and subjects.

Build a Better Rubric for Analyzing Cause and Effect

Click on image to download PDF. 

Let’s Talk about It

Work with a rubric you have used previously, or one that you find through an online search. Adapt the rubric as necessary for an upcoming assignment where students are analyzing cause and effect. How might exemplars work alongside the rubric to help students understand how to improve their work in progress?  

Analyzing Cause and Effect in Action

Are you currently teaching the skill of analyzing cause and effect? Contact us if you are interested in submitting exemplars of your students working with this skill. An AAC facilitator will guide you though the process.

Are you interested in collecting and submitting samples of student work for this AAC Big Idea?

An AAC Field Services Facilitator will walk you through the process. Please fill out the form below to contact us!

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