State and Support Position

Stating and supporting a position requires students to take a position on a topic or issue, and then to support that position based on knowledge gained through study and/or research. The issue or topic should be one of substance where diverse perspectives have merit.

Learner outcomes may not always explicitly use the term “state and support position.” The following language may be used within outcomes to signal this skill.

develop and support a position
draw and support conclusions
critically evaluate diverse perspectives
form and support an opinion
to what extent…
state a prediction and hypothesis based on background information
select and defend

The Competencies of Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Communication are integral to the skill of stating and supporting a position. Depending on the specific curricular context, other competencies may also be developed.


Teaching Students to State and Support a Position 'through the Lens of Assessment'

Stating and supporting a position is a complex skill in which the evidence of learning is more about the quality of the support that students provide for their position than on the specific product students use to communicate their message. 

Teaching this skill ‘through the lens of assessment’ helps students focus on the underlying thinking skills that prepare them to successfully demonstrate this skill. 

Be Curious

Why do some students seem to state and support a position with relative ease, while other students struggle? 

Some students only summarize the topic. Others might list the pros and cons for two different options – essentially comparing and contrasting the options. In both of these cases, students are failing to state a position. 

Perhaps they are afraid to be wrong, and attempt to ‘cover their bases’ with detailed information. What support do these students need to take risks with their learning?

Other students might provide weak support for their argument, and need assistance to strengthen their position. They may need support with accessing additional information, organizing information or understanding perspectives.

Being curious about why students struggle, and seeking to ‘fill in the gaps’ while there is still time to improve, helps to put success within reach for all students. 

Be curious. Listen to what students are saying (or what they’re not saying) to help determine what support they might need for this complex skill.

Let’s Talk about It

Think about a student who seems to struggle with stating and supporting a position. What specific instructional support might this student need? Consider where this additional support might be inserted into the instructional sequence.

Model the Skill

Provide students with a template that outlines the required components for stating and supporting a position. The following template is based on a current Alberta Grade 6 Social Studies outcome.

Athenian democracy (was/was not) fair and equitable because                 .

The following response could be generated through a class discussion. 

Athenian democracy was not fair and equitable because you must be a citizen to participate. There were strict rules about who could be citizen, so not very many people were able to participate in the democratic process.

To help the students understand that both positions are plausible, a similar response could also be generated for the opposite point of view. 

Emphasize, however, that the goal is not to support both positions, but to select a position and to provide convincing support for the selected position.

Brainstorm with students a list of qualities for strong supporting evidence. The sample feedback tool (in the adjacent column) provides an example of these qualities with the social studies context described above. The tool can be modified for other subjects and grade levels. 

Grade 6 Social Studies: 
Peer Coaching Tool: Develop and Support Position 
Democracy or Not… You Be The Judge 

Click on image to download PDF.

Let’s Talk about It

Where in an upcoming assignment could you model the skill of stating and supporting an opinion? What are the qualities of strong supporting evidence within your grade/subject area? Plan to work with students to help them understand and demonstrate these qualities in their work. 

Assessing the Skill of Stating and Supporting a Position

Effective instruction and formative assessment experiences help prepare students to be successful with summative assessment.

They’ll Know It When They See It

Exemplars can be a powerful way to help students internalize the quality of work required. Exemplars can be gathered from student work from prior years and/or samples of current student work in progress. 

Working with peers provides an additional safety net while students are learning about the skill.

Let’s Talk about It

What support will students need to make the transfer from recognizing various levels of quality in a collection of exemplars to accurately reflecting on their work in progress and making the necessary adjustments to improve their work? 

Think Beyond the Essay

It’s true that some provincial exams require a written response, and it’s important to help students be as successful as they can with that format. However, time spent helping students internalize the skill of stating and supporting a position may be more beneficial than focusing on details of a formal written response, especially for students who struggle with written expression. 

The quality of students’ thinking can be evident, even with less than perfect written expression. Provincial rubrics reflect this, emphasizing the quality of the ideas and organization over the mechanics of communication. 

That’s not to say the we should abandon efforts to support students to improve written expression. However, a balanced approach to classroom assessment can keep the focus on developing the skill rather than on the exam. 

Learner outcomes specify what the student need to demonstrate. Unless the outcome specifically requires students to respond in writing, it may be appropriate for students to respond in a different format.

Let’s Talk about It

Think of a student who struggles with written expression. How might the option for an alternate summative assessment format support this student to focus on the skill of stating and supporting a position?  

Build a Better Rubric

It’s important that the rubric helps students understand the learning destination and what quality work looks like.

Compare the non-example rubric with the preferred rubric to see how a rubric can be designed to help students understand and work towards the big idea of stating and supporting a position.


Build a Better Rubric for Stating and Supporting a Position 

Click on the image to download PDF. 

Let’s Talk about It

Examine a rubric from a past or upcoming assignment where students are required to state and support a position. Consider what modifications might be required to ensure the rubric supports students as they work to demonstrate the required skill. 

State and Support a Position in Action

Are you currently teaching the skill of stating and supporting a position? 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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