Decision-Making 101 - Making Smart Choices
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Module Seven - - Communicating the Decision Effectively
Sharing the decision

At the elementary level, a decision paper tends to be a listing of reasons and facts to support a choice.

As students progress through the grades, we can expect a shift from listing to an emphasis on logic.

Especially as students reach middle school and high school, communicating the decision involves more than an announcement supported by a list of facts and stories.

In their decision papers, students will explain the logic of their choices. They will not rely on a simple report of findings.

In explaining their logic, they are answering the "So what?" question. They are adding import to the body of facts they have collected.

This addition of import is a major shift from traditional school research rituals, requiring more challenging thought about the data collected.

Once students collect stories and data about each ship captain's discipline of crew members, for example, they must compare and contrast those collections, weighing the evidence about one captain against the evidence about the others.

While it might be tempting to compare the number of floggings ordered by each captain on each voyage, making judgments on such numbers is complicated by a number of factors. Given the routine use of floggings in the British navy at that time, a simple count does not tell us enough about the fairness of the captains.

Work with your partner on this issue of floggings. Make a list of 4-5 reasons we must be careful about making such judgments.

American students have shown little capacity for expressing complex thought as measured by the NAEP Writing Test. Once they have learned to formulate ideas and to take strong positions, they must also learn how to express what they have found in persuasive terms. This expression is a mixture of style and logical exposition, laying out conclusions and findings in patterns that are reasonable but also appealing and full of conviction. The student learns to address a particular audience - how to reach or touch an audience with effective rhetoric.

The writing strategies that distinguish between lackluster prose and skillful or excellent responses on the other hand are ones that meld style and meaning together effectively.

Students must be quite skilled at the kinds of writing improvements suggested by the Six Traits Approach to Writing pioneered by Ruth Culham. (Her recent book on this approach is 6 +1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide.)

Students are taught to strengthen their early drafts by making revisions in each of the following categories:

  • Ideas and Content
  • Organization
  • Voice
  • Word Choice
  • Sentence Fluency
  • Conventions

For examples of questions that students might ask while trying to improve their writing by working at these elements, go to

A persuasive essay must combine good thinking with effective style.

© Jamie McKenzie, 2007, all rights reserved. No copies can be made or distributed in any format without the express written permission of the author.

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