Briefly explain the difference between facts and inferences drawn from facts. (Facts can be directly observed or verified, usually by multiple observers; inferences are interpretations of facts or conclusions drawn from facts.) Then have students read a brief article relevant to the course. Ask them to underline every fact presented in the piece and swiggly underline every inference. If wished, compare students’ responses to a key provided by the instructor.
Facts & Inferences in Personal Experience
Pair off students. Ask each student to tell a partner (or write) about a recent personal experience relevant to the course. The listener should raise her or his hand every time the teller states an inference. For written stories, the reader should underline every inference.
Select an event relevant to the course—e.g., a scene in a novel, play or film; a historical event; a legal case; an interaction between a health care provider and a patient, a teacher and students, or a sales rep and a customer. Have the class identify the parties in the event (including those affected by it), then assign each student (or groups of students) one of these identities. Ask students to tell the story of the event from the perspective of the party whose identity they are assuming. Telling the story from this perspective may require research, or students may be able to do so impromptu during class. After students make their presentations, discuss how different parties identify and interpret the facts.