Thursday, July 05, 2012

"Explain" vs. "Analyze"

The more I thought about it, the more odd the wording of this standard that came up yesterday seemed:

CCLS: RL.6.6 -- Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

It is an outlier in the literature standards, mostly the key verb used is "analyze." It seems that typically "explain" is seen as being lower lower level (particularly in terms of Bloom's Taxonomy) than "analyze." This kind of simple verb... analysis is pretty common when people try to evaluate a corpus of standards.

I think in practice this mode of analysis is fairly useless. For example, you're "analyzing" the standards by counting verbs and looking at a list. Is that easier or more difficult than explaining to someone why one set of standards is more rigorous than the other?

Put another way, "analyze" standards can legitimately be evaluated by multiple choice questions. Can "explain" standards be evaluated by anything other than an actual explanation by the student directed at an audience?


Stephen Downes said...

It seems to me to be a misuse of the word 'explain'. To my way of thinking, you would say, "explain why..." or "describe how..." but not "Explain how."

The two are doing fundamentally different things. An explanation is a search for a cause, motivation, regularity or law of nature. Explaining why an author develops a point of view (or a particular point of view) is a detailed high-level discussion.

Describing how this is done (which is probably what the question intends) is more low level, requiring direct evidence from the text, showing how a (typically) step-by-step process unfolds.

The word "analyze" meanwhile would not I think be used with either "how" or "why" - you analyze a thing, not a question (unless you are treating the question as a thing, in which case the analysis is somewhat meta).

You would for example "analyze the author's character development" or "analyze the author's motives" or "analyze character development in the novel". An analysis may involve looking at 'how' and 'why' but is mostly concerned with unpacking it, taking it apart, identifying key elements, rather than providing answers or descriptions.

p.s.I hate the capchas - they are unreasonably difficult to decipher.

Tom Hoffman said...

The most common usage is roughly this form:

"Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact."


"Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure contributes to its meaning."

I fundamentally disagree with the entire structure. These shouldn't be described as tasks, but as understandings.

Tom Hoffman said...

The capcha should be dead now. I'd forgotten it was there since I don't need to use in when commenting.

They have gotten annoyingly obscure.