Why Modelling?

Tonight’s 15 minute forum was led by our Director of Science, Steph Temple.  Steph started the session by apologising for her powerpoint and saying that she wasn’t much of a powerpoint person…which probably explains why she was leading this session!

Modelling is one of our 6 pedagogical principles, but as Steph explained brilliantly in her session, they do not work in isolation.  They are very much interlinked.  So whilst modelling is important in terms of showing students how to apply the knowledge and skills that they have been taught, it also very much interwoven with explanation and questioning.  When we are explaining things, especially in science, we model our thinking to help students understand these complex ideas, whilst questioning them to gauge their understanding.

So, why do we model?

So that students know what to do with the knowledge and skills.

For example…

  1. How to construct an essay, exam answer, conclusion to an experiment etc.
  2. How to do  calculations

So that students have a deeper understanding of the knowledge you are imparting to them.

By modelling what you and they are thinking –they remember it

When are we best at modelling?

  • When you know your subject If you don’t fully understand the subject how can you then explain and model ideas, and expect your students to develop a deep understanding?  You won’t.  You will simply end up teaching at a very superficial level and won’t be able to really extend their thinking or pre-empt any misconceptions.
  • When you know the specification and exam question structure/type inside out  – this then allows you to model the thinking required to understand the content at the required level.
  • When you have practised over and over again go powerpoint free and practise how you are going to model what you want the students to understand, using just your boardmarker and whiteboard.  This will enable you to find out any sticky bits and perfect your modelling.

Do you think about how you use your board?

  • Do you write too much?
  • Do you regret rubbing bits off that are then sometimes useful for the next part of the explanation?
  • Poorly organised?  Sometimes using tables, maps and diagrams instead of lots of text can really help to simplify what you are trying to explain.
  • Do you tell them exactly what you are doing and question them as you are doing it?

Steph then went on to describe two different methods of procedural modelling – modelling to students how to work out empirical formula.   Firstly, the method that a number of inexperienced teachers or teachers who are lacking confidence about the subject matter use, simply putting a prepared worked example up on the board:

The problem with this approach is that it misses the narrative behind the steps – and you’re not actually modelling – you are just showing a finished product.  So it’s at this point that Steph turns her projector off and gets her pen out:

Each step of the solution was modelled – through discussion and questioning…what’s the first step?  Why do you think I did it like that? What’s the next step?  What mistakes do you think people often make here?  You might also make a mistake in the process, and that is fine as you can model to students how to correct it.  By approaching it like this, you are modelling the process and your thinking.

Steph then went on to talk about modelling the thinking behind constructing and understanding graphs, such as the ones above.  Again, the problem with just presenting students with the finished product like these, is that you miss the thinking and the processes behind putting them together, which will hinder their understanding of them. It’s far more effective to build them up a step at a time, explaining and unpicking each stage as you go:

By building it a step at a time, you can also ensure that students are secure with the key knowledge e.g. that energy is supplied to break bonds and released when new bonds are made. Once this is secure, you can continue to build the graphs and explain that whether a reaction is endothermic or exothermic depends on the net difference between these two. Once you have done this, you can reveal the actual graphs and discuss how your diagram aligns with the finished product.

How can we support the development of modelling?

At Durrington, subject teams meet once a fortnight for a ‘Subject Planning & Development Session‘.  During these sessions, the teams talk about what they will be teaching over the next fortnight, and how to teach it well.  The science department uses this as an opportunity to share how they model particular topics, as shown by the agenda for their forthcoming session on Monday:

You can read more about how science do these sessions here and here Steph talk about her session here:

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