Blog of the week and Research Pods – 4. Modelling.

This fortnight, we are focusing on the theme of modelling. Students in school are constantly in the process of creating pieces of work or performances. However, these do not reach a high standard by magic. As teachers, it is our responsibility to not only deliver content, but to show students how to use and manipulate their knowledge to form end products and to ensure they are of as high a standard as possible. Using model answers or showing good pieces of work is nothing new and is something we’ve always done. However, dismantling the model, and modelling theTHINKING and the step-by-step processes involved so that students might learn how to break down tasks to achieve success is vital. I once read (and I cannot remember who!) someone liken effective modelling to being shown a picture of a cooked roast dinner as a model of how to prepare a meal. The picture shows the intended outcome, but is of limited use to the novice as to HOW that standard of cuisine can be achieved! Had the expert provided a step-by-step demonstration, the novice cook would have had a far better chance of success!

This weeks blog is written by Shaun Allison, author of Making Every Lesson Count and head teacher of Durrington Research School in Worthing. In his blog, he discusses what he calls ‘modelling for excellence’ and examines what successful modelling can look like in the classroom. modelling-for-excellence/

Research Pod (1): Modelling.

As has been the case with many of the Research Pod pieces, we cannot ignore what one of the most influential papers in education has to say about modelling. Barak Rosenshine in his original (1968 and republished in 2012) report on what it was that the most effective teachers do (Principles of Instruction) stated that modelling is vital. He states that:

‘Students need cognitive support to help them learn to solve problems. The teacher modelling and thinking aloud while demonstrating how to solve a problem are examples of effective cognitive support. Worked examples (such as a maths problem for which the teacher not only has provided the solution but has clearly laid out each step) are another form of modelling that has been developed by researchers. Worked examples allow students to focus on the specific steps to solve problems and thus reduce the cognitive load on the working memory.’

Rosenshine makes very frequent reference to ‘Cognitive Load Theory’ throughout his paper. This is the idea that working memory is limited (although long term memory is not) and that as teachers, we should be constantly seeking to reduce the load placed on working memory, so that as much of it is freed up to complete the task successfully. Therefore if intrinsic load (the load placed on working memory trying to make sense of the task because it is too onerous for the student) is high, there is little working memory left to tackle the task or for any learning to take place. However, if the teacher is able to break down a task and demonstrate the THINKING required to achieve success, this can help free up students’ working memories and help them achieve the best possible outcomes.

Whilst modelling, it is also important the teacher seeks to reduce extraneous load, that is to say, any distractions that may impinge on students’ working memories, such as students’ talking or writing whilst the modelling is taking place, or the teacher going off on tangents whilst modelling. More on the cognitive science and research on modelling next week, including the use of my favourite piece of equipment – the visualiser!

Blog of the week (2): Modelling.

This week we continue to look at the topic of MODELLING. As we said last week, modelling allows the teacher to demonstrate the thought process behind successfully completing a task, breaking it down into chunks to reduce intrinsic load on working memory (the load generated by the level of difficulty of a task), so that more is available for effective learning to take place. As with all of the aspects of What Makes Great Teaching at Reigate School, modelling is something we have all always done. However, simply showing students a completed answer or giving them one to take away and look at for themselves can often be unhelpful to the novice learner as it is simply the finished product. The student needs to be shown and guided through how to approach the task by an expert – the teacher.

This week’s blog is by teacher Simon Baddeley, who tells us how he uses what is now my favourite teaching aid – the visualiser. How does this differ to simply writing a model answer on the whiteboard? The visualiser allows you to model, hide, show again, hide again – no more students copying what you have completed on the board, no more losing your model once you have removed it from the board and no more having to turn your back on students whilst modelling on the board. It has revolutionised my teaching of map skills – the simple act of having a copy of the same map as the students to display on the board and model grid references, measuring distance etc has made the world of difference. The reduction in the number of students now putting up their hands accompanied by a ‘Miss, I don’t get it…’ has demonstrated the value of modelling for all learners, less fire-fighting and repeating of instructions individually to numerous students and helps create a calmer learning environment.

Research Pod (2): Modelling.

Along with Barak Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction’ (1968 and 2012) paper, perhaps one of the other most important pieces of research centred around cognitive science and research is ‘Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Doesn’t Work’ (2006) by Kirschner, Sweller and Clark. In fact, I’ve discussed it before and this won’t be the last time! With reference to modelling, they begin by stating:

‘None of the preceding arguments and theorizing would be important if there was a clear body of research using controlled experiments indicating that unguided or minimally guided instruction was more effective than guided instruction. In fact, precisely as one might expect from our knowledge of human cognition and the distinctions between learning and practicing a discipline, the reverse is true. Controlled experiments almost uniformly indicate that when dealing with novel information, learners should be explicitly shown what to do and how to do it.’

They then discuss a range of studies which support this assertion:

‘Stronger evidence from well-designed, controlled experimental studies also supports direct instructional guidance (e.g., see Moreno, 2004; Tuovinen & Sweller, 1999). Hardiman, Pollatsek, and Weil (1986) and Brown and Campione (1994) noted that when students learn science in classrooms with pure-discovery methods and minimal feedback, they often become lost and frustrated, and their confusion can lead to misconceptions. Others (e.g., Carlson, Lundy, & Schneider, 1992; Schauble, 1990) found that because false starts are common in such learning situations, unguided discovery is most often inefficient. Moreno (2004) concluded that there is a growing body of research showing that students learn more deeply from strongly guided learning than from discovery. Similar conclusions were reported by Chall (2000), McKeough, Lupart, and Marini (1995), Schauble (1990), and Singley and Anderson (1989). Klahr and Nigam (2004), in a very important study, not only tested whether science learners learned more via a discovery versus direct instruction route but also, once learning had occurred, whether the quality of learning differed. Specifically, they tested whether those who had learned through discovery were better able to transfer their learning to new contexts. The findings were unambiguous. Direct instruction involving considerable guidance, including examples, resulted in vastly more learning than discovery.’

Of course, these statements can be applied to a wide range of things we do in the classroom, but the act of modelling, of SHOWING the students how to do something and making them think hard so that the process is more likely to stick in their long term memories, is certainly supported by a wide range of studies that tell us that leaving students to discover content and skills for themselves will result in far less learning than guiding, modelling and explaining by the expert in the room – us.
Here’s the link again to the whole paper:

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