Teaching approaches: Modelling

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Effective modelling

In order to be an effective modeller there are a number of steps you should take. Prepare the lesson well, particularly if you are going to conduct a demonstration that is new to you. If you are about to model something new for the first time, you might write out a script and rehearse what you are going to say (see resources in the) As you grow in confidence, it will no longer be necessary to write out a script but you will still plan exactly what you want the pupils to learn.

Take into account pupils’ prior knowledge and experiences. Model your thinking to explain links between an idea they have seen before and the one you are about to introduce, for example, in chemistry you may have used ping pong balls to represent atoms but in Year 8 different sized balls are used so that pupils can build molecules. Think out loud the connections and the reasons for developing or changing this model.

See also the section on demonstrations in maintaining a view of the class while writing notes or instructions for them by using an OHP, a laptop or an interactive whiteboard rather than turning your back to the class. By your behaviour when you are writing you are modelling the technique.

Maintain the pace of the lesson by using modelling for short periods only, especially if pupils are not used to this way of working. Until pupils’ listening skills have developed, model just a small part of an activity, for example, the conclusion of an investigation.

Repeat the modelling of a process whenever necessary. Some skills are only acquired through repeated practice.

Modelling processes with pupils involves

  • establishing clear aims;
  • providing an example;
  • exploring thinking – yours and the pupils;
  • demonstrating the process;
  • working together through the example;
  • providing prompts (or scaffolds) as appropriate;
  • providing an opportunity for pupils to work themselves (alone or in pairs);
  • drawing out the key learning.

Teachers can model a range of processes, for example, how to use a particular piece of equipment appropriately and accurately; how to record data; how to evaluate an investigation; how to plan a more complex investigation; how to draw a particular graph or representation; how to obtain specific information from a text or from the Internet; how to answer a test question; how to improve writing; how to improve the quality of talk (Adapted from Modelling Introduction, section Body).

Relevant resources

Investigation Persuasive argument and evidence-based conclusions about the best car
Got a new motor? Talk about your investigation like a scientist
This activity involving inquiry(ta)aims to develop children’s ability to support their conclusions with evidence. The teacher will model(ta) and encourage the use of the language(ta) that children require to discuss or present their data. The teacher can explain their rationale using the lesson below.
Modelling Modelling Scientific Writing
How do we help pupils to express themselves adequately when they write?
This resource discusses methods for modelling(ta) scientific writing, and the structure and kinds of language(ta) used in such writing. It provides exemplars and suggests activities to assist teachers to apply these methods to their own practice.
Modelling Models in Science
Teachers use models to help pupils make sense of their observations
An opportunity for teachers to discuss the use of modelling(ta) and visualisation(ta) in Key stage 3 science