What is Modelling?

“To learn how to do something, students need to watch and listen to experts as they guide them through the process, step by step, before they make an attempt themselves.” Allison and Tharby 2015

Modelling is a crucial part of the teaching/learning process. As Barak Rosenshine states, “By modelling a procedure in small step-by-step chunks, followed by focused practice, is a particularly effective teaching method, especially when taking students through difficult tasks.”

With this in mind, it is important that modelling is planned and carefully applied in the teaching & learning process. Research studies suggest (among others) two essentials to planning day-to-day modelling.
1) Don’t assume that students know how to do something they have never been taught how to do.
2) Always model high. It is through modelling that you set the benchmark for excellence.

How Modelling Can Be Used During the Teaching and Learning Process?

As part of the White Horse Federation T&L Champion project, a select group of school leaders looked closely at what consitutes effective modelling. From this research, the group identified 4 main uses;

  1. Task and Performance Modelling
  2. Metacognitive Modelling
  3. Modelling as a scaffolding technique
  4. Student-centred Modelling

1) Task and Performance Modelling – The process where the teacher demonstrates a task that students will be expected to do on their own. By doing this the teacher ensures there are no incorrect assumptions of what students can do by making the implicit explicit. Students benefit as they will know the high standards expected of them and feel confident about starting an independent task.

2) Metacognitive Modelling – is, put simply, thinking about one’s thinking. More precisely, it refers to the processes used to plan, monitor, and assess one’s understanding and performance. Teachers create a visual model, as they are doing this they talk through their thinking processes. Why are they making the decisions which they are?

3) Modelling as a scaffolding technique – the modelling of a task is used to help support the learner during practice activities. There are various ways in which this can be done including; sentence starter, visualiser annotations, imperfect models. 

4) Student-centred Modelling – Pupil on pupil modelling supports children explore their interests and ask their own questions. It focuses on developing a child’s unique sense of creativity and it also in how they learn new concepts and solve problems. The technique dictates that teachers, instead of telling the child exactly what they have to do, should observe more passively, giving the child the space to learn and grow in his or her own way. Taylor, L. & Parsons, J. (2011).

From their research, the core group of school leaders also identified a number of key performance indicators linked to effective modelling;

  • Consider pupils’ prior knowledge and experiences. Model aloud your thinking to explain links between an idea they have seen before and the one you are about to introduce.
  • Maintain the pace of the lesson by using modelling for short chunks of time.
  • Remember to task student with some sort of activity during modelling to elicit feedback on where they are in their understanding.
  • Provide multiple examples and demonstrate the process (teacher or student) whenever necessary as new skills are only acquired through repeated practice.
  • When modelling, always aim high as it is through modelling that the benchmark for excellence is set.