The process of modelling

Modelling is something I have been passionate about throughout my teaching career; lets be honest 100% of our time as teachers when we are in front of students, we are modelling something (whether we know the students are picking up on it or not). When I teach newtons third law, I use the following model for describing situations and aiding student explanations:

“When object A applies a force on object B, object B applies the same size force on object A but in the opposite direction.”

Whenever I discuss with colleagues why my students know this law so well, I go back to this model and share it. What I don’t do (until now!) is go through the step by step process that we as a class go through ensuring this model lands. This model, and how it is delivered, has been crafted over 14 years of teaching, and I have only just codified the process that makes it so successful (with huge thanks to reading Practice Perfect by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi).

Before delivering the model:

I check the skinny parts:

“Remember forces are applied onto objects, they can make objects move or change shape. Forces are measured in newtons and are vectors so have a size and a direction”

I call my shots:

“I want you to focus on the number of objects, the number of forces, the sizes of the forces and their direction” (that’s a lot to hold in your head as a student, I’d usually write this up on the board!)

During delivering the model:

I read through the model and describe each part of it:

“When object A applies a force on object B ….. so that’s two objects, A and B, and A is applying a force on B…….

object B applies the same size force on object A …. So B also applies a force on A, of exactly the same size, two objects, two forces, on different objects, but the same sized force….

but in the opposite direction …. So the direction of the two forces is opposite, if one goes left the other goes right”

I supermodel by not only modelling an explanation for newtons thirds law, but modelling a precise scientific explanation and how to clearly communicate ideas:

“Note the lack of excess language in the explanation. See how I talk about things in turn, objects, forces, size of forces, direction of forces”

I model the path I want students to follow:

“Now you have this model, follow me through this process of applying it. Think about me pushing against the wall. If object A is me and object B is the wall, and I push the wall to the left with 25 N, I can put this into the model. If I push the wall with a force of 25 N to the left, the wall pushes me with a force of 25 N to the right.”

After delivering the model:

I insist student walk this way by asking students to apply this knowledge to a variety of situations imitating the model I have delivered

“what I am expecting you to have written is: When the hand applies a force of 15 N on the water, the water applies a force of 15 N on the hand in the opposite direction”

I make my model believable by applying it to multiple situations and exam questions, showing how it ticks off the points in a mark scheme.

The final stage of the process, which I don’t always do, it get ready for my close up: This is where I would create a video (and possibly post it online) and play it back with pupils, going through to check why it works and why it is a successful model.

While applicable to the student learning process, this “model of modelling” is equally as applicable to staff training.

The processFocus on …Be wary of …
Model and DescribeModelling helps students replicate.

Describing helps students understand.

Use together so learners can flexibility apply what they have been taught.
First describe, then model.
Describe by breaking into small chunks.

A clear description leaves little to chance.

Model to create an exemplar to talk through.
Novices learners need more than just the model to achieve a high success rate.

A description alone leaves space for a lot to go wrong.

Ensure both are completed TOGETHER.
Call Your ShotsBefore you model, what it clear to the learner what they need to be looking for.The specific parts of the model that exemplify the learning goal.

Provide multiple examples and non-examples, that exemplify the part of the model you are teaching and why they are successful/not successful.
Leaving the parameters of model open to the students; do not ask open questions such as “what can we learn from this model?” instead ask “how does this model demonstrate x, y or z?”
Make Models BelievableModel in a context similar to the situation that student will need to model in.

Live modelling is more believable that pre-recorded modelling.
Ensure the model is authentic and therefore believable.

Demonstrate how the model works in the examination context.
Avoid flawless models that may seem out of reach to pupils.Students unwilling to try and therefore they cannot understand how a model can work.
SupermodellingModel not only what you are teaching, but future skills that you wish your learners to be able to applyModelling overall expectations of the learner, even if you have “Called Your Shot”.

Having a consistent positive tone and high energy through your entire deliver.

Ask for feedback not only on the focus of the modelling, but on how you conducted the delivery
Only performing to high standard when modelling the specific focus.

Forgetting about previous models; always ensure all models that should be in play are in play
Walk This WayLearners imitate a model exactly as it is shown to them.Ensuring novices (often all learners at the start of a unit) directly imitate a modelLearners misapplying a model by “giving it their own spin”.

Learners analysing the model correctly but getting the application wrong
Skinny PartsModel complex skills a single step at a time and repeat if necessary.

Repeat until mastery is achieved.
Breaking knowledge and skills down into the individual steps that make them up.Assuming any prior knowledge of learners and therefore skipping required steps of the model.
Model the PathModel the process as well as the product.Learners understanding why steps are sequenced in the order they are.Focussing only on the end result, negating the steps it took to get there.
Get Ready for Your Close-upUse video to capture models that can be analysed, used, and reused.Controlling the message to provide a very strong model.Dilute the key aspect of the model by over analysing the video.
Adapted from Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better
by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, Katie Yezzi

Download the table as a PDF here


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