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How to teach Modelling thought processes for students

How to model a thought process for students

3 min read
  • Metacognition

Modelling is one of the many strategies that can enhance the learning process and help students raise their game. Modelling can be found in all aspects of life, from learning how to tie shoelaces to following a cooking tutorial on YouTube.

However, it can be especially useful in the classroom. Modelling is a technique that allows educators to teach more efficiently and ensure that their students are making the most of their time in class. So, what exactly is modelling and how can we use it to further students’ learning?

What is modelling?

Modelling is an instructional strategy. This strategy includes demonstrating the desired skill or behaviour. During this process, teachers simultaneously describe what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Research suggests that modelling fosters positive student outcomes. It is an interactive process that, through structured guided practice, makes concepts more accessible. It can encourage students to become more reflective, and has been shown to increase on-task behaviour, student engagement and achievement.

Modelling a thought process, rather than an action, can be a little complex. Explaining to students how you came to a decision, based on various mental processes, can be challenging. However, sometimes if you share your own experiences that helped aid your own understanding of the concept, it can often offer your students an authentic insight into the development of that skill. This is sometimes called ‘mental models’.

Learning becomes a much smoother process after teaching your students efficient ways to build on the quality of their thinking. ‘Mental models’can help guide students to approach and solve problems more effectively. Encouraging students to build this kind of skill can have many long-term benefits. In any situation, both inside and outside of the classroom, they can apply what the mental models taught them and resolve issues successfully.

Benefits of modelling

Modelling is a visual expression of the topic you’re teaching, making it easier to understand. Research has shown that visual explanations can improve learning. Using explicit examples whilst modelling can help reduce student confusion and enhance their understanding of the concept or skill you’re teaching them.

research study found that modelling increased students’ on-task behaviour by nearly 3 times more than those who were not exposed to modelling. Modelling during your lesson gives students an opportunity to interact and engage with what they are learning. Evidence has shown that participating in interactive activities in the classroom can lead to significant learning gains; this study of 643 students found that classrooms where diverse and engaging learning formats were used were associated with higher levels of student achievement.

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How to model effectively

Modelling in the classroom can help address misconceptions before they arise. However, it must be done so that students fully grasp the concept or skill with little to no need for further guidance. Research suggests that a good model is:

  • Clear
  • Consistent
  • Concise
  • It should include several demonstrations; more if the skill being taught is complex.

Modelling is most effective when it has a narrowed focus and directs students’ attention to the significant aspects of the skills being modelled. So, try and keep your demonstrations brief to avoid confusing students with long explanations that they may forget. Concise and easy to follow instructions can really make all the difference when it comes to a student being able to replicate the task and develop their skills.

When modelling in the classroom, it can help to have at least one student involved in the process. Showing that another student, a peer, can learn the skill helps the rest of the class visualise themselves doing so. When choosing a student to help you, it is useful to choose at random. This eliminates the chances of only academically strong students being selected and instead, shows students of all levels that they too can learn the skill successfully.

Final thoughts

Modelling provide accurate and useful representations of the knowledge students will need to solve problems. Teachers may wish to include modelling in their teaching process, as it can help students develop useful skills with long-lasting positive benefits. By creating clear, simple-to-follow steps that students can easily implement in their own learning, we can develop independent learners.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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