Lehrer (Ch. 2) describes modeling as a special form of inquiry that students rarely encounter in school. Modeling “changes what students observe and what [questions] they choose to pursue”. A model is a “condition for seeing” a natural phenomenon. Modeling is challenging because it requires the individual to create a “stripped down analog” – to do this, students need to develop a sense of which details are relevant (for example, does rocket shape have an effect on how high it goes?). Modeling also involves the use different forms of inscription (such pictures, graphs, or equations). This type of critical thinking helps engage students in a dialogue and highlights science as a collaborative effort.
Lehrer (2001) contends that rhetoric, representation, and modeling must all be firmly established before experiments can be meaningful to students. While adults seem to take for granted the idea that an experiment represents a model, this is not usually clear to students. Before students can engage in experiments, they need to first engage in the fundamentals of scientific enquiry, such as observation and questioning.
Jackson et al., 2008 contends that modeling instruction is an effective model for teaching science. Not only does it seem to improve the articulation and confidence of students, but the collaborative nature of modeling instruction appears to be beneficial for female students. In addition, many teachers who use modeling instruction have won awards for excellence; this is because modeling instruction involves the use of technology to support modeling, frequent high quality discussions, and the use assessments that more accurately gauge student understanding.
It appears to me that modeling instruction is not only useful for learning science, but also for improving literacy in general. For example, critical thinking and exchange of different views and opinions among students is necessary in English language arts and social studies. In addition, collaboration fosters respect among students, which in turn is good for establishing a positive classroom culture.