Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Week 4 Memo: Modeling

          The readings this week discuss modeling and how to apply this method to teaching. The Jackson piece discusses a specific application of modeling (Modeling Instruction) and how important modeling is to teaching science. Modeling is used to teach students how to think. Students are challenged to come up with explanations for what they are seeing, often learning concepts on their own. Moving away from traditional lecture based teaching is essential for modeling instruction to be effective. By employing modeling in the classroom, students are able to learn the material in different ways and come to their own conclusions. In my opinion, this enhances the student’s ability to retain the information because they are not relying on simple regurgitation but concepts they arrived at themselves.
          In Lehrer, chapter 2, they aimed to describe modeling and when to employ it. The authors tried to determine when students should be taught modeling, why it is important, and they sought to give examples of how to employ modeling. Lehrer comes up with several key obstacles that one must overcome when teaching using modeling. While all of these obstacles can be overcome, I think, as a teacher, the difficulty in using modeling is knowing that some students will fail, but helping them isn’t actually going to help them in the long run. Modeling aims to get students to come to conclusions based on the way they think and I think many students aren’t taught how to think at an early enough age. Problem solving isn’t generally taught and modeling is one way to get this into the classroom.

          In Lehrer, chapter 5, the idea of scaffolding is introduced. As well as several different examples of modeling at different grade levels. This chapter also discusses the difference between modeling and experimentation. This was an interesting concept for me. After spending the last 5 years performing experiments every day, I thought modeling was experimentation. In my lab we design models based on our experiments and it was difficult for me to grasp using modeling in teaching. I think true modeling, like what I do in my lab, is very difficult to replicate in a class and that is probably why it is not used as much as it should. I am excited to take what I have learned from working in a lab and translating it into my classroom.      


  1. I found your post very helpful especially in the conundrum that we as professors/ future teachers often find ourselves in . Do you help a student that you perceive will struggle with a topic that everyone else will succeed in ? Or do you point the student to a trusted secondary resource such as an aide or outside tutoring to help a student master this concept. At the end of the day its a choice that every teacher must decide for themselves and be okay with.

  2. Becca,

    I agree with your point that students coming to conclusions on their own is something that they initially struggle with since it's a fairly complicated skill. However, I think there are ways we can build those skills over time through the way we implement modeling in the classroom. If we initially assist them in drawing conclusions (by demonstration, helpful worksheets, discussions with the whole class) and slowly give them more and more freedom, then they'll (hopefully) have mastered the skill by the end of the course. If we instead throw them in to the deep end and expect them to swim, they may not benefit from modelling to the same extent.