“All children benefit from instruction, but some children need incredible amounts of careful, personal instruction, with clear and repeated demonstrations.” (Duffy, 2003; Harvey & Goudvis, 2000).
Modeling- why it’s important...what it does for students
Lately we’ve been thinking a lot about modeling and how it helps students to shape their thinking and understand the learning process. We’ve noticed that when we’re the most successful with students, we’ve put a lot of energy into intentionally modeling both the project outcomes as well as purposefully breaking down all the steps along the way.
Separate Access Points-high and low
When we team teach, we try to provide two levels of modeling; one is the basic entry point, the simplest place for students to begin, and the other model is often a stretch, a place for the students who already have some capacity can go to deepen their experience. At times we use student work to open up possibilities, at other times we make our own models. Sometimes we provide a mix.
We think it’s important to make learning visual for students in order for them to be able to envision and approximate the work. In the same way it’s hard to make a bracelet or build a doghouse without watching a Youtube video or having a blueprint, it’s hard for students to approach the work without having a clear sense of the process and the expectations. Key to this work is having projects that are customized; there is always a dimension to our projects that is individualized. When this piece exists, students will apprehend the model and create unique work based on the model versus copying the model explicitly.
When students do “copy” the work, which doesn’t happen that often, it provides an additional set of lenses on a student’s mindset and/or behavior. Why might a student “copy” a model verbatim and not attempt to “own” the work? These students might lack self-confidence or they might not have a sense of efficacy; they might not be comfortable taking risks. There are many reasons a student might copy the “model” but the interesting data point to explore is WHY is this student choosing this path?
Conversations about the “Why”
When planning a lesson, we try to chunk the work in a way that makes sense to all of our learners. We try to suss out what the natural stopping points are and we try to explore ways to make the thinking transparent. It can be tricky to model metacognitive skills but it is essential if we want students to be able to do the work and capture their thinking. If we’re asking students to do a specific type of thinking, we need to walk them through the process: Why do we do this work? How do we do this work? We've discovered when we model the thinking pieces that support the foundation of the project or assignment and when we provide tangible models of the work to be done our students are better equipped to fly on their own and understand their learning path.