What’s the Work During Modeling?

Having looked at conceptual modeling in science last spring, this might be a good time to consider some questions about instructional modeling in any content.

Instructional modeling of strong and weak work is a key practice for helping our students meet their learning targets. Sam Bennett emphasizes modeling during mini-lessons and catches in That Workshop Book as a way for students to develop as readers and writers.

So what are students expected to do during the time that teachers are modeling? Do students know what they are expected to do? How can we help them get the most out of these minutes? Perhaps we need to engage students in some meta-modeling: demonstrating the thinking and reflective practices that we want students using as they observe us modeling. Metacognition is critical to all phases of learning, including instructional modeling.

Modeling strong and weak work is included as the second strategy of Jan Chappuis’ Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning. While it is a common practice to show students positive examples of work that is proficient or exemplary, sometimes we forget the value of modeling weak work. Not wanting to point fingers at struggling students, we might avoid sharing examples of student work that needs improvement. But in order to help students notice and be able to articulate the differences between strong and weak work, we need them to observe, discuss, and make comparisons for themselves. The act of comparing and identifying areas to improve becomes the student work during modeling. Two ideas for making modeling weak work a safer activity for students:

  1. Using the teacher’s “work” as a weak example. This provides a safer opportunity for students to examine work critically as they provide feedback to the teacher instead of one another.
  2. Looking at weak work or incorrect responses and asking “Why might an intelligent person have thought ____?” This creates an opportunity for students to be critical and identify misconceptions, while still honoring the thinking of students who might hold those same ideas.

What strategies do you use to help students get the most out of instructional modeling? Please share in the comments below!

 

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