A key component of great teaching is the explicit modelling of processes so that students learn how to adapt and apply their knowledge. Here are five simple strategies that make for high-quality modelling:
- Model live Unpacking and demonstrating how to solve a problem is common in some subjects, but can be completely absent in others. Modelling key skills is key. For example, if your students write regularly, you should certainly model it live. Scripting a text at the front of the class with your students. Not only will you model subject-specific academic language, but you will also unearth the complex thought processes that contribute to successful writing.
- Step into the students’ shoes Take an empathetic approach and pre-empt the setbacks and emotional anxieties a task or problem might lead to. Guide your students through strategies that overcome these as you model, using phrases such as: “When I first looked at this problem I didn’t know where to start – and then it hit me that I should …” and: “It’s OK to feel frustrated at this point; I often do.”
- Punctuate with questions The most effective modelling often goes hand in hand with quick-fire, ‘no hands up’ questioning. Two types of enquiry are particularly important: the descriptive question (“What am I doing?”) and the explanatory question (“Why am I doing it?”). For example, a PE teacher modelling a javelin throw may go for probing questions such as: “What are my fingers doing as I grip it?” and then, “Why am I gripping it this way?”
- Use multiple exemplars The quality of an exemplar can be hard to judge in isolation, so comparing excellent and poor examples can help students to identify the reasons for success. Multiple exemplars are also important to ensure that you don’t stunt creativity in subjects that call for divergent responses. For example, when teaching creative writing, ensure students see a range of excellent examples to help them realise that high-quality prose comes in many shapes and sizes.