Sunday, April 17, 2016

Modeling Blog

One key idea that came up in the reading was the definition of a model useful in the classroom. While a scientific model can take many forms, including drawings, graphs, and simulations, not all of these model forms are useful in the classroom. I've been shown many textbook models during my instruction, but they were never as memorable as engaging labs, an investigation. Models in the classroom need to help students make predictions, explain phenomena, find gaps in knowledge, and ask new questions. This idea ties in closely with how most teachers use models, as explanations. Students learning is not supported well unless students are actively solving problems situated in everyday circumstances. Simply learning what others have compiled in a textbook is not conducive to learning. The way teachers ask questions is very key as well; questions need to be open ended and engaging, a kind of question a scientist would ponder. Another key component of modeling required by teachers is an emphasis on revising models. With many students focused more on grades rather than learning, it can be difficult to encourage revisions. Some students might choose to not hypothesize at all rather than be wrong.

One of the pieces of helpful advice from teachers who successfully combined modeling with their classroom instruction that stood out to me was avoiding model fatigue. It makes a lot of sense to not have students refer back to their models too often, but I'm not sure that I would have thought of only once or twice per unit as sufficient. However, it's important to remember that my first modeling unit won't go perfectly, and I'll be able to revise instruction in the future. I was also tempted to attempt to set up modeling lessons that tied together tons of ideas, but the phenomenon cannot be the anchor for all ideas in a unit. That choice would put too much stress on the modeling activity; some non-modeling lessons can help students brainstorm for future model revisions.

One of the most important messages from the video, in my opinion, was that it can be beneficial to gently ease students into modeling. Even though it might seem very useful, programming might be too ambitious of an initial modeling unit. One question that I began thinking of is how my instruction should change based on students' modeling histories. For example, a K-12 school might be able to emphasize modeling units from an early age, allowing teachers in high school to really use modeling units as the backbone to instruction. I would be curious though how to differentiate modeling units in classrooms with students with varying levels of familiarity with modeling.

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