As teachers we are the experts in the room. However, we may suffer from the curse of knowledge forgetting what it’s like to be a novice. This is why modelling workings out, methods and processes step-by-step to students is effective as it helps them to build their knowledge and skills from novice to expert. Narrating our thinking as we do this reveals the thoughts of an expert, which can help students to internalise similar thoughts and processes. According to the research evidence, the following features of modelling are your best bets for helping students to understand and learn new ideas.
Include worked examples. A worked example is a step-by-step demonstration of how to perform a task or solve a problem. Step-by-step guidance provided through worked examples gives students a type of scaffolding. Over time, such thinking should become habitual acting as ‘internal scaffolding’ that will support future learning. Modelling through worked examples also provides teachers with a good opportunity to highlight the pitfalls that exist, or common mistakes and misconceptions and how students can avoid them. Depending on the subject, too few worked examples may increase the cognitive load for students, leaving them unsure of the processes and how to apply them. We often see the modelling of a task or process as live, with a teacher working through from the beginning. However, models can be prepared in advance, shared with students and unpicked through a teacher’s explanation.
Fade out worked examples over time. Modelling should help students develop their own ‘internal scaffolding’. Therefore teachers’ step-by-step modelling can be gradually removed in subsequent problems or tasks so that students are required to complete more steps independently. Initially, scaffolding such as direct modelling is necessary, but as guided practice moves to independent practice, teacher’s direct modelling will change to monitoring and intervening only when necessary.
Think aloud. Thinking aloud involves a teacher narrating their thought process the decisions and choices teachers make as they are talking through a worked example. When modelling, teachers will inevitably be describing what they are doing to their students. By thinking aloud, or narrating, teachers are giving insights into the how and the why also. In doing this, they are making the implicit explicit, revealing the reflections of an effective learner. Teachers are also able to highlight the parts that are likely to be difficult or when mistakes can arise and how to avoid or resolve them.