Models don’t just give us a visual representation of the task , which in fact in itself is a good thing, but also a process that we can imitate to develop our skill and understanding. Each subject will have certain models that support students understanding in that discipline. How can then models help improve the quality of teaching? And more importantly, can students use the models that they learn about in one subject to understand the concept in another? Is this a transferable skill that students must learn?
Before going any further, I must state that here I am not talking about ‘learning models’ but simple strategies that work as learning models for students for them to use independently,
Let us take the example of the KWL chart. A very often used strategy that teachers use with students. But very rarely does one see students use KWL as an active learning strategy on their own. The reason being that they associate the KWL chart with the teacher and perhaps an activity. The teacher on the other hand, uses it as an ‘activity’ and not necessarily as something that she could use with students to engage with on a deeper level. A model that can be used for reflecting by the students as they learn.
The students therefore, are not able to internalize the concept of using the KWL chart. Not understanding that it could be used as a map to present their learning in just about any context. The same goes with goal setting. An exercise many a times done once or twice a year and not used as a habit with any task, personal, educational and social. Again, a use of a strategy in a very perfunctory way.
Teaching of models can equip students with a repertoire that they can use to suit their needs. But for that to happen, teachers need to build this into their instructional practice. Different students may want to use different models based on their level of comfort, learning style and need and teachers can introduce them to these only if they have embedded them into their practice and delivery.
Using models help students take responsibility of their learning. For example, if the student has learnt the use of Frayer model in their English class, they can use the same model to learn the vocabulary in science, math etc., thereby using a constructionist approach of learning.
The old saying goes, “To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Shane Parrish in his book, ‘The great mental models: General thinking concepts’, uses the analogy of tools to the task in hand. He says, ‘but anyone who has done any kind of project knows a hammer often isn’t enough.The more tools you have at your disposal, the more likely you’ll use the right tool for the job — and get it done right’.
We can learn a technique, sure. But the real learning is in using it appropriately and effortlessly.
And that is where teachers can help their students.