Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Week 2- Models!

All three readings for this week focused on the application of the modeling teaching methods in the classroom. Lehrer’s Chapter 2, “What Kind of Explanation is a Model?” discussed the difficulties of using the modeling system in the classroom, and then offered answers to the issues. Chapter 5, “Reconsidering the Role of Experiment” also claims that modeling and argumentation should be the focus when teaching students about scientific inquiry. Jackson’s article on modeling instruction covers the statistics of successes when using the modeling teaching method in the classroom.

One theme, from this week’s readings, that I found interesting, was the idea of allowing failure when using the modeling system in classes. This sounds like a new theme, but it actually connects back to class and earlier readings. Hazen and Lehrer discussed how scientific theories and laws are models of the world that have been criticized and revised over large periods of time, in last week’s readings. Lehrer’s modeling in the classroom seems to be a representation of that revision process. Often, learning happens most when a student has made a ‘mistake.’ When the students were presented with the mold in their compost experiments, they thought that is was not a living organism. However, with a little help from the teacher, the students found that was not true. They adjusted their thinking and perception of the event, completed another experiment, and then revised and improved their original model. This then led them to the idea of rot.

In an earlier class, someone mentioned that a science class is basically a smaller scientific community. Lehrer, and Jackson, seem to be pointing in this direction, in their articles. While the students are split into groups to complete specific experiments, the learning happens when all the students come back together and discuss what they found. Students from other groups can critique and analyze what the presenting group found. Together, the students are able to find patterns that suggest something they were not expecting. The argumentation in the collaborative part of the laboratory also pushes students to adapt a common language, such as defining “dark,” in order to compare and report information. This was also mentioned in the blogs from last week.

Lehrer’s chapter brings up some concerns I had in earlier readings, as well as some we discussed in class. These sets of experiments and revisions were completed over weeks for the classes. Enough time and resources are always a problem. Also, Lehrer mentioned that younger students have a harder time making the connection between the world and a representation of it. How early should the modeling teaching method be implemented? Lehrer said, that if the students are given a ‘scaffolding,’ young children can learn how to model, but it still goes back to time and resource management in the classroom.


  1. I also find interesting, and love, the idea of allowing failure in the classroom. A lot of learning can happen when a student has made a "mistake" but I think how the teacher handles these mistakes is what makes them effective for learning or not. If, for instance, a teacher just dismisses a wrong answer or false assumption, the student might feel dejected and participate less in the wonderful Socratic method in fear of saying something else incorrect. However, if the teacher asks other students what they think of someone's incorrect posture (like through a mini peer review discussed in some of Lehrer's articles) it can be a learning moment for everyone. That particular student might not have been the only one thinking along those lines either. I believe that discussion about why or how an answer is correct or incorrect is essential for successful participation and would increase overall comprehension.
    I also have concerns about limits on time and resources in the classroom. For a lot of the examples Lehrer gave, I have real trouble seeing how they could relate to a high school classroom setting. Perhaps because highschoolers have built up scaffolding for years, they will not need as much obvious guidance through out experiments. Thus, teachers would save a lot of time going through all assumptions like the younger students did.


  2. Caitlin, I completely agree with you about the importance of allowing students to “fail” with the intent of helping them understand a concept and seeing something from a different standpoint. While I say this, I also have a concern about practicality. In a school environment which focuses on standardized tests and getting high scores, how much time can teachers continually allow for students to make “mistakes” and learn from them? In a sense modeling is developed at various rates depending on the student. Thus, how do you apply that to your classroom while still staying up with the standards and curriculum? As Lehrer stated, grasping the concept of modeling is not intuitive and takes time, which in the school systems is generally not in excess. If this system of modeling were solely implemented, students may have to complete assignments and investigations at home, which then can be discussed in class, a method which leads to the problem of resources. Thus do you have to create a mixed teaching style of modeling and traditional instruction do make sure al of the essential skills AND content knowledge is achieved? While it may ideal for modeling to be the teaching instruction, is it completely practical to be the sole teaching design?

  3. Caitlin, I think that the social aspect of the modeling curriculum described is important as well. If using models was incorporated into a classroom without the peer interactions and discussions as described, I doubt the result would be comparable. In terms of the studies of improvements to student understanding, did they control for this at all? I wonder what the contribution to student learning is based on peer learning compared to the models themselves. Would changing a classroom to incorporate peer learning without any incorporation of modeling lead to similar gains?


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