#15MinForum – 1/12/16
Published earlier this month, this guide from What Works Clearinghouse (@WhatWorksED) on ‘Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively’ reminded me of a conversation I’d had with Mike Coll, Subject Leader for History and one of our newly appointed Lead Teachers on the Extended Leadership Team, around ideas to do with modelling.
One of the things that came up in that conversation was a feeling that some of the work we’ve done over the last 18 months in relation to assessment and success criteria may have emphasised the value of ‘using models’ (i.e. pieces of work shared to set a standard of expectation, to unpack success criteria or refine student approaches to self- and peer-assessment), but has perhaps overlooked the value of ‘live modelling’… And so Mike led our most recent 15 Minute Forum on this very theme.
Mike started by sharing the journey he has had in terms of his own thinking, particularly in relation to the fact that he used to spend a lot of time preparing and providing model answers. He suggested that they are useful in terms of giving an idea of what excellence will look like, but no matter how carefully you might go about using it as an opportunity to tease the detail out of a mark scheme or the success criteria, for many students giving them the model and then saying ‘now get on with it’ can be daunting and unrealistic. And that is where the live modelling comes in…
The purposes of modelling
“Using model answers can show students what they should be achieving – modelling should provide them with the techniques and processes to help them to actually achieve it.”
I particularly like this last one. In the context of wanting our lessons to challenge students and really make them think hard, modelling reality shows them that struggle is normal – it is ok to be stuck! Being stuck should be highlighted and endorsed, and through modelling we can demonstrate strategies for overcoming challenge and getting unstuck.
In much the same way, Mike highlighted that when modelling how to construct an answer in History, he’ll occasionally make mistakes or omissions and then redraft as necessary. Again, this message is an important one – keep tinkering until your work is excellent!
On occasion, this might even go as far as to involve a bit of drama in the classroom. It isn’t acting as such, but really externalising the thought process and making clear to students what you are thinking and doing.
Here are a few of the other strategies that Mike shared in relation to modelling:
- Collaborative modelling. Ask a student to get it started, and then invite others to contribute the next part or suggest revisions.
- Comparative modelling. Give a couple of models and get students to evaluate them. In the History setting, Mike identified that this has had an impact on getting students to think carefully about what the question being asked of them, rather than simply writing down all of the stuff they happen to know about a topic referenced in the question!
- Deconstruction. Give an example paragraph (or get one from a student/group) and then deconstruct it by identifying specific skills. For example in History, underline/highlight in one colour where there is evaluation of extracts, in another colour where these evaluations have been supported with evidence, and in a third colour where the answer demonstrates an awareness of historical context.
The Clearinghouse guide unpacks this idea a bit further, including some example statements that a teacher might use…
For more on modelling, this post over at Class Teaching is well worth a few minutes… it was a source of inspiration for this session!