This blog has been inspired by the lack of demonstration (is this too controversial?) Many of you may know I am the mum of a delightful six year old Rhea. Rhea was recently involved in a model making activity in her school in Year 1 which was probably an exercise to tick the Design and Technology box. She has very excited by the activity collecting boxes and toilets rolls and having completed such activities at home with her Mum (the ex DT teacher) she knew what to expect. However, it got me thinking not about the activity but what did she learn from the activity?

Being a big fan of experiential learning and using this approach in Primary and Secondary education and in all types of learning I have always believed in modelling and simply getting your hands dirty so to speak! But when I asked my little doll what she had learnt whilst doing this activity, she had no idea! Now this maybe for a number of reasons and this is not to say she didn’t learn anything or develop any skills …but it got me thinking about how the activity might have been delivered and how teachers who are not Design Technology specialists can use modelling within their teaching and this blog is to help really.

So firstly to introduce the concept of modelling in teaching

Eggen and Kauchak (2001)

Modelling is an instructional strategy in which the teacher demonstrates a new concept or approach to learning and students learn by observing.

There are a lot of quotes, research and literature which discuss modelling as an effective strategy in teaching by allowing students to observe a teachers thought process and apply learnt principles to their own work. Modelling engages students and encourages learning. So lets think of a basic skill like learning to walk or tying your shoe laces – you naturally copied how adults were moving from point a to b, you were shown how to tie shoes laces – you didn’t read instructions or listen to someone speak about it!!

Key points to think about

  • The majority of human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling.
  • Modelling can be used across disciplines and in all year and ability level classroom.
  • A model can provide examples of what is expected and can give students an options of techniques to draw upon in terms of work and/or behaviour.
  • Modelling can happen by using visual, auditory, tactile, and/or kinaesthetic instructional techniques.

Let’s look at an example – lets take Rheas Class activity

Task: design a vehicle – this on its own is too vague

What does the vehicle need to do? This may be discussion points for the students and a way of exploring different types of vehicles that students are familiar with, think about the purpose of the vehicle why is it designed in that particular way? You could show them how to mindmap thoughts during a discussion!

This investigative behaviour you are modelling is instilling curiosity and giving the students an opportunity to think and to converse and write down all in one activity!

  • You could then get them to write a simple list of what features the vehicle must have (Criteria list doesn’t haven’t to be extensive – but here you get to tackle literacy and vocabulary development)

Next is the model making – I am sure I am stating the obvious but I do feel it is important. You need to model the techniques that might be commonly used for instance:

  • How to cut and fold card? What are the different ways they can do this? What equipment do you have available to cut and score card?
  • How to use a pair of scissors correctly – health and safety associated with this
  • How to draw common shapes that might be used? (maths links – shape, templates – you could potentially make this into a longer activity if you wish)
  • How to join materials together? (What adhesives or joining methods are you showing the kids?

Note I am not telling you to demonstrate how to make the car but to demonstrate techniques that might be commonly used. This way you will be able to identify  how much the students can apply that learning to their own designs during the session of making and then you can add further support if needed.

Obviously I have skimmed over the planning and further learning opportunities that can come from this as there are many ways to extend this activity so that to can tackle lots and lots of other curriculum content whilst engaging in such a fun activity.

I just want anyone interested in developing modelling activities to really look at and understand the true value you can bring into the classroom or in fact in to your homes as parents. Modelling other types of learning is just as fun and effective. It doesn’t have to be about Design and Technology- you can use it anywhere! Learning is fun, it’s about challenge exploration, questions and feedback and not just from you but the people you are teaching!!