Multiple Models

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Modelling

Is one model enough?

Application of knowledge can be the downfall for many learners, when they can grasp the original concept perfectly well. Utilising multiple models can overcome this as they become more familiar with an approach being applied in different contexts, or when problems are presented differently. This is particularly true in maths and science.

Taking physics for example and the multitude of equations that a student may encounter, they might have learned acceleration = change in speed / time well enough. However they may be expected to apply this to calculating acceleration from velocity/time graphs, calculating acceleration of trolleys running down ramps using ticker-tape, to calculating acceleration using data extracted from a question. In each of these scenarios the physics teacher will not only model how to construct the equation but also the thought processes and decision making when encountering the other situations and being able to decide that it is the same equation that is going to unlock the answer and success. Transference of knowledge is our goal and presenting the knowledge in multiple modelled contexts is beneficial.

It is not just about maths and science

In some subjects there may not be the variety of contexts to tackle, and instead it is the quality of structure and fluency of response that results in an excellent answer. In this case, and as discussed elsewhere, using contrasting exemplars of varying quality is a popular method to make use of multiple models, in order to reinforce the desired aim of establishing and making concrete what the gold standards are. Exam boards sometimes do this for you and provide past responses at different grades or bands.

Below is an example of persuasive writing from GCSE English Language. Two different submissions side by side for comparison. Which one is stronger? Why?

From ‘SimonDarcy’

This is actually a perfect insight into how effective comparative judgement can be versus absolute judgement that is so traditionally common place in education (if interested in this see Daisy Christodoulou’s NoMoreMarking website:

It is not just the length (a common trap with student opinion!) that makes the piece on the right stronger than the left. The formal evaluation of the pieces included the following:

  • The left piece is serious and sensible, has appropriate structure, and ends memorably. It employs emotive language, rhetoric and an anecdote. Attempts are made to use repetition effects. However, persuasive techniques could have been used more. Many sentences are relatively short, lacking variety. Paragraph linking is not always smooth and there is a lack of precision in the expression of some ideas. Grade C banded answer.
  • The right piece develops persuasion effectively, including a range of techniques; repetition for effect; examples of what can be done to help; the anecdote about working in a hostel; use of figurative language ‘You can move clouds aside…’; and emotive touches. It is well structured, sentences are varied and vocabulary use is highly effective. Grade A* banded answer.

These models could then launch students into a task of persuasive writing for a different context, so there are enough degrees of separation and they don’t just try to copy and create the same radio script!

Alternatively we could share two or three top grade answers or outcomes from our subjects that are equally fantastic as one another, but look quite different, as this can provide inspiration in different ways and show that success doesn’t have to be a cloned outcome.

Associated further reading and references:

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