This article explores modeling as an instructional methodology in a variety of educational contexts. Modeling occurs whenever a teacher demonstrates a concept or skill for a student. Additionally, modeling occurs whenever individuals learn behaviors, attitudes, values, and beliefs through observation. Discussion focuses on the various definitions and benefits of modeling. A wide range of applicable educational situations are highlighted including modeling for reading comprehension and music instruction, modeling for demonstration of life skills for visually impaired students, and modeling sustainability and environmentally sound practices in school settings. Issues and alternative viewpoints are also discussed with regard to the negative effects of excessive modeling and the complexity and difficulty faced when attempting to model for instructional purposes.
Keywords Aural Modeling; Modeling; Social Learning Theory; Sustained Silent Reading (SSR); Tactile Modeling; Think Aloud
Teaching Methods: Instructional Modeling
Haston (2007) indicates that modeling occurs whenever a teacher demonstrates a concept for a student. In its most basic form, a teacher models for students by working through a sample problem, demonstrating how to perform a particular task, dictating his or her thought process out loud when reading or solving a difficult problem, etc. Modeling occurs frequently in classrooms as students often need an example to follow before attempting to fully apply a particular skill on their own. Teacher modeling is often the first step in the learning process, followed by guided practice and eventually individual application without assistance. The overall goal of modeling, as an instructional methodology, is to provide an example for students to follow in order to be able to integrate a particular behavior, successfully perform a task, or acquire a specific skill on their own. Teacher modeling is also used in co-teaching contexts where the experienced teacher can provide effective modeling for a teacher candidate, who would be able to use it in his or her own future classroom Patel & Kramer, 2013).
Modeling is not only an effective instructional methodology; it is also a process that occurs naturally outside of the academic context. Haston (2007) extends the definition of modeling as a process through which individuals learn behaviors, attitudes, values, and beliefs through observations. Not only do teachers model for academic purposes, they also model through their everyday actions and communication with students about beliefs, values, and attitudes. Many teachers serve as role models for youth, thereby modeling appropriate behavior and attitude. Chiou & Yang (2006) suggest that when students recognize teachers as role models, teachers have a direct impact on what students learn. Higgs & McMillan (2006) support the notion that teachers act as models for students. They claim most students generally view teachers as competent individuals and therefore internalize the behaviors and attitudes observed and experienced in the classroom setting. Methe & Hintze (2003) further support the assertion that school leaders, teachers, and classroom assistants influence student behavior through demonstrating and modeling desired behavior. Ideally, acquisition of desired behaviors during instructional sessions is followed by generalization of these behaviors to contexts similar to classroom activities for all participants (Ledford & Wolery, 2013).
Social learning theory as discussed by Bandura (1977, 1986; cited in Methe & Hintze, 2003) further illuminates the modeling process as observational in nature. Learning often takes place in the absence of direct reinforcement as people learn naturally through imitation of models (Haston, 2007). Just as a young child mimics words heard in a conversation, people, in general, aim to emulate behaviors observed. Bandura (1977) claims that highly valued individuals can have positive effects on other individuals and can thereby encourage desirable behavior through ongoing visual feedback. Methe & Hintze (2003) suggest that teachers act as facilitators of desirable behavior and thus are often in the position of highly valued individuals with much influence over student behavior and attitude.
Higgs & McMillan (2006) highlight that research strongly indicates modeling is an effective way to teach knowledge, skills and behaviors. They also assert that effective modeling motivates students to learn and helps them to develop core values. When students are exposed to multiple models whether academic or value based, behaviors and skills are often learned quickly and efficiently as students internalize observed models and integrate observed behaviors and values with their own.
Benefits of Modeling
Riva & Korinek (2004) indicate modeling has been demonstrated to be an effective instructional methodology in a variety of contexts. They specifically highlight modeling as an effective process for teaching and learning complex problem solving, evaluation, writing tasks, leadership, and communication among others. In an academic setting, students benefit greatly from exposure to instructional models because they are able to develop clear understandings of expectations for both process and product. Once students observe a teacher model exactly how to follow a specific process or how to perform a particular task, they are much more likely to be successful when it comes to applying the skills learned.
Additionally, teachers are not always the only individuals modeling in classroom settings. Peers often model for instructional purposes by guiding each other through acquisition of specific skills or through processes necessary for successful completion of tasks, etc. When peers model for each other, both individuals benefit tremendously from the teaching and learning relationship. When a student is able to effectively model or teach a particular concept or skill to another individual, he or she takes on the role of a teacher and thereby demonstrates a complete understanding of the concept or skill taught. Furthermore, peer modeling encourages strong peer relationships and increased self-esteem and self-confidence.
Riva & Korinek (2004) support the notion that modeling is effective when direct learning outcomes are intended, but can be equally as powerful when no teaching or learning is intended at all. Haston (2007) discusses how modeling allows students to learn naturally and intuitively. When teachers effectively model behaviors, attitudes, and values, students absorb and integrate what they observe with little, if any, direct instruction. Therefore, teachers model and students learn without actually being aware that teaching and learning is occurring. Haston (2007) further highlights that, as students improve as a direct result of modeling, they begin to become more independent and creative in their own thought processes. Once they acquire the skills necessary via modeling, students are often able to build upon learned skills to develop their own understandings.
As discussed, modeling occurs in a variety of educational contexts from direct instructional methodologies to more implicit and natural situations. The following section focuses on a variety of applicable situations in which modeling plays a major role. Modeling as a direct teaching methodology is explored in the context of both reading and music instruction. Next, modeling as an instructional technique for visually impaired students is discussed. Finally, modeling of behaviors, attitudes and values is highlighted in the context of sustainability and environmentally sound practices in schools.
Modeling Reading Instruction
Methe & Hintze (2003) discuss the findings of many researchers regarding the impact of teacher modeling on reading instruction. They assert that teacher modeling is a common element identified across a variety of reading programs and they highlight the strong relationship between on-task reading behavior and teacher modeling. When teachers model on-task reading behaviors and demonstrate for students why reading is important and critical to success, students are more likely to be on-task when reading (Methe & Hintze, 2003). One specific way teachers model on-task reading involves a common practice, Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). During SSR, students are required to read a book of their choice silently, on their own, without interruption for a specified period of time. Teachers that model on-task behavior by reading a book of their choice as students read, implicitly communicate to students the importance of reading.
Walker (2005) discusses the direct effects of teacher modeling on reading comprehension via the think-aloud technique. When teachers articulate their thought process for students and make strategies they use to comprehend text transparent to students, students are more likely to apply such strategies...
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