What is model learning theory?
Model learning theory is the idea that people take in complicated process information more effectively through illustrative models in combination with descriptive text, as opposed to descriptive text alone.
Consider, for example, the water cycle. The water cycle is a complex process that involves groundwater, atmospheric water, oceans, and more. Although an instructor could present this information through a few paragraphs of text information, model learning theory suggests that recipients of this information would benefit more from a visual model of the complex process.
See the attached image of the water cycle to understand the complexity represented in the model. The information in this model is visual and a recipient can digest quite a bit of information in a short period of time. The same information written in the summary below (see link) is more detailed and pairs nicely with the model.
What if the visual model wasn't there? The information is still presented below in the text paragraphs. In fact, there isn't anything we'd be missing in terms of specific information if the visual was absent. But, we may take longer to parse the text without the visual - our brains would have to draw the cycle for us and that would take a lot of concentration and multiple rounds of processing. Instead, the model reduces the complexity of our learning process and, as a result, we're able to take in more information and retain it better.