Step 3.

model the mental move

How can I model the thinking for my students?

Once an instructor has made explicit the mental move a student needs to master to get past a bottleneck it is necessary to devise strategies to help students learn each of these steps an expert takes.

What analogy, metaphor or narrative will you use to introduce the mental move to your students?

It is very important to:

Focus on the most essential mental moves. First make a decision about which mental move should be modeled, and which have already been mastered by all or most of the students. This may require giving students short assignments that provide information about how many students have mastered specific moves already.

Use an analogy / metaphor / narrative from outside the discipline. This tells the students where to pay attention to in the disciplinary example.

Model each mental move by itself. It is much more difficult for students to learn when a number of steps are being presented at the same time. Therefore, it is generally important to break each mental action down into its component parts and to model each separately. In pedagogical language, we call this "scaffolding." Think strategically about the order in which modeling occurs and consider its connection to other elements in the course.

Model the same mental moves in disciplinary examples repeatedly and in different forms. Certain mental operations are so central to success in the course and so demanding that it is wise to make modeling these skills a central focus of the entire course. Also, the modeling process can be reinforced, not only in class presentations, but also in the syllabus, assignments, discussions and lab instructions.

In many cases it will be necessary to model, not only the individual mental moves, but also the process of combining these into more complex class activities, such as writing a paper or conducting an experiment.

Examples of Modeling Exercises

[Add examples here]

Modeling alone is generally not sufficient by itself to allow students to master difficult mental operations. In most cases, it needs to be supplemented by opportunities for students to practice these skills and receive feedback on them. Go on to Step 4 >>>