How does the teacher use modeling/observational learning? Include factors that impact learning from models in your response (attention, retention, production, motivation/reinforcement) as well as the types (live/symbolic) and characteristics (competence, power/prestige, etc.) of models used. Cite specific examples and be sure to include a reference in your response.
Mrs. G. doesn’t use a lot of modeling in her classroom; she focuses more on direct instruction, cooperative learning, and reading comprehension strategies. She does use some modeling though, as any good teacher does.
Using a Peer as a Model
Towards the end of my observation hours, Mrs. G.’s 10th graders were revising a big essay for a final grade. Mrs. G. had graded all the students’ papers and provided good feedback for them, and the students were getting ready to go and make revisions and resubmit their papers. Mrs. G. used one of the students’ papers as a model for the rest of the class. She kept the student’s identity confidential as she showed excerpts from the paper to demonstrate how the rest of the class should introduce evidence, structure their transitions, use explication with their quotes, organize their paper, and other relevant skills. This model is an example of a live model who has immediate situational relevance—the model was in the same shoes as the students learning from the model. Mrs. G. focused students’ attention on the model with some extrinsic motivation by telling them that following this model would help them improve their grade. Then, after showing the model, she provided time for students to produce on their own. Students went to the lab and began revising their papers, using the model and their feedback as a guide.
I also observed Mrs. G.’s 12th grade students using peers as a model. In one class period, students were writing practice essays for the upcoming AP exam. Mrs. G. gave students the prompt and some time to respond. Then, she had students review the AP grading rubric and evaluate each other’s practice essays using the rubric. This provided students with live models who had situational relevance to themselves. The levels of competence varied in this exercise, because some students were better writers than others. For students whose skills were lower, their peer’s essay provided a good example of how an essay should look. For students whose skills were higher, their peer’s essay might have provided an example of what not to do—but even for these students, they were able to produce their own skills by giving suggestions for their peer to improve their writing. After students reviewed each other’s essays, they went back and revised their own, which helped them both retain and produce the skills. In this instance, the AP test itself served as a motivator for students to do well. Students were also motivated by the prompt, which was very unique and interesting.
Using the Teacher as a Model
I observed Mrs. G. serve as a live, competent model on a few different occasions. Nearly every day I observed, Mrs. G. had her students start the class with a grammar exercise. In this example, students were able to produce first, which is a bit backwards from traditional modeling. Once students had worked on the exercise on their own, Mrs. G. would model how she would fix up the broken sentences. This focused students’ attention because they could compare the model with their own answers, and Mrs. G.’s modeling gave students a chance to retain more of the information. As the days rolled along, students continued to be able to produce the modeled skills on their own.
During one class, Mrs. G. used modeling to present a mini-lesson on annotating text. She served as a live model, who was competent at the skills. She focused students’ attention by using a text that was interesting and clearly modeling her thinking out loud. She also stayed at the back of the classroom—partly because that’s where the document camera was—but also so she could see all the students at once and help focus their attention. After Mrs. G. annotated the example text, she also showed examples of some books she had annotated as a student. Since this annotation had already happened, these books served as a symbolic model with more situational relevance, since Mrs. G. had made those notes when she was in a situation more similar to her students’ current situation. These secondary examples also gave students more opportunities to retain and encode the skills and characteristics of annotating text. Finally, Mrs. G. had students produce the skill by reading and annotating on their own.
Summarizing from Albert Bandura, Heather Coffey states: “Modeling is an effective instructional strategy in that it allows students to observe the teacher’s thought processes. Using this type of instruction, teachers engage students in imitation of particular behaviors that encourage learning.” Mrs. G.’s annotating lesson exemplified this definition perfectly. She spoke aloud her thoughts as she modeled the skills, and clearly demonstrated the many different types of annotation that readers use. Annotation itself is a “particular behavior that encourages learning,” as it enables students to connect more deeply with a text and improves comprehension. After observing Mrs. G.’s modeling, the students were able to effectively annotate on their own, which enhanced their learning.
Mrs. G. used mostly teacher and student modeling in her classroom to help students acquire and refine their literacy skills. I believe that sometimes a powerful or prestigious model, like someone from the community or a person from pop culture or the media, can also help students to learn the academic skills they will need to be successful. Especially with reading strategies and writing skills, effective models are so helpful for our students to learn, understand, and perform so they can meet the standards of our classroom.