Modeling Pedagogy

Quite simply, the goal of STEMccm is to have students build models to solve problems.

The depth of knowledge a student will develop while building a model, the memories and skills they will gain that transcend content, and the teamwork they will develop during the process are just a few of the benefits of the modeling process. Ultimately, the modeling process will allow students and teachers to experience education in a way that matches the way work is done in scientific research, engineering, and other professional settings.

Having students build models to solve problems is an enormous goal and enormous goals require enormous planning.

The purpose of this guide is to outline the pedagogical approaches a teacher will need to lead their students on the journey from novice modelers to expert modelers.

We have learned much about the process of teaching modeling to both teachers and students. We have taken our experiences in our classrooms and steadily developed the road map you will find below. Through constant reflection on our successes and failures we feel our road map has developed from a rough path into something approaching a smooth ride.

Teachers can expect to be able to use this framework across a variety of subject areas and with diverse student populations with the objective of having their students learn the modeling process. Additionally, it is our hope to also explain why we feel the path should look the way it does by explaining the challenges faced and how ideas were developed.


The Framework

The first section of the framework, “Bloom’s and Modeling” explains the first three major observations we made as we incorporated modeling into our instruction. We noted that modeling was clearly one of the most effective, if not the most effective method, to have students reach the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Further, we noted that the modeling process itself was cyclical and as one worked towards refinement of the model, they were working towards refining their understanding of the world around them. Finally, we noted that all models have limitations but those limitations are helpful in the learning process.

Early on we realized that all models are not equally suitable for every task. Building a model of a complex system requires solid coding skills as well as high level understanding of very complicated content. This dual challenge could prove overwhelming and actually impede the learning process.

Reflecting on a variety of classroom experiences, we noted a relationship emerge which we named “The Bloom’s Balance.” That is, the more challenging the modeling task, the less demanding the content demand should be, and vice versa. For example, if I am asking students to build a model, then I should narrow the scope of the model to a very simple natural phenomenon like gravity’s role on an object falling towards the ground. Conversely, if I’m having my students investigate the effect of gravity on planet orbital motion, perhaps a better starting point would be to have students use an existing model and possibly work on modifying that model.

As we were learning about the relationships above we also developed a better understanding of the sequence and pacing we should use with our students. We learned that to properly scaffold the modeling process, you need to first introduce students to modeling – both non computationally and then computationally. Next you need to teach students to code. Then you can have students begin building their own models.

We refined the above insights and borrowed from other movements in education to develop the three step road map for modeling of “Use-Modify-Create.”

Teaching Students to Use Models

Teaching Students to Modify Models

Teaching Students to Create Models

We feel that this approach is elegant because we incorporated the Blooms Balance into our experiences and fit our pedagogical techniques into each of the three focus areas of Use-Modify-Create.

We combined the use of non computational models and computational models into the single focus area of Using Models. We noticed that our teaching of coding in NetLogo had steadily moved away from a direct instruction approach where students built models to a less structured approach where students use resources and flipped content to Modify Models. We also refined our strategies and the scope of our expectations when asking students to Create Models to respect the ability of level students and the rigor level of the content.

As you read through the three sections you will find a variety of instructional strategies to scaffold the learning process. Each strategy is explained and an example is provided – often with bundled models, handouts, and videos.

The final section, “Motivating Students,” transcends computational modeling. This section is all about the philosophy of generating hype through metacognating on your own behavior patterns and changing the way you interact with the people around you. In a way, the Hype Train is still a form of modeling… but that might be a discussion for another time.

pagebreakLooking Forward

Currently the STEMccm team is looking very closely at the modeling pedagogical practices to fit them into this new “Use-Modify-Create” paradigm and adopt the process into a textbook to deliver the modeling framework more effectively to teachers and students.

We would encourage you to please read through the six parts of the Modeling Pedagogy to learn how to embed modeling instruction into your curriculum to develop your students’ coding, content, and modeling expertise.

We sincerely hope this guide and the embedded resources help you and your students make the journey from novice to expert modelers.




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