Over the course of the year with your students your goal should be to increase their modeling competency, allowing them to move to higher levels of Bloom’s. However, even as students approach a high level of modeling ability, it is still important to carefully consider the content being taught.
If you are teaching students a very rigorous content demand piece – for example, the entire process of mitosis – it might not be appropriate to have students build a model. Although their modeling abilities might be ready to tackle such a project, because the academic content area is new to them and very high level, their ability to create a model could be hindered. Rather than supporting their learning, the plan could backfire – students could become frustrated as they attempt to build a model without sufficient background knowledge to do so.
In our teaching we found that rather than having students build a model in this case, it would instead be more appropriate to have a student use a model – either an existing model from the models library, a published model from the modeling commons, or a model created specifically for the lesson.
This paradigm is what we’ve termed The Bloom’s Balance.
In this first image students are learning a high content demand lesson and as described above, it is probably most appropriate to have them work with an existing model. This would make a great anticipatory set or engage piece – having students get some hands on experience with the concept to establish a point of reference around which the lesson can be framed.
In this second image students are learning a moderate demand lesson. It might be more appropriate to have students work with an existing model after the lesson has been taught and then attempt to modify that model. This process will reinforce both their understanding of the parameters of the original model as well as complete their understanding of the overall system.
In this third image students are working with a less demanding lesson. After learning the concept, students can be asked to build a model incorporating the content. A great example teacher participants used is an Earth Science lesson in which students learn about how light enters the atmosphere and reflects off various layers and then off the earth itself. Students then created a model to demonstrate this phenomenon.
Ultimately what we learned through the Bloom’s Balance process was that you must first carefully consider your content – then decide on the modeling goal you will set for your students. Often times as teachers we first think of a project and then think about the topic area for said project. That can potentially backfire if the scope of the project is set too high – or too low! If students are asked to use a model on a low level content demand area, they may quickly grow bored and the learning potential can go untapped.
As your year progresses with your students, their modeling abilities should grow and your opportunities to use the third level of Bloom’s Balance should grow more numerous.