Modelling in PD

Showing what good looks like

Hey ๐Ÿ‘‹

Hope youโ€™re making the most of this bonus extra day in the year. To celebrate, weโ€™re sticking on our theme of effective PD with a dip into modellingโ€ฆ

Big idea ๐Ÿ‰

One of the most potent ingredients of effective professional development (PD) is 'modelling'. But what it is and why?

Basically, a model is an example of an aspect of teaching that is (A) effective and (B) can be replicated by others. They can take a variety of guises, such as:

  • A live demo or video showing how to give instructions in a way that optimises cognitive load.

  • A case study illustrating how planning an exit ticket can help reliably prepare for the following lesson.

Models are powerful for individuals because what theory looks like in practice is not always obvious, and teaching is often too rich to describe in words alone. They also boost our motivation for improvement... when we see another teacher do it, our belief that we can do it takes a leap.

Models are also powerful for schools because they force us to 'codify' what good looks like, and in doing so, create a common language which we can use to better discuss teaching and improvement.

How can make the most of models in PD? 3 strategies help:

1/ Tell as well as show Clearly list out the features of the model that make it effective. Without this, teachers can end up attending to things that don't matter so much, and replicating such redundant features in their practice.

2/ Explain the why Learning is invisible which makes the cause and effect of the classroom not always obvious. When providing models, it's important to explain how they work. Without this, we put a ceiling on adaptive expertise.

3/ Provide multiple models A model is only one configuration of what effective looks like. When we provide multiple models, we help teachers discern the important features of an approach and mitigate against lethal mutations.

A common mistake when it comes to modelling is to try to focus on too much at once (which is why lesson observations arenโ€™t always the most useful of learning experiences). Paradoxically, focussing on one small step at a time can typically help us to get there quicker.


  • A model is an example of an aspect of teaching that is effective and replicable.

  • They are important because teaching is often too rich to describe in words.

  • We can model well by listing the effective features, explaining the why, and providing multiple examples.

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