Modelling for Excellence

[by John Smith and Celia Bone]

How do we model answers without crushing creativity?

This question seems to go to the heart of everyday teaching: the balance between prompting and telling. I think of modelling as a continuum and I do not consider one end of the spectrum more valuable than the other. It depends on the nature of the task or topic.

modelling continuumI hope Ken Robinson is not reading when I say: there are certain topics in my own subject of Maths where creativity is the last thing I want! For example, when teaching Solving Linear Equations in Year 7, we have a ‘house style’ of modelling the topic that I expect all teachers to follow. I believe we are doing the students a dis-service if we do not provide them with the formal “Maths Toolkit” needed to approach harder problems in the future. The highly prescriptive teacher-modelling approach works well for tasks with a closed outcome. However, for most topics the nature of the task lies somewhere in between open and closed: we want to encourage student creativity but within certain parameters and with clear assessment criteria in mind.

Modelling for Excellence

Modelling can mean a lot of different things to different teachers :

modelling celia

[Mindmap by Celia Bone]

Here are some practical techniques for nudging students towards the desired outcome while leaving space for creativity.

1. An Ethic of Excellence

For those who haven’t read Ron Berger’s Ethic of Excellence , this video gives a good introduction to his method of public critique, re-drafting and exemplars. Notice the positive language in the clip – he uses the word YET multiple times – in terms of Neurolinguistic Programming his choice of words are powerful in the modelling process the children are already thinking ahhh… he might be able to improve it…. I love the empathy that the children illustrate too – realising Austin was a first grader and they were assessing his drawing from such a knowledgeable position.

Some excellent blog posts have been written on Berger’s work, which I have listed in Further Reading at the bottom of this post.

2. Rapid Progress via Ross McGill (@teachertoolkit)

This is a great way of setting up a task in an open-ended way, introducing success criteria later and improving towards the desired outcome. In this way students can make rapid progress over time.

Read more here.

 3. Student – to – Student Modelling

I have found the ipevo visualiser a great way to share student models on the hoof. For example, when a problem has been set with multiple possible approaches, I pick a selection and share with the group. We then have an open critique of which method is the most elegant or efficient. This is an ideal way of sharing pieces of work that fall somewhere on your mental road-map to the model solution or outcome.


4. Modelling Writing

Modelling Writing seems to be a different beast entirely, and certainly not my specialism. A twitter request to twitter maven Jill Berry produced some superb articles on the tricky business of modeling for essay-based subjects:

Andy Tharby: Modelling Writing and the Meaning of Life and Multiple Models and the Journey to Freedom

Edssential: A Collection of blog posts on modelling writing

Shaun Allison: Modelling for Excellence 

Further Reading

Tom Sherrington: Lessons from Berger

David Fawcett: Creating a Culture of Critique

Harry Fletcher-Wood: How can we create an Ethic of Excellence?

Shaun Allison: An Ethic of Excellence

The Excellence and Growth Schools Network:


2 responses to “Modelling for Excellence

  1. Pingback: Education Panorama (June ’15) by @TeacherToolkit | @TeacherToolkit·

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