20 March 2021

The Power of Modelling and Exemplars

Last week I observed an art lesson which featured expert use of modelling. The teacher wanted students to use a particular technique to create a piece of artwork. Before the lesson she'd used a visualiser to record herself performing the task. The video was shot from above, recording only her hands. She played the recording to the class while she narrated what she was doing and pointed out the difficulties she had encountered along the way, advising students of how they could overcome those difficulties when it was their turn to have go. She then left recording running on a loop on the screen while the students performed the task, meaning they could look up and refer to it throughout. What an excellent technique! 

I occasionally do something similar in maths - when teaching constructions I leave gifs playing on a loop on the board so students can refer back to them whilst practising:

I think this is really powerful in topics like constructions. 

It is very easy to leave animated written examples running on a PowerPoint while students practise (like in the example below). But here it's probably more helpful to instead leave all the steps and solutions static on the board, rather than an animated version. It's the same idea though. We model how to do the process and we show students what the final outcome looks like. And then we leave that with them to refer to, rather than hide it away and expect them to remember it.

In generic whole school CPD, I'm often surprised to hear people talking about the importance of modelling examples as if it's a new or unusual idea. But perhaps it is, in other subjects. For maths teachers it's just so ingrained in everything we do. We are always modelling. Students are constantly getting to see us do 'live' maths. From our modelling, students can see what the final outcome should look like. 

Students don't get the same benefits from PowerPoints which are clicked through to show animated step-by-step solutions as they do from live modelling. They need to see 'pen and paper' modelling, done during the lesson by their teacher, whether on a whiteboard or a blank PowerPoint slide, or under a visualiser. Because otherwise, how can they possibly know what their work should look like?

A few years ago there was a trend for using 'WAGOLL' techniques in many subjects ('what a good one looks like'). This is a logical thing to do - if you want students to produce something of a certain standard, how can they achieve that if they are not shown what that standard looks like? It's like when we follow a recipe to bake a cake or cook a meal - we start by looking at a picture of the final outcome, so we know what we are aiming for. 

There are a number of commonly used techniques for showing students 'what a good one looks like' in many subjects, including the live modelling I've described. Another technique is using a visualiser or photo to share examples of excellent work by other students. For example if a student's book is laid out immaculately and you want other books to look the same, simply show the class what that good book looks like. Just moaning at a student that their workings are a mess won't help them improve. Find a good example and show them.

In maths, the exemplar response materials provided on Edexcel's Emporium are perhaps one of our most useful tools for showing 'what a good one looks like' in terms of the maths itself. 

Take this Edexcel exam question for example. What would a good answer look like?

Edexcel has provided us with an excellent solution given by a student in their GCSE exam. Note that reasons are given throughout, that workings are clear and presented vertically down the page in a logical order, and they have even used a 'therefore' symbol (not essential, but nice to see!). This student knows what they're doing.

When teaching circle theorems, it is so useful to show examples of answers gaining full marks. This helps students know what they need to do to get marks in questions like this, particularly in terms of the wording of their reasoning. 

Edexcel also provides examples of student answers to the same question that did not gain full marks. As a class you can discuss where students went wrong and where their misconceptions lie. Looking at real student answers and seeing how marks can be gained and lost is powerful stuff. 

Analysing exemplar responses is also incredibly useful for maths teachers. Edexcel very helpfully provides accompanying comments which explain the misconceptions and tell us where students lost and gained marks.

I could show you endless examples here, but I will just share one more. This is an angles questions from an Edexcel Foundation paper. The first solution gains full marks. The second got one out of three.

Can you guess what the second student did to come up with the angles of 120 and 150? 

The comments from Edexcel tell us that this student appears to have measured the angles with the protractor. We are urged to remind our students that diagrams are not drawn accurately and they should not be measuring anything (unless specifically asked to do so!). This is not something I would have anticipated students doing in this question.

I'm sure you'll agree that exemplar answers are an incredibly useful teaching tool, not only for showing students 'what a good one looks like', but also for our own CPD purposes. You can find Edexcel's brilliant exemplar resources on the Emporium:

We are very fortunate in maths to have access to such useful resources to support our teaching.

1 comment:

  1. I love the vast amount of resources available freely and also with platforms like twitter and youtube, we get an opportunity to interact with the best of the best.