Monday, September 3, 2012

Advice to New Modelers

Here in Michigan school doesn't start until after Labor Day.  So I'm sitting here watching last night's episode of Breaking Bad (how awesome is it) and thinking about the first few days of school.  I still get nervous before that first day.  I suppose that'll probably never go away.

This doesn't compare however to how nervous I was before the first day of school after my first modeling workshop; I was freaking out!  How do you go about implementing a whole new curriculum and process?

I was, like many new modelers, to just say "forget this" and go back to what I was doing before the workshop - I was doing just fine.  But deep down I know that we all know that modeling is so much better; how could you really go back?

So what advice can I give?  Below is some advice from two experienced modeling workshop leaders.  Read it and take it to heart.  Good luck this year!


Larry Dukerich has led many Modeling Workshops.
He wrote to his new modelers in Aug. 2010:

Implementing bits and pieces of modeling is generally not as effective as trying to adopt it full force.  However, external constraints and possible discomfort with aspects of it may make it not feasible to jump in with both feet all the time. I would say that using the worksheets, quizzes and tests in a traditional sort of way is doomed to failure.  One possible compromise would be to try to do as much of a given unit using a modeling approach as one could. If equipment or other constraints are too great of an impediment for some topics/concepts, then teachers can tell students that they are returning temporarily to a more traditional approach, but plan to get back to modeling as soon as possible.

Jess Dykes, the mechanics Modeling Workshop leader at that site (Mansfield University in PA), added:

I will echo the sentiment regarding full implementation offered by Larry. While full implementation provides a challenge for teachers in their first year of modeling, if they revert back to traditional methods, this will undermine the method, and will not produce the engagement or improvement that everyone is hoping for.  So, as Larry stated, the teachers should implement as much as possible, and "revert" as infrequently as possible, and more importantly, continue to use the modeling method as much as possible.  The fewer transitions the students perceive, the better the buy-in from students, parents, etc.

Next, on the subject of teachers who are dealing with the extra challenge of teachers in their district who are not modelers, I cannot offer much advice. My own district went to the process as a group, and we were a "team" the entire time; talking, reflecting, rethinking, re-attempting, etc. as a group.  Which, of course, led to myself and Ray Howanski (a former chemistry teacher at Ridley) becoming workshop leaders.  I've also been extremely fortunate in that we have had a great deal of support from our administrators, on both the school and district levels.  I would suggest that the support from administrators would be the first line of "defense", and that using the FCI, ABCC, etc. would be beneficial tools as well.  I would suggest that those teachers consider asking their fellow teachers to give the FCI, ABCC, whichever is appropriate for them, as pre- and post-tests (post-tests only, if both are not possible) to compare results.  Even if the post scores are not dramatically different after the first year, it is my opinion that the low scores on such an "easy" test can be eye-opening for all but the most stubborn "traditionalist" teachers.  Also, the research for the effectiveness of modeling is available on the modeling website, and I recommend that it be distributed to anyone who wants to know more about it, even if the question may not be posed in the nicest manner.

1 comment:

Mr. Fuller said...

Couldn't agree more - about being nervous, being especially nervous when I started modeling, that modeling truly requires complete commitment to be successful, the whole deal.

What's getting to me this year is what I'm doing with geometry. At least last year I knew the materials were already there waiting for me - this year I'll be creating the worksheets and tests while trying to run a new curriculum and doing it all on my own. And why not? Teaching's a pretty easy gig, right?