Teacher modeling important for student engagement

To engage students as much as possible, teachers often give students feedback and frequent opportunities to participate in class.  But another important engagement tool is modeling desired actions or behaviors, according to a recent research review of teaching practices that increase student engagement in Preventing School Failure:  Alternative Education for Children and Youth.

“While many desired academic and social behaviors are abstract concepts for students, when teachers model using explicit examples, they reduce student confusion and enhance understanding,” write the authors.

Modeling is a twofold process that includes demonstrating a desired skill or behavior while describing the actions and decisions being made throughout the process.  Modeling is an appeal to students for imitation.


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Examples of modeling include the math teacher working through an equation on the board, the science teacher demonstrating a procedure in the lab or a teacher showing students how to raise their hands in response to a teacher prompt. Modeling is interactive, the researchers write, because it makes concepts accessible to the learners through structured, guided practice and reflecting learning and also because it increases on-task behavior.

Research has found that modeling decreases student error, positively affects the perceived importance of a task and increases self-regulated learning.  For effective modeling, teachers should use think-alouds to make important connections and share their expert thinking with their students.

“A Brief Review of Effective Teaching Practices That Maximize Student Engagement,”  by Kristin Harbour et al., Preventing School Failure:  Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 2015, Volume 59, Number 1.

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