Modelling Learning

Paul Main

What does effective modelling look like in the classroom and how can teachers use this technique to promote inclusive practice?

What is Modelling Learning?

Modelling is the process of learning by copying others' behaviour. It is also called Observational Learning. Humans model one another naturally – for example, kids use modelling to learn how to tie their shoes or use utensils. Modelling learning involves a particular kind of neuron, known as a mirror neuron. People conducting the imitated behaviour are called the models.

In education, Modelling is used by educators as an instructional strategy to save time for teaching while improving their teaching skills. Each time an instructor explains a concept for a student, the instructor is modelling.

According to Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory, pure behaviourism cannot explain why the learning process occurs in absence of external reinforcement. Albert Bandura felt that inner mental state or cognitive processes must also play a role in learning efficiency and that the modelling process takes into account much more than imitation. In the case of imitation, a person barely copies what is done by the model.

What do we mean by Mental Modelling?

At Structural Learning, we encourage the active learning principles of metacognition. This involves children in the model creation of their thought processes. By using our block building methodology, a child can get the inside picture of human learning and how it happens. The pedagogy is predominantly based on the idea of organising our thoughts. This process of modelling allows a child to see their thoughts and at the same time have an opportunity to modify them. This experience provides opportunities for the positive reinforcement of key learning behaviours. Allowing time for teaching methodologies like this gives children room to play with their new ideas. The social behaviours that come through these activities enable children to articulate their thinking to one another. This acts as a launchpad for better writing as pupils are given time to rehearse what they are going to write.

Using modelling to build essay plans
Using modelling to build essay plans


What are the steps of Modelling Learning?

According to Albert Bandura - Social Learning Theory, learning efficiency may occur while watching others' social behaviours and then modelling what others say or do. Bandura explained particular steps in the process of modelling that must be followed to make learning successful:

  • Firstly, one must focus on what the model is doing— this is called attention.
  • Secondly, they must remember, or retain, what they observed; this is called retention.
  • Thirdly, they must perform the behaviour that they observed and saved in their memory; this step is called reproduction.
  • Lastly, they need motivation. They must be willing to copy the behaviour, and whether or not they are motivated to copy depends upon what happened to the model. If the model was punished, one would be less motivated to copy the model. This is known as vicarious punishment. On the other hand, if the model was reinforced for the behaviour, one would be more motivated to copy her. This is called vicarious reinforcement.
Creating models of sentences using our blocks

What are different types of Models?

Bandura specified 3 types of models:

Live: A live model indicates a behaviour in person. For example, Catherine stood up on her surfboard so that Stacey could see how she did it.

Verbal: A verbal model does not involve any act of performing the behaviour, but rather describes or explains the behaviour. It is the best strategy in case of insufficient time. For example, A football coach tells the junior players to use the side of the foot to kick the ball not the toe.

Symbolic: A symbolic instructional model can be real people or fictional characters demonstrating behaviours in stories, movies, video games, television shows, Internet sources etc. For example, Video-modelling is frequently used to help children with neurodevelopmental disorders learn new skills. It is also used to help children with autism spectrum disorder reduce challenging behaviour like tantrums and aggression.
Creating models using symbols

How can you motivate children to demonstrate acceptable behaviour?

Bandura researched children's modelling behaviour, specifically adults' modelling process of violent and aggressive behaviours. He used a 5- foot inflatable doll for the experiment. In his experiment, teachers' punishment for aggressive behaviour had an impact on children’s aggressive behaviour. In one scenario, an educator demonstrated aggressive behaviour for the doll, throwing, hitting, and even punching the doll, in presence of a child. In response to the teacher's behaviour, two types of children's responses were observed. When the instructor was ignored or praised (and not penalized for her behaviour), the students imitated what the instructor did, and even they repeated her words. They yelled, kicked and punched the doll. On the other hand, when the instructor was penalized for bad behaviour, the students decreased their tendency to act as instructors.

After this experiment, Albert Bandura concluded that individuals see and learn, and their learning efficiency can have both antisocial and prosocial effects. Positive or prosocial models can be used to stimulate socially acceptable behaviour. Especially parents must take note of this outcome. If they want their kids to read, they must read to them. Keep a collection of books at home. Let children see them reading. Talk about any new or their favourite books. Similarly, if parents want their children to be healthy, then the children must see their parents exercise and eat healthy and spend time in physical fitness activities. Parents can use the same strategy to develop qualities like honesty, courtesy and kindness in their children. The main concept is that kids see and learn from their parents, even their parents’ values. Therefore, parents must remain consistent. Kids tend to copy what their parents do instead of what their parents say. Likewise, parents, there are many public figures, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. who are considered as prosocial models as they could provoke global social change.

The learning skills framework
The learning skills framework

What are the antisocial effects of modelling learning?

It is important to discuss antisocial modelling or observational learning. Research suggests that children tend to copy their parents' aggressive behaviour. This is the reason most abused children grow up to become abusers themselves. Research shows that almost 30% of abused children grow up to become abusive parents in future. People are more likely to follow what they know. When children see their parents dealing with frustration and anger through aggressive and violent acts, they also learn to behave in that way. Unfortunately, it is difficult to break this vicious cycle.

Research suggests that violent video games, movies, and television shows may sometimes act as mechanisms of learning 21st century skills but these may also give rise to antisocial modelling behaviour. Not only might seeing media violence initiate aggressive behavior but also repeated exposure to violent acts also makes people less sensitive to it.

What increases the likelihood that a behaviour will be imitated?

According to Albert Bandura - Social Learning Theory, the following are the factors that increase the likelihood that a behaviour will be imitated.

  • People who are rewarded for their behaviour;
  • People we feel as nurturing and warm;
  • People who have similar interests, or share the same age and sex;
  • People of higher social status or those we admire;
  • People at an authoritative position;
  • When the situation is unfamiliar, ambiguous or confusing;
  • When we are lacking in confidence in our abilities or knowledge;
  • When we were rewarded for imitating the same behaviour in the past

Final thoughts on modelling

According to Albert Bandura - Social Learning Theory - learning may take place by watching others and then modelling what others say or do. This is called observational learning. Some specific steps to make the modelling process successful include attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. Bandura used the process of modelling to show that children learn many things both bad and good simply by social experiences and by seeing their family members and others.