Research School Network: From Expert to Novice Jon Eaton: How do we convey expert thinking to our novice learners?


From Expert to Novice

Jon Eaton: How do we convey expert thinking to our novice learners?

by Kingsbridge Research School
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The EEF’s modelling framework

Were a novice able to peek into the mind of an expert, they would see the web of concepts, strategies, routines and subroutines that lie hidden behind the performance of a complex task. They would also see the bursts of thwarted inspiration, the dead ends and self-doubts.

But only seeing the end result, the novice assumes the expert has achieved task completion in one giant stride. So writing a novel is like laying an egg. Winning a race is just a matter of talent. Without insight into the hidden complexities, it might even look like magic.

Recommendation 3 of the EEF’s Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning guidance report states Modelling by the teacher is a cornerstone of effective teaching.’ This is because, by verbalising our thinking, we make the implicit explicit. We give the novice a guided tour of the engine.

This is easier said than done, so to support this process the guidance report includes the following seven-step modelling framework:

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The EEF’s modelling framework

Compared to the I do – We do – You do conception of modelling, the framework above has several advantages. First, it reminds us to prompt the learner to think about prior knowledge, helping to build schema and direct attention – crucial if we want them to acquire rather than just observe the strategy we intend to model.

Step 2 is all about clarity. The temptation is to give a brief overview of the strategy and then engage in the modelling process, but even this can be too sudden for a novice learner.

If you’ve ever experienced this, you’ll know what it feels like: initial enthusiasm quickly followed by mounting frustration. With me, I’m sad to report, this happens in the kitchen. I enthusiastically follow the video recipe, but the timeline quickly outpaces my skill and then the emotions rise like boiling milk: frustration, anger, despair, regret, nihilism …

To prevent this, before we begin modelling (step 3), we clearly lay out the whole journey. Here’s where we are, here’s where we’re going, and here are the stepping stones in between – pay particular attention to that one because it’s a bit wobbly.

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What else makes this framework different from the I do – We do – You do version? Answer: steps 4 and 7, memorisation of the strategy’ and structured reflection’. The point of these steps is that, if at the end of the modelling process, students don’t walk away with the strategy we’re modelling, then all we’ve really done is lead them through a process without developing their understanding. With the teacher’s prompting, they can move from point A to point B to point C, but they don’t understand why and they can’t do it by themselves.

A worked example

During our partnership work with Cornwall Education Learning Trust, which focuses on metacognition, we put together the following worked example. 

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A downloadable PDF can be found below

Part of our theory of change is that it’s not enough to present the evidence: you have to engage with it, talk about it, work out what you know and don’t know. A worked example will help you conceptualise the steps, but we need to go further.

Meaningfully engaging with evidence requires “communication, collaboration and interactions through networks within and beyond the school” (Godfrey, 2019, p. 209)

With the modelling framework, and with metacognition in general, it’s particularly important to make it subject-specific – a generic understanding will only get you so far. For that reason, our Regional Implementation Leads worked with each school’s Metacognition Implementation Lead to prompt subject or phase-level thinking.

The template below might be used to structure this kind of thinking.

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A downloadable Word version can be found below

To further prompt helpful discussion around the modelling framework with CELT, we used the following questions. I list them here as they might help support your own subject-specific discussions:

  • How long will it take to model the strategy? (It may span a sequence of lessons)
  • What questions / assessment might you use to check whether the strategy has been well understood?
  • Which steps were the most difficult to design?
  • Which steps do you most need to think about, rehearse or even script?
  • How likely is it that you will use all parts of the framework without prompting, that it will become automatic? 
  • What might help to make it a regular part of your practice?
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Modelling Framework worked example

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Modelling framework- Editable Word version

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Godfrey, D; (2019) Moving forward – how to create and sustain an evidence-informed school eco-system. In: Godfrey, D and Brown, C, (eds.) An ecosystem for research-engaged schools: reforming education through research. Routledge: London, UK

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