George Nelson – Illinois

We have all sat in professional development that we thought were not productive and had little to any impact in our classrooms. What I have noticed in the Middle School Modeling Workshops in Wheaton, IL and various sites across Michigan are quite different. Actually, most participants leave these workshops rejuvenated and eager to begin their school year. Now presenting to adults seems like a daunting task, especially when the instructional approach is something drastically differently from teachers are used to. After three weeks of being in a Modeling Workshop, other facilitators and I find that teachers leave impacted and motivated to try Modeling Instruction in their classrooms.

It is not of the unordinary that teachers find Modeling Workshops inspiring and invigorating to their teaching careers. Workshops give teachers an instructional approach that they can implement immediately in their classrooms with students. Every teacher has been to a variety of professional development. Teachers probably have heard of inquiry and constructivism in the past, but Modeling Instruction now gives teachers the tools and resources necessary to implement in their classroom right away.

Now, if teachers think that they are going to sit and listen to a facilitator lecture for 7 hours a day, then they are in for a surprise. Teachers are immersed in middle school content from a student’s perspective that they can use in their own classrooms. We then collaborate as professionals in “teacher-mode” about teacher questions about the lesson and discussions. While teachers are collaborating they lead to rich discussions where people speak honestly and can even challenge the instructional approach. Teachers are coming from a variety of different grades ranging from elementary school up to high school and different communities.  As professionals, we discuss from multiple viewpoints and past experiences where we compensate for what will work in our different communities and age groups that we teach. These discussions give numerous ideas that are even beneficial to me because even I gain innovative ideas that I can use in my classroom. During the three weeks, the workshop grows into a close community of learners, almost like a family.

It is easier for teachers to buy into Modeling Instruction because the workshops are led by teachers who are currently in the classroom. Teachers ask frequently “how does ….. work in your classroom?” or “what would you do if…. happens?” Only teachers who are in the classroom can give realistic responses and practical. It is reassuring for teachers to hear stories about how implementing modeling in the classroom works and examples of what to do in different situations. This past summer former participants have even come back to share their positive stories about using Modeling in their classrooms. This only adds to a close community of professionals and learners.

After running 4 workshops this past summer (lasting 9 weeks), I was extremely fortunate to work with and present to such an excellent group of teachers across the Midwest. Working with phenomenal teachers makes it a motivating and rewarding experience. I only hope that I was able to send a compelling message about the effectiveness of Modeling Instruction. I can speak from a personal experience that using modeling has truly been a liberating experience teaching my students for conceptual understanding rather than for rote memorization and work completion. At the essence of Modeling Instruction is a tool to teach students how to think, collaborate, communicate, and inspire to do science! I only hope that I am able to bring this message to the participants in Middle School Modeling Workshops.


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