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Developing and Using Models

Systems and System Models

The specific SEP or CCC may only appear in certain Performance Expectations, but this sensemaking strategy can prove beneficial in most lessons and aid students in figuring out not only the concept/content, but also where their current level of understanding is. Important aspects to note as you explore more:

1. There are different levels as students engage in small group models, whole group models, and consensus building in both.

2. The SEP indicates not only developing models, but using models as well. This requires conversation around systems, limitations of the model, critiquing and revising models. 

3. When students develop models, it is their "mental model so far" these are meant to be revised as they investigate and learn more. 

Models can take on a variety of forms, most commonly students are drawing to represent their ideas. Models can include: "either structural, functional, or behavioral analogs, albeit simplified, conceptual models include diagrams, physical replicas, mathematical representations, analogies, and computer simulations." We have some models that are established and well used in science (rock cycle, water cycle, carbon cycle, periodic table) and many models are shared electronically like simulations and interactives (PhET are a form of models).
[National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.]

Read, Explore, and Watch below to learn more about the instructional practice, how to, variations, and digging deeper. 

Note: in Michigan, many 6-12 teachers utilize Modeling (the curricular resource) from AMTA. We refer to this as "modeling capital M"to delineate from the curriculum and the SEP/CCC instructional practice. 




MS / HS Example


Having read, watched, and explored many resources around all things modeling, it's time to put it into action. It all starts with a plan.

Planning is essential for effect practice for Developing and Using Models. How will you group students? What questions will you ask? What do you anticipate their challenges to be? What do you anticipate their models to look like? 


As noted, there are two parts to the SEP --> DEVELOPING and USING models. Encourage students to not only develop their own models (equation, analogy, drawing, diagram, etc.) but also to use, critique, and revise. The Rock Cycle, Water Cycle, and Periodic Table are commonly used models in the science classroom. What are the limitations? How could they be improved? Can students apply them to a new scenario? 

A) Plan for students to develop / revise their own models

B) Plan for students to critique / revise a model (can be an accepted model, or a simulation)

C) Plan for facilitating a Board Meeting/Consensus Circle to reach whole group consensus

Here is a planning tool to help ask yourself some questions before your next unit. Feel free to add more information, it is just a starting place. 



Put your plan into action! Having planned for students to model, give it a chance! Students can model on chart paper, plain paper, whiteboards, digitally - there are so many options.  Want help? Let's connect and we can talk through it. 

To get credit for this learning, submit an image of student models created by students and share your planning tool. To submit your work for this module, use this Google Form. 


Driving Question Boards are just the start of getting students to ask engaging questions and seek learning in science. Sometimes the right question (or the wrong question) can lead to a great scientific discovery. 

REFLECT: Consider ways you can make this a manageable part of your instructional routine or practices. It doesn't have to be huge, it doesn't have to take a whole class period; set limits or ways that make it a manageable step. Do other subject areas have a similar practice that might help students throughout the day (does everyone call it something different)?

SHARE: Are other science teachers in your building/school using this in their instruction? Could you invite them in to observe a DQB with students? Could you share at a department meeting? 

Of course, feel free to reach out for support, I'd be happy to work through it with you. 

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