Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Model-Guide-Apply: a universal way to teach

The most simple, straightforward, effective teaching strategy I’ve ever used was one introduced to me by a master teacher over thirty years ago, called the “Model-Guide-Apply” teaching strategy.

“I show you” is the first step—modeling. Before I ever entered my school years, my older sister would come home and work on her assignments: letters, writing,, reading, and math. She was just doing her homework, but watching her provided a model for me. I learned by watching.

“Let’s do it together” is the next step—guidance. It is a powerful experience to interact with someone from the “expert” level of experience, and that is what my sister did when she began to teach me my letters. She guided me through the process of writing the alphabet and numbers, and she read books to me and taught me words. She provided me with immediate feedback as I interacted with the “homework” she assigned me. As she taught me, she also reinforced those skills within herself.

“Now you do it,” application, is the last step of this strategy, one that should not exclude the teacher from the student’s learning process. I would sit by myself and practice my letters or open a book and find words that I knew, but if I got “stuck,” I could ask my sister for help. I did not have to struggle too long or too much. I independently applied what I had learned, but if I did not understand, my sister could re-teach (or remediate) whatever I didn’t understand.

This “Model-Guide-Apply” teaching strategy has been a pillar of my teaching career. After all, coaches use this strategy, so it must be good! The strategy fits to any area of learning. Lacking the instincts of animals, we learn through example. This teaching strategy is an effective means of maximizing the way we naturally learn.

Copyright 2009 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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