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Part 3: What to do?
Here are a few techniques recommended in the research literature for developing good mental models. Many, but not all, are summarised from earlier parts of this paper.
- Allow students to work with concrete models and explicitly teach them how to form mental models from these.
- Explicitly tell students whenever you present a conceptual model.
- Explicitly teach students how to develop a conceptual model from a concrete model.
- Explicitly teach students how to develop a mental model from a conceptual model.
- Allow enough time for students to develop mental models. If a curriculum is too rushed, students will resort to memorizing procedures.
- Use analogies (and/or narrative) to tap into existing, correct mental models to assist in correct formation of new mental models (for example, electricity flow can be taught as analogous to water flow through pipes).
- Actively and purposefully employing imaginative skills may enhance mental modelling skills.
- Design questions that force students to confront and address common contradictions and misconceptions.
- Have students write conceptual explanations of topics, or verbally explain to peers. Require them to use picture language (e.g. diagrams, illustrations, analogies) and not simply list the steps in a procedure.