Six differences between mental models in experts and novices

There is a continuum of mental models for any given topic, ranging from the models of the most proficient expert, through to the models of the weakest student. In order to present the following information in the clearest manner, each difference will be presented as a dichotomy between experts and novices. This is not to say, by any means, that all students present as novices in the way that is described here. In many instances, strong students will have models that are more closely aligned to those of the expert, but weak students are more likely to have mental models more closely aligned to those described here as belonging to the novice.

Appreciating these differences can inform our teaching and allow us to develop methods to promote the development of good mental models in students.