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Reliable models

The phenomenon of identification with models has always been exploited in pedagogy. We learn a lot by imitating what works. This also applies to negative models: failure encourages us not to persist in a particular direction. Before imitating, we observe what it's worth, a reflex probably acquired over centuries of evolution. Imitation is a fast way of learning; before understanding the principles, we start by experimenting with a good model, then we connect the acquired information. Starting with explanations is not as effective.

Apparently, we have a highly developed ability to compare what we estimate, the model, with what we observe in feedback. When a child successfully puts his spoon in his mouth or when we adjust our gait on a slippery surface, we owe it to this feedback loop. It also works in intellectual work, so we might as well use it in our classes.

From another point of view, limiting ourselves to imitation obviously leads us to repeat only the past, which is hardly valued in these times. In a context of rapid change, relevant human models are obviously becoming rarer; this phenomenon is reflected in the respect accorded to the elderly in industrialized societies: they are dismissed from the workforce and forgotten. This in itself creates a negative model: it is better not to grow old. This ensures anxiety throughout one's adult life. This model of society does not appear to be ideal.

We focus a lot on individual models, heroes and idols, but what about collective models? Individual experience is always acquired in a specific environment and one can tell one's story, even a banal one, by linking it to one's environment and by tracing a model in which thousands if not millions of people will recognize themselves. Through the biography of others, we can become aware of a model in which we are unconsciously trapped and finally be able to free ourselves from it if we wish.

And in pedagogy, what are your models? We obviously prefer those that work. Until now we used to say "for the most people", now we can say "for a specific person", "for a specific subject", "for a specific skill level", "in this specific context", etc." There is an opportunity to choose the most appropriate approach, as long as several models and their relative effectiveness are known. Some people learn to read and write in one year, others never really do. Which educational model works for whom and why? Not all questions are answered.

Good reading

Denys Lamontagne

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