Mental Models

“A model is a simplified picture of a part of the real world. It has some of the characteristics of the real world, but not all of them. It is a set of interrelated guesses about the world. Like all pictures, a model is simpler than the phenomena it is supposed to represent or explain…We construct models in order to explain and appreciate the world.”
— Charles Lave and James March

Mental Models describe the lens by which we see the world.

Understanding what mental models are creates the space for learning. For, if we can never know everything, then there is always more to learn. Think of a time when you were sure you were right, and then you learned something that showed you weren’t. We’ve all had that experience. In our exploration of Mental Models we will examine why that’s the case and how mental models can make learning easier.


Deep Dive Webinar

In this 90 minute webinar we will dive more deeply into the research behind it, explore examples and share big and small moves teachers have made to weave mental models into their teaching. The webinar will be part lecture, followed by a Q&A and guided conversation.

Date and Time: Tuesday, April 16th , 2019 7:00 – 8:30pm EST

Watch the webinar recording:


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Session 1 Slides

Download the slides before our session to follow-along and make notes.


Playing with New Ideas

To dive more deeply into Mental Models, you have three parts to your homework:

  1. Teach Mental Models explicitly to your students | Name it, tell them what they are and engage in a new learning experience. Then, share what you did on the Microsoft Teams page. Pictures and videos are great!

  2. Make your small moves | Find small ways to incorporate mental models into your classroom. It might be with sentence starters, reframing an idea as a model, etc.

  3. Read about Mental Models | Below are three readings on Mental Models. Choose one. Read it. Then, on the Microsoft Teams platform, share 1 quote that resonated with you. Comment on two other quotes.

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A reading on how we make decisions

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A reading on biases that influence our mental models

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A lecture on behavioural economics


Mentor Session

In small groups, you will meet with a mentor. Your mentor will help guide the conversation for everyone to share what they tried, what worked, what didn’t, what questions arose and what’s next. Bring artefacts from your classroom and practice to each session to share. If possible, we encourage you to meet in person with your small team for the session. Your mentor will join you remotely.

Group names and times TBD.