The How’s and Why’s of Conceptual Modeling
The practice of Conceptual Modeling was developed by two high school teachers, now widely adopted across all subject areas.
By Doris Wells-Papanek, MEd
Director, Design Learning Network
The practice of Conceptual Modeling was first pioneered by Physics teachers and then refined by history teacher, Robert Coven and English teacher, Carole Hamilton at the Cary Academy in North Carolina – their approach is now widely adopted in all subject areas across the nation. This highly effective visual-spatial method invites students to investigate many ideas, draw diagrams of what they see in their mind, gather and analyze new information, as well as make sense of data.
School Students at the Cary Academy Engaging a Conceptual Modeling “Board
The Visualization of Analogies and
Metaphors are at the Heart of Conceptual Modeling
After exploring a problem set and brainstorming ideas for suitable analogies or metaphors, teams consider their options, select final analogy or metaphor to then frame key concepts via visualizations of corresponding attributes – which in turn, serves as a meaningful framework to communicate, store, and recall information. If a series of images are required, teams often photograph whiteboard representations as the imagery develops over time. When complete, teams present their final story on a single 18”x24” whiteboard or by using technology such as PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.
Self-Discovery of Misconception is
Critical to the Learning Process
The learning process concludes by preparing for a debate (also referred to as a “board meeting”) – where teams present persuasive arguments and explanations of their findings to the class. Peers are responsible for asking questions and making observations. It is important to remember to allow students to discover their own errors without teacher interventions, such as asking leading questions. Insightful collaborative self-discovery of misconception is critical to the learning process.
High School Students at the Cary Academy Engaging a Conceptual Modeling “Board Meeting”
Conceptual Modeling Takeaways
Teams arrange their ideas on a large erasable whiteboard so they can revise or even start over: