“Modeling” consists of learning by observing, not simply to imitate one’s model, but to go beyond it by interpreting and using the observed behaviours in a personal way. Also called “vicarious experience,” this process is the basis of human development and behaviour, according to the psychologist Albert Bandura who brought it to light. Since the dawn of time, it has been one of the most effective means by which our most sophisticated skills and knowledge are transmitted, whether manual, behavioural, social or intellectual. Here are some keys to better understand it.

In definition

Modelling implies that the observing subject grasps the implicit rules of the observed subject’s behaviour and its positive or negative consequences to produce new models of behaviour that will be similar to, but exceed them. In this sense, even creative acts involve modelling.

Modelling is called…

“social.” This is the term used by Bandura to talk about modelling in the context of his social-cognitive theory, in which we are as social subjects “both” producers and products of our environment and the fact that learning is rooted in human cultures. (At the very heart of the feeling of personal effectiveness)

“mastery.” When modelling is used as a learning technique, some refer to it as mastery modelling, which emphasizes the idea of a mastery goal. Alternatively, the term “modelling” may be used on its own.

“Positive” and “mixed.” When modelling is used as a learning technique, the term positive modelling is sometimes used to refer to models that reproduce the correct behaviour to be learned; whereas mixed modelling refers to an approach that incorporates both positive and negative models — in the latter case, the less successful ways of reproducing the wanted behaviour.

Four dimensions

  1. Attention. Essential to modelling, attention is based primarily on the learner’s perceptual abilities, motivation and expectations, but also on his or her physical and emotional state (well-being, fatigue, receptivity, etc.). However, specific visual characteristics of the model also have their influence, as well as the affective, social or functional value that the learner will give it.
  2. Retention. The information to be memorized in a model is not only visual but also verbal. These two sources must be coherent and complementary. To encode, consolidate, and recall the information in the long term, the same advice as for learning without modelling applies. (5 Factors Influencing Memory Process)
  3. Reproduction. The reproduction of the modelled behaviour involves several processes that rely on the learner’s cognitive and physical skills, the availability of responses that are part of their behavioural register, and the quality of their self-observation and memorized adjustments (metacognitive skills) during their reproduction attempts.
  4. Motivation. Motivation is an essential driver at each stage of modelling, whether it comes through direct reinforcement — from the model-trainer or the trainer teaming up with a model — or through vicarious reinforcement, i.e., through the model’s intrinsic motivation; through the learner’s self-motivation; or through outcome expectations (extrinsic motivation).
Catherine Meilleur

Catherine Meilleur

Creative Content Writer @KnowledgeOne. Questioner of questions. Hyperflexible stubborn. Contemplative yogi.

Catherine Meilleur has over 15 years of experience in research and writing. Having worked as a journalist and educational designer, she is interested in everything related to learning: from educational psychology to neuroscience, and the latest innovations that can serve learners, such as virtual and augmented reality. She is also passionate about issues related to the future of education at a time when a real revolution is taking place, propelled by digital technology and artificial intelligence.