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Model-Centered Learning and Instruction
Norbert M. Seel

This article focuses on the paradigm of model-centered learning and instruction, which is based on the theory of mental models. According to this paradigm, cognition and learning are the result of mental representations. Individuals form mental representations by organizing symbols of their experience or thought in such a way that they effect a systematic representation of this experience or thought, as a means of understanding it, or explaining it to others. In this article, the focus is on the psychological and epistemological aspects of model-centered learning and instruction. Accordingly, the psychological foundations of model-centered learning as well as the semantic functions of mental models are described first. Following this, the focus is on types of instruction that help learners to construct mental models. A distinction is drawn between three paradigms of model-centered instruction: (a) Self-organized discovery and exploratory learning, (b) externally guided discovery learning, and (c) receptive learning oriented toward an expert’s behavior or a teacher’s explanation. Then, the state-of-the-art of two scenarios of model-centered instruction is summarized: providing students with model-information and the approach of design-based modeling as employed in discovery learning. Finally, the results of this research are discussed with regard to learning and instruction.

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