Challenging learning journeys in the classroom: Using mental model theory to inform how pupils think when they are generating solutions

Christine Edwards-Leis
St Mary’s University College, London, UK

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Ingår i: PATT 26 Conference; Technology Education in the 21st Century; Stockholm; Sweden; 26-30 June; 2012

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 73:18, s. 153-162

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Publicerad: 2012-06-18

ISBN: 978-91-7519-849-1

ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


This paper presents a discussion about the interplay between Mental Model Theory and the generation of solutions to learning challenges in the primary classroom. It explores how pupils negotiate the problem solving spaces that can arise in the two learning areas of Mathematics and Design and Technology although the cross-curricula nature of learning in the primary classroom can conflate the two domains.

Learning challenges engage thinking. Teachers will think about; and subsequently design; challenging scenarios that will stimulate their pupils to generate a range of possible solutions. In turn; pupils will think about how they will meet the challenges. Mental Model Theory informs teachers’ knowledge about thinking: it explains how mental models arise from the idiosyncratic methods of developing the dialogue and relationships necessary to guide thinking. Mental models are purposeful cognitive structures that have a process/product nature. They also have several functions that enable them to store data and enact strategies to generate outcomes. The theory explains how pupils engage in the thinking process to assimilate memory; new data and personalised strategies to find solutions to challenges. When faced with a novel challenge; pupils retrieve; restructure and/or create; and store useable mental models in accordance with their perceived relevance to generate an acceptable outcome.

This paper explores how a challenge; be it finding a solution to a mathematical conundrum or creating a response to a brief in Design and Technology; stimulates thinking processes. The discussion will consider how an understanding of the functions of mental models; through the use of the Mental Model Mode; can enhance constructive and inventive thinking in classrooms. It proposes implications for pedagogical practice and some key considerations for teachers as reflective practitioner – and designer of learning challenges.


Mental models; problem solving; Design and Technology; Mathematics


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