Stages of MBI

Model-based inquiry consists of five stages: one planning and four that are enacted with students. These stages provide the structure for the MBI unit planning template.

The five stages of MBI presented here are adapted from the Ambitious Science Teaching group at the University of Washington. Each stage is broken down below and useful references are provided.

Stage 1 - Planning for engagement with important science ideas

This first stage of MBI focuses on doing the intellectually rigorous work of unpacking standards, developing an anchoring phenomenon and driving question, and identifying the important science ideas students will need to build a scientific explanation of the phenomenon. In addition, we plan "with the end in mind" by constructing a draft model and target explanation to use as learning targets throughout the unit. This is also an opportunity to integrate social justice ideas into the unit that are inclusive, culturally responsive, and grounded in social justice principles.

Stage 2 - ELICITING ideas about the phenomenon

The second stage of MBI is the first enacted in the classroom with students. It involves introducing the anchoring phenomenon and driving question, eliciting and making public students' initial ideas and experiences that may help them develop initial explanations of the phenomenon through the creation of an initial public record, and the construction and sharing of initial models of the phenomenon based on those current ideas. This stage usually takes the first one or two days of the unit.

Stage 3 - negotiating ideas and evidence through tasks

The goal of the third stage is to support on-going changes in students’ thinking by providing learning experiences that help coordinate their own ideas with powerful ideas in science to build a scientific explanation of the anchoring phenomenon. This involves designing or adapting a number of purposeful tasks, coordinated with the important science ideas identified earlier, and the construction and use of public records such as a Summary Table to help keep track of ideas over time. Important in this stage is the revision and testing of the students' models. This stage makes up the majority of the unit as the class works to develop their explanations of the phenomenon through engagement in the practices of science.

Stage 4 - building consensus

The goal of the fourth stage of an MBI unit is to build consensus as a class about the scientific explanation of the anchoring phenomenon and move to the final summative assessment of the unit. This involves, at a minimum, finalizing the student models, building consensus through discussions, and the construction of the final public record. 

Public records   |   Modeling   

Stage 5 - Establishing credibility

In the final stage, students argue for their ideas in writing to convince their peers and the teacher that their explanation of the anchoring phenomenon is scientifically valid. They do this through peer review and revision. Students engage in conversations with peers about the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments as they work to improve their final products. In this way, the revisions provide another opportunity for students to learn from one another as they consider and critique their peers’ explanations.