​Modelling is an instructional strategy where a new concept, skill or approach is demonstrated. Teachers will show a student what to do by modelling a behaviour or skill that the student can imitate. Modelling and imitation will require repetition to give the student opportunities to practice the skill/behaviour and receive feedback on their performance until they master the skill/behaviour. Modelling may be live or using ​video modelling.

Using the strategy​

The following steps are involved in modelling a target behaviour.

  1. Identify the skill/behaviour to be modelled, e.g. asking for help
    • Determine that the student is capable of performing the skill/behaviour, e.g. the student is aware they need help and is able to raise their hand.
    • Define and describe the behaviour. It must be observable (i.e. would multiple people be able to identify the same behaviour) and measurable, e.g. is it clear when this has been achieved. e.g. in class, when you want help, you raise your hand and wait for the teacher to respond.
  2. Collect information about student's current skill level
    • What parts of the skill can the student already complete? e.g. Student is aware of when he/she needs help.
    • What parts need to be taught? e.g. raising his/her hand.
  3. Plan the modelled behaviour
    • Write a script or task analysis detailing exactly what needs to be said or done. This may include:
      • When is the behaviour/skill used, e.g. when student is unsure what to do or wants more information.
      • What do you do, e.g. raise your hand and wait for the teacher to respond.
      • Where is it used, e.g. in the classroom.
  4. Identify the model
    • Select a model (adult, peer).
    • The model may need to practice the behaviour/skill themselves before modelling for the student, especially if using a peer.
  5. Arrange the environment
    • Identify where and when the behaviour will be modelled. This is more effective if it is as close to the real context as possible, e.g. asking for help would be best modelled in the classroom.
    • Position the student so he/she is able to clearly view the modelled behaviour.
  6. Model the behaviour
    • Student watches the model. Provide prompting if necessary to gain and/or keep attention, e.g. 'Look (verbal prompt + point, gestural prompt), Joe is asking for help'.
    • Describe what is happening, e.g. Joe is raising his hand.
    • Repeat. The number of repetitions will vary with the complexity of the behaviour and the student's skill level. The model may be required throughout the day, e.g. just before individual work time, or over successive days.
  7. Student practice
    • Provide the student opportunities to imitate the model and rehearse the skill until the student can do the task/behaviour independently
    • Provide feedback and immediate support, e.g. you have raised your hand and you are waiting.
  8. Continued learning
    • Observe and reinforce the student for correct imitation of the behaviour

Additional inf​ormation

Modelling is most effective when teamed with other strategies, particularly prompting, reinforcement and behaviour specific praise. Social narratives can also be useful to explain when the behaviour is used.

When a skill or behaviour has a number of steps for the student to learn, using task analysis to break down the whole task into smaller components may be required. Visual supports may be useful to identify each of the smaller components. See factsheets on individual strategies.

Age group

This strategy is suitable for the following age groups:

  • preschool
  • P–2
  • 3–6
  • high school.

Learn more

  • Autism Internet Modules contain a detailed learning module on modelling. The modules are free. You do need to set up an account to access the modules.
Last updated 10 November 2023