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Scientific explanations may be in the form of a model

Key ideas

  • A model is a representation of an idea, object, process or system. Models are often used when phenomena are not directly observable. They enable scientists to develop and work on science ideas but are often limited representations of the ‘thing’ itself.


A ‘pump’ is a model often used to represent the action of a heart. A pump draws in and expels air and a heart draws in and expels blood. A model focuses attention on the characteristics of something familiar as a means of exploring or explaining the unfamiliar.

Teacher’s notes

Models are useful ways of thinking about a science explanation but are typically selective representations, used to visualise a specific characteristic of the phenomena being investigated.

For more information on models, see Teaching with models .

Teacher reflection

  • When and why do scientists use models?
  • What are some advantages of using models?
  • Can more than one model explain a science idea? Why or why not?
  • Why might a scientist use many models to help explain a science idea?