My understanding of “All models are wrong, but some are useful and its application to e-learning”

David’s post, “All models are wrong, but some are useful and its application to e-learning” (2015), presented a serious challenge for me to comprehend. I thought a good way to improve the ideas that I took away from it would be to present my current understanding in simplified form for public scrutiny. Apologies in advance if I’ve completely missed the mark.

David believes that new models are frequently introduced by new members of management as a means of trying to assert or build control over an existing organisation or project. I can relate to this after working in an IT position for a struggling retail company that experienced frequent changes to upper management. David asserts that the introduction of these new models are an expensive waste of resources as all models are bound to meet failure at some point because all models, by their very nature, are simplifications or approximations of reality (Burnham & Anderson, 2002). A scenario will always eventually be encountered that will not fit the chosen model. David doesn’t believe that models should be ignored as many models are useful and serve a purpose. The TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) framework is suggested as a potential solution as it provides a structure for using “‘appropriate, context-specific’ combinations of all of the models involved with e-learning” (Jones, 2015).

717c8defd97b729bf5c8be4d5286a70eI must admit that in the past I had a very simplistic view of how pedagogy should be designed. As the benefits constructivist and enquiry based teaching methods were drilled into me from the beginnings of my tertiary education, other more traditional methods of teaching, such as direct instruction, became ideas that were in my mind outdated and to be avoided entirely. I still think that facilitated learning offers greater benefits for most students. Overall I found this reading very interesting. I think I am easily persuaded and cling to models that I am most familiar with and David’s perspective encouraged me, in my role as a teacher, to consider the usage of models on a needs basis rather than assuming one model can be superior to all others in any context.


Burnham, K. & Anderson, D. (2002). Model selection and multimodel inference (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.

Jones, D. (2015). All models are wrong, but some are useful and its application to e-learning. The Weblog of (a) David Jones. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “My understanding of “All models are wrong, but some are useful and its application to e-learning”

  1. I think you’ve done a pretty good job summarising the above. Given your interest in constructivist-based learning approaches, I’m assuming you might be interested in the discussion around Sweller and Clark’s paper “, Why Minimal Guidance during Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching”. It’s a paper that argues that the discovery-based models of learning are wrong.

    However, there’s been a lot of people arguing that Sweller and Clark have in turn set up somewhat of a straw man argument. This post does a good job of finding the middle ground. There are places it works, places it doesn’t – the same applies to any model.


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