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The Modeling Approach to Teaching Physics Presentation to School Board (or group of administrators) Your name Your high school address Why a different approach to physics instruction?

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the modeling approach to teaching physics

The Modeling Approach to Teaching Physics

Presentation to School Board (or group of administrators)

Your name

Your high school

address

why a different approach to physics instruction
Why a different approach to physics instruction?
  • Research shows that after conventional instruction, students could not fully explain even the simplest of concepts.
  • Worse yet, conscientious conventional instruction delivered by talented (and even award-winning teachers) did not remedy the situation significantly.
what has not made a difference in student understanding
What has NOT made a difference in student understanding?
  • lucid, enthusiastic explanations and examples
  • dramatic demonstrations
  • textbooks
  • lots of problem solving and worksheets
any theory of instruction must answer two questions
Any theory of instruction must answer two questions.
  • What should students learn?
  • How should students learn?

Conventional instruction’s answer:

  • Tell the student as much as you can.
  • Show the students as much as you can.
basic assumptions of conventional instruction
Basic Assumptions of Conventional Instruction
  • Students have the same mental models as the instructor
  • Students understand what they hear and see.
  • These are NOT warranted by assessment results or interviews with students.
why does conventional instruction fail
Why does conventional instruction fail?
  • It is founded on folklore, heresay, and casual observation.
  • Its principles of teaching are fragmented and compartmentalized.
  • It has been uncritically accepted.
an alternative the modeling approach has had significant success in promoting understanding why
An alternative, the modeling approach, has had significant success in promoting understanding. Why?
  • It is grounded in systematic, empirical investigation.
  • It is student centered.
  • It can be critically evaluated (FCI).
models capture the similarities that scientists perceive
Models capture the similarities that scientists perceive.
  • Science is the search for reproducible patterns in Nature.
  • We grasp and hold these patterns as concepts by constructing models.
  • Models are representations of structure in physical systems.
the modeling method seeks to foster
The Modeling Method seeks to foster:
  • the view that science is coherent (as opposed to the view that science consists of a set of loosely related concepts and problems.
  • the view that learning occurs through actively seeking understanding (as opposed to the view that learning consists of taking notes, listening to the teacher, memorizing facts/formulas, etc.
traditional physics instruction
Traditional physics instruction:
  • Problems and their answers are seen to be the basic units of knowledge.
  • Everyone knows the answer comes from equations - why draw diagrams?
  • Promotes “plug and chug” mentality.
  • Familiar student protest is “But we never did a problem like this before!”
modeling method approach to learning physics
Modeling Method approach to learning physics:
  • A few basic models form the content core of physics.
  • Novel problems do not require the use of novel models.
  • The process is most important, not just the bottom line final answer.
how does the modeling method foster student understanding
How does the Modeling Method foster student understanding?
  • Students design their own experimental procedures.
  • Students must justify their interpretations of data in Socratically guided dialogs.
  • Models created from experimental interpretations must be deployed in carefully selected problems in order to “cut the contextual strings”.
slide13
Solutions are presented by students to the entire class on whiteboards.
  • Computer technology is used as another tool of learning.

Acceptable solutions

  • reveal how a model (or models) accounts for the behavior of some physical system.
  • are fully explicated using multiple representations.
justification of the model
Justification of the model
  • Explicit appeal to an interpretation of an experimental result.

Common questions:

  • “Why did you do that?”
  • “Where did that come from?”
  • “How did you know to do that?”

Unless students can explain something fully, they do not understand it!

how is the modeling classroom different
How is the modeling classroom different?
  • It is student centered vs teacher centered.
  • Students are active vs passive.
  • Emphasis is on cognitive skill development vs knowledge transfer.
  • Students construct and evaluate arguments vs finding the right answer.
  • Teacher is Socratic guide vs the main authority.
  • Extensive use of computers for data acquisition and analysis.
what is the role of the instructor in a modeling classroom
What is the role of the instructor in a Modeling classroom?
  • Designer of experimental environments.
  • Designer of problems and activities.
  • Critical listener to student presentations, focusing on what makes good arguments in science.
  • Must establish a trusting, open, “OK to make a mistake” classroom atmosphere.
  • No longer the central character.
implementation results
Implementation Results
  • Modeling Methodology in use in over 300 classrooms.
  • Improved student performance:
    • FCI gains much higher than in traditional classrooms
    • Long-term retention of basic physics principles
    • Improved problem-solving (MBT)
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