Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I am not a Modeler, part 2

The page views and thoughtful comments for last week's modeling post were encouraging.

I want to follow up, but I'm going to indulge my blogging privileges to respond in a series of uncoordinated, seemingly scattered thoughts. If I wait to coalesce them into a unified, well-crafted essay, I fear I'll lose some of them. The essay may be written someday. But not today. Apologies for the lack of polish.

General. The title of the previous modeling post was carefully considered and deliberate: "Why I am not a Modeler." That's the extent of the scope. As stated in the post, it was not an attack on Modeling Instruction. It was not titled, "Why modeling is awful and shouldn't ever be adopted by anyone anywhere." If you like it and it works for you, felicitations! I am glad you have found your path. I'm choosing to walk a different path. I hope we can still be friends.

I rejected "traditional" instruction long ago. We don't have lecture so much as we have guided discussions. We've never done a "Prove that g = 9.8 m/s^2" lab. Otherwise simple demonstrations may keep us occupied for a full period of discussion and debate. We tend to do something different every day of the week. I would hate for anyone to interpret my reservations about modeling as support of "traditional" instruction.

Modeling Instruction is a successful, well-organized program with hard-earned and well-deserved National Science Foundation support. But it's not for everybody. If my reservations resonate with others, these posts may be the only place they've seen doubts about modeling expressed in a public forum.

Mechanics. I am aware that there are some modeling units devoted to "second semester physics." (My attempts to see them have not been successful.) But I take anecdotal references to a teacher here or there who goes significantly beyond mechanics as evidence to support my thesis that modelers by and large stick to mechanics. Exceptions that prove the rule.

Sure, most modeling workshops focus on mechanics for legitimate logistical reasons. But I don't see compelling evidence of practicing modelers "in the wild," actively teaching physics in real, NCLB-era high schools, who get to heat and thermo, electricity and magnetism, sound and light, or blue skies and rainbows. If there are modelers who approach the level of coverage tested by the state of California, I'd like to hear about it.

Modeling instruction has been a going concern since the mid-nineties. Whenever I ask to see the modeling units on electricity and magnetism (especially magnetism), I'm told that such units are still under construction and, unlike the voluminous material in mechanics, aren't ready for distribution yet. So I'll ask: When will they be ready? It's now 2012. If magnetism couldn't be cracked in the first decade, will it be by the end of the second?

I'm repeatedly told that mechanics exceeds the limits of first semester is that modeling instruction is a slower, more deliberate process. Accepted. With that in mind, it seems the thing to do is to eliminate some topics in mechanics from the yearlong curriculum. Students don't need full mastery of algebraic and graphical kinematics to grasp Newton's laws of motion. How about ditching the reflexive (dare I say "traditional"?) impulse to devote a month to six weeks pounding 1-D and 2-D kinematics? Do I now appear to be someone who just grew a second head?

Cultishness. I might have been misunderstood here. And that's at least partially my fault. I would never accuse modelers of reclusiveness or trying to exclude others from the fold. In my experience, modelers are ever eager to encourage "converts." There's nothing wrong with that. But I go to a lot of meetings and conferences where enthusiastic modelers are keen to share the Good News. After the first decade, it takes its toll.

I worry that modelers feel entitled to reject the science standards adopted by their state in favor of what they learned to do in Arizona. The broad coverage required by states is dismissed as being "a mile wide and an inch deep." (Curiously, no one never dismisses a program for being "an inch wide and a mile deep." Though both would constitute the same area, only the "mile wide" is universally understood as derogative.)

In any case, I wonder if modelers feel justified in rejecting state mandates in favor of modeling mechanics because the approach, philosophy, and demonstrated FCI gains of modeling constitute a "Higher Authority" than state standards. (Can modeling physics teachers hope to make this argument while intelligent design biology teachers don't?)

I'm a physics teacher. I get it. Ours is very much a "cowboy culture." No one in statewide educational administrivia knows better than me what I should be teaching. I know what's best for my students, and that's what I'm gonna do—state education bureaucrats be damned. Add to that one's sense that I'm doing what professors would like me to do to prep students for their college course, and there's no looking back.

Except that we don't work for college professors. If you've worked to expand your physics enrollment, most of your students will never take physics at college. Your course is the one and only physics course they will ever take. I generally reject "they'll need it for their college physics course" as sole justification for anything I do in my high school physics course.

There is no consensus on what college physics professors would like high school physics teachers to teach. The answer I here most often is, "Just get them excited about science." Nothing wrong with that per se. But it can come across as, "Don't teach them any actual content; leave that to us." OK, except that content can be all kinds of fun. And...

I do work—in essence—for the state of California. And California has told me what content it expects my physics students to learn. California pays me to provide the instruction and California assesses my students' learning. While California and I don't see eye to eye on all the details, I have an aversion to telling California to stick it because me and my friends know better.

One sentiment often comes up when I express my reservations about modeling. "Keep an open mind." As a non-theist who grew up among theists, and as a skeptic who lives among the credulous, I have found that you will never be asked to keep an open mind by someone who actually has one. And the sentiment is directed only to outsiders. Upon arrival at the "right" conclusion, one is free to close one's mind. (Don't get me wrong: I treasure my close friendships with those who do not share in my beliefs/lack of belief. No one who knows me would characterize me as a bitter, curmudgeonly recluse!)

I would like to think my mind is very open, but that I reserve the right to question and probe, to evaluate and critique, and to accept or reject. I don't regard myself as a cynic, but I do confess some admiration for Diogenes.

As mentioned previously, I don't presume to have worked out the singular set of best practices that ensures mastery of physics by every student who enrolls in my class. I struggle each year to improve. Some part of my aversion to modeling is that enthusiasts appear (to me) to be saying that they have solved a puzzle that I'm not sure has a simple solution.

Exclusion. I'm a big fan of PhET simulations. I use them as much as I can. PhET publishes "best practices" guidelines for how their sims should be used. I don't always follow their guidelines. But they let me use their sims, anyway. They even let me publish my PhET activities to their site, whether or not they follow PhET's carefully delineated prescription.

A visit to the Modeling Curriculum page reveals that there is some content available to all who seek, but some content is available only to those who know the secret handshake have been through the workshop training. This is not a matter of keeping answer keys from students (as is the practice at Pretty Good Physics).

I hope someone with access will explain why those of us without access are undeserving. While I try to presume a reasonable answer exists, I have misgivings. Can we (the non-workshopped) not be trusted with this curriculum? Will we misuse it and bring shame to the practice of modeling? The good people at PhET love their babies (sims) but allow unfettered access to everyone. I'm hard-pressed to imagine curriculum material that's so dangerous it must be password-protected from physics teachers.

16 comments: said...

The URL that gives info on Modeling Instruction work done on e and m,
optics, waves is


2nd Semester Physics:
models of light - overview
mechanical waves and sound - overview , list of java applets and
some wave movies
microscopic E&M - overview and electrostatics movies
Modeling-modified CASTLE - overview

Also, our Chemistry Storyline is there.

Dean Baird said...

Thanks Don, but that's where I looked. It seemed pretty sparse. A lot of bones but not much meat. The PPT on magnetism highlighted the fact that the unit on magnetism was not yet developed.

The available material in mechanics, by contrast, had bones, meat, and fixins to spare.

Modelers have been at this for quite some time now and there is an army of modelers out there. Why not have a public repository of curriculum that dwarfs what I've got at

noyes said...

Frank Noschese's blog Action-Reaction ( piqued my interest in modeling instruction for chemistry, but I was also unable to find any specific lessons for modeling.

I did find the "storyline" for chemistry model development, a good list of materials for the course, and the detailed models list by unit. However, I'm having trouble seeing how the instruction works without a concrete example.

I'd love to attend the workshop to see it up close, but the summer workshop is almost 3 weeks long. Are there any other ways to take workshops? Having a family, I cannot go to Modeling sleep-away camp for 3 weeks like I could have when I was in my early 20's.

Plus, I'd like to get a better idea of its effectiveness before I invest this amount of time. I am skeptical of any program (cult or otherwise) that requires a 3-week total immersion process for entry.

Nancy said...

I am trying out Modeling for the first time this year. I have had some of the same concerns that you express. I took the workshop Summer 2010, and it showed me a really different way to approach teaching physics. I tried out some of the Modeling last year, & am making more of a leap this year.

I agree that when first hearing about Modeling, it sounds "cultish". Teachers would give these vague explanations that I didn't understand.

I am also struggling with the pace and level of the course with modeling. I'm moving painfully slowly. Even with "traditional" instruction, it's hard to get to all topics. On the other hand, I think that students are learning a lot of depth of mechanics. And students I've had that go on to take physics in college do well, even if we didn't cover electric potential, or diffraction. I think if they have a good foundation, they can successfully pick up on the things that we didn't get to in high school.

Students are really getting more of the Process of science, than in a "regular" type of course. And if I do modeling again next year, some parts I'll skip, and other parts I'll streamline to be more efficient. But I think that whenever you use a method (mastery learning, inquiry, constructivist, whatever) where the student has to do more than usual, it just takes longer.

I think the level of modeling materials, is more suitable for, 9th graders who are just learning the process of science, or an intro physics class. For upper-level Honors, I don't think the materials, "as-is", are enough, so I must blend my old with the new.

"Cultishness" -- Well, I haven't sold everything and moved to Arizona yet ! I initially sensed the same thing, and after taking the workshop, I've concluded that a lot of what happens in the Modeling process is the "experience", and sometimes that's hard to convey. But, if someone asks me what modeling is, I tell them that it turns the teaching of science around from traditional -- the lab is done first, from which relationships, concepts/terms are developed, through dialog. Then there's problem-solving, and further lab work, etc., but the teacher is drawing it out from the students, making them use what they observe or know, not so much telling/showing. That's my description, though I'm not sure that everyone would agree.

Materials: When I first saw the materials, I was like, "that's it?". But they aren't just "canned" worksheets -- it's how you develop the dialog, and how you get students to "see" it. Kind of like reading a play vs. the the actual performance. Compared to regular traditional worksheets, they seem somewhat lacking. And I can see that someone who doesn't know the Modeling process, who is just "trying out" the worksheets, might not use them in the way they are intended (as a start to a dialog, not just as a homework sheet), and in that case, the worksheets might not "work".

So, I'm glad that you voiced these concerns, because I think that they are legitimate.

And you have to answer to a California test, which really dictates what you must do. Here in NJ, our physics standards are very minimal-- so the good news is we have freedom to do 'whatever' but then there's no consistency state-wide. Still, there are many excellent programs and instructors in NJ.

Sorry I went on too long.
Thanks for your blog and posting on this. I think it's a definite consideration if one is thinking of changing to modeling.

Michael Crofton ( said...

I’m not much into posting on blogs (in fact this is my first ever), I much prefer person to person contact, but thought that perhaps I could provide information regarding some of your comments.

You said:
A visit to the Modeling Curriculum page reveals that there is some content available to all who seek, but some content is available only to those who know the secret handshake have been through the workshop training.

There has been much discussion over the years on what materials to open up to public access on the Modeling website. The worry is that teachers will download the materials, use them, see no improvement in their student’s learning and conclude that the program is worthless or worse yet, spread that message. The project would like teachers using the materials to understand the Modeling method before the materials are given out. How to lead the learning is more important than the materials. With your expertise, if you thought it was beneficial to your students to switch to Modeling, I’m sure you could adapt much of your materials and invent labs in any area.

You said:
Whenever I ask to see the modeling units on electricity and magnetism (especially magnetism), I'm told that such units are still under construction and, unlike the voluminous material in mechanics, aren't ready for distribution yet. So I'll ask: When will they be ready? It's now 2012. If magnetism couldn't be cracked in the first decade, will it be by the end of the second?

In summer 2001 groups of teachers got together and developed curriculum with teacher notes, labs, activities and worksheets for the areas of CASTLE, Mechanical Waves, Three Models of Light and microscopic E&M. The materials were test run on teachers attending workshops at ASU in 2002. Each year Larry Dukerich worked on improving the E&M materials and in 2005 I sat in on his workshop. In 2006 Larry moved on to develop Modeling Chemistry materials and I inherited the position as ASU Modeling E&M workshop leader and caretaker of the Modeling E&M materials. The materials have been used at E&M workshops around the country attended by hundreds of teachers. Each year, on my own time I have tried to update and upgrade the materials based on comments from teachers at that summer’s workshop. The teacher notes are not as thorough in the magnetism area as the mechanics notes but an experienced teacher or a teacher that has attended a workshop would have no trouble using them. All of the materials were developed by teachers like us and since 2005 have been a labor of love.

The curriculum borrows heavily from the work of Sherwood and Chabay. There are 3 units in electricity; Charge and Field, Potential, and Circuits. The circuit unit is quite unique at the high school level as it leads the students through the surface charge as the mechanism for setting up different strength fields in the conductors of circuits. You asked specifically about magnetism in which there is one unit. It begins by investigating the field of a current bearing wire, then fields of permanent magnets, then force on a particle in a field, then force on a current bearing wire in a field, and finishes with electromagnetic induction and Faraday’s Law. In the four units there is easily 12 weeks of material if you want to cover it all.

Michael Crofton

Don Yost said...

As for not allowing everyone to use the material: seems like a valid point. However, many remember the experience with PSSC physics. This program required a certain style of teaching, including guided inquiry and introductory rather than confirming lab activities. It included a concept flow which required that ALL the core material to be completed along with suggestions for omissions for lack of time: the final chapters justified the entire program. It was quite successful (as per Physics Today) as long as there were workshops. When the workshops stopped and teachers were left to rely on the text, a book actually intended as a resource, the program collapsed. We feel, as does the FAST program, that without teacher training, the materials may be misused, and the value of the program judged on these failures.
As for a semester being spent on mechanics, vie already addressed this only to add that if there were a quicker way to achieve student understanding of mechanics, we would use it. The criticism of time spent on Mechanics I think may boil down to one of philosophy, and is a legitimate one. The teacher must decide on a survey course introducing the student to many topics of physics or devote the necessary time to instill deep understanding of fewer topics. Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses.
I appreciate you forming your comment as why you are not a modeler, but when you go on to make comments about modeling which misrepresent the program, you are, in fact, attacking modeling.

Dean Baird said...

Don, I make no pretense of representing modeling and thus feel completely incapable of misrepresenting it.

I am expressing my reservations and take precautions to make sure readers are aware that these are my reservations (beginning with the titles of the posts).

I don't think I've done anything to misrepresent modeling, but will happily post any comment that illustrates the errors of my ways.

The validity of my reservations is left for readers to judge. And commenters are welcome to cast doubt on any misgiving I raise.

In turn, I reserve the right to evaluate comments and reply when it seems a reply is called for.

I will say that to me, a program is too insular when it decides its curriculum must be kept out of the hands of professionals because said professionals aren't to be trusted and will bring shame to the program. This is classroom curriculum, not fissionable uranium.

Password-protected curriculum adds to the perception of modeling as a cult. There is a hierarchy that, to my mind, is usually reserved for religious enterprises, fraternities, sororities, or secret societies. There appears to be something to hide, and a need to hide it. Truths too powerful for those not in the club.

While I appreciate your argument justifying limited access, I don't find it compelling.

We are often told there is a potential for "disasters" if teachers untrained in modeling misuse modeling curriculum. Such a claim goes beyond my credulity. I can't see how it plays out. Who (of importance) is in a position to judge modeling on the basis of how some untrained teacher misuses it in Spivey's Corner, Nebraska?

Keeping curriculum secret at this level just strikes me as undue paranoia. And I bristle at what I perceive as undue paranoia at my school district and in decisions made by CDE/SBE. Write it off as a character flaw if you like, but it is part of who I am.

Dean Baird said...

Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed comment!

If you say there's plentiful second semester modeling curriculum, I will accept that there is, even if I am not granted access to it due to my lack of proper training. It actually sounds quite groovy and is no doubt rich with cleverness and elucidation.

The existence of the curriculum is one thing—an important thing. The use of the curriculum is another thing. And an important thing, too.

The completely unscientific vibe that I get when talking to modelers is that they are quite happy to stick to mechanics, what with only 180 days in the school year.

Modelers assure me that anything their students needed to know about heat and thermo was covered in chemistry. And that their students, masters of Newtonian Mechanics, could easily master electricity and magnetism, waves, light, and optics in a future course, if they were so inclined. The mastery of Newtonian Mechanics, or the modeling methods somehow prepared them for rapid mastery of these other topics.

My experience with high school physics students leads me to doubt these claims.

I'm very public about my schedule and curriculum. Anyone anywhere can know what I'm doing any day of the year. Other than answer keys, I've really got no secrets at all.

So at some point I looked hither and yon (on the interwebs) in search of a modeler who was engaged in second semester physics during the second semester. I readily confess that I have not yet earned my black belt in google-fu, and I realize most teachers aren't as open as I am about schedules. But where I did find modelers, I also found evidence of heavy coverage of mechanics to the exclusion of most--if not all--second semester topics.

I'm eager to be overwhelmed with links to teachers' 2011-12 outlines/syllabi showing they are modelers who teach a robust helping of second semester topics.

Again, thanks for the comment. It is appreciated and will be seen by at least one other person (my mother), so consider yourself someone with an audience!

Troha said...


I appreciate your comments and reasons why you are not a modeler. It is apparent that you enjoy what you are doing but you are actively searching for a justification for modeling that would move you in that direction. I am not going to attempt to provide that for you. At this point, you have done enough research on the topic that it may be the only way you will get anymore knowledge is by attending a workshop or observing some classes for a while.

I will just relate a bit of my experience. I attended a mechanics and an E&M workshop and have been using modeling for six years or so. I have made the philosophical curriculum choice to give my students a strong foundation in data analysis, forces, and energy. I feel those topics will translate into any area of science as the students move into other science experiences. It currently takes 18-22 weeks for me to finish the mechanics depending on projects and student level. This allows me time to complete E&M and touch on waves/sound/light or waves/sound/light and some E&M basics. There is a ton of other great stuff out there that we do not discuss. For example, I remember taking an entire semester of just Thermo in college that I do not discuss. I am ok with that.

I also teach AP B and we cover everything before the test in May. So I am familiar with the schedule you seem to be keeping. I am ok with that too because that is required in order to have success on the AP test. I am able to use my modeling techniques in my AP class as well with a lot of success. I have been blessed to teach in states that do not have a comprehensive test of physics at the end of the year, which gives me freedom to choose. If I was in California and was held accountable for the state standards there, I would be more inclined to move faster in my general physics class.

Today I felt great about my teaching method. I have a student that just transferred from Texas to Oregon where I teach. After a week we sat down with her work from the other school. Her class had covered three units beyond what we had done. We talked about the different style and she commented that she learned to be very good at manipulating equations, but after just one week she was finally understanding where they came from and why we use them. Maybe I am pulling something out of this to make me feel good, but I'll take it when I can.

All I know is that I was a horrible physics teacher before I went to a modeling workshop. After a few years with it, I am an acceptable physics teacher in my mind. I wish I covered more stuff, but I feel good about what I cover. It fits my personality and your style probably fits yours. I preach a little about modeling to others because it helped me be a better teacher and it is a lot better than the basic lectures-cookbook lab-problems-test method of teaching I started with. I do not want to convert you or the 40% (made up statistic) that is incorporating PER in their classrooms. I just want the other 60% that aren't to be better and if I can use modeling to help them I will.

Finally with regards to exclusion. The materials are just a tool. I am reminded of my brother-in-law who was handed a drill which he then used to try and put a screw in the wall. Unfortunately, it was switched in reverse and he worked at it for a while before he put the drill down thinking it was broken. I noticed and taught him how to use the drill properly and he went on to drill in many screws that day. I'm sure you get the point of the story. The materials could be provided, but without using them in the spirit that they were developed, they would not be as effective and may be considered broken.

Kris Troha

Don Yost said...

"So at some point I looked hither and yon (on the interwebs) in search of a modeler who was engaged in second semester physics during the second semester.--- I also found evidence of heavy coverage of mechanics to the exclusion of most--if not all--second semester topics."
I haven’t found any modeler who has posted a curriculum of only mechanics both semesters. I have posted my curriculum following mechanics, on this blog, so you shouldn’t have to look too far to find an example. Never the less, your posts have provided an excellent opportunity for the modeling community to take a closer look at what we do and certainly, how the program is perceived. I have met new modelers who have spent far too much time on mechanics, and it is a concern. I totally agree with you that a year spent on mechanics alone, would not provide a comprehensive physics program. Our stress on mechanics has obviously given the impression that that is all there is to modeling and this perception needs to be addressed. Your comments have been quite valuable in pointing out several areas of perception we need to address and you’ve provided an excellent opportunity for modelers to take a closer look at what they do, why they do it, and how to share this with others. After all, forcing someone to verbalize their conceptions is one of the cornerstones of modeling, and in that regard, you have acted the perfect modeler.
Modeling is largely a process, not a curriculum. Mechanics is used to teach this process, but any other topic could be used. In a perfect world, we could be funded to expand to all topics in physics, but this is not the case in the real world, so that most of the modeling programs beyond mechanics have been products of dedicated volunteers . Knowing of your intellegence, skill, and dedication, I honestly believe that' fully understanding the process, you would become a fantastic modeler
Don Yost

Dean Baird said...

It seems Mark Schober is an exemplary model of a modeler. ASU's modeling site refers to Schober's page first and foremost and as a goldmine. (I'm not trying to pick on Mark; I have every reason to suspect he is an excellent teacher; one you'd want your own child to have as a teacher,)

In recent hours, I am unable to access either
Schober's Modeling Instruction in Physics or

When I was able to access Mr. Schober's site, it showed that his classes spent the first semester on mechanics. The second semester included more mechanics, amusement park physics, light, and "intro to circuits."

He had links to fully-developed units that were "left out." There were three electricity/magnetism units. The units existed, but they were not used. Apparently he alternates between these units and the light units from year to year.

The E&M and light units get alternated. Every unit in mechanics: uniform motion, accelerated motion, free particle, constant force particle, particle in two dimensions, energy, central force, and impulsive force. None of these appeared to be rotated in or out. They were permanent.

So again, the existence of non-mechanics modeling units is one thing, the use of non-mechanics modeling units is another thing.

For more perception issues: visit
American Modeling Teachers Association

Scroll down to the Curriculum Materials heading. There is only one topic listed: Modeling Mechanics.

Anonymous said...

I've never posted on a blog before but I have a few thoughts to add to the discussion.

Dean, whether you intend to or not, the tone in your writing about Modeling sounds derisive (at least to me and my colleagues). It's fine to disagree but I have to say I sure felt like I was being chided for being a Modeler.

As far as content coverage is concerned, I cover waves, some thermo, electricity, magnetism, and some modern physics in the 2nd semester. I also cover all the required curriculum for my state. In fact, most of the Modelers I know cover their state standards.

As to the lack of content--there isn't really a lack of content at all. That has been explained, as has the password-protection on the complete set of materials.

Noyes--if you really wanted to go to a workshop and take your family, you can. I spent 3 summers with my child in Tempe. There were several families there. On weekends we went hiking and sight-seeing. It's not that difficult to arrange.

I suggest, Dean, if your mind is really as open as you say it is, that you attend a workshop and see what it's really like.

Dean Baird said...

I *did* say that modeling is a valid path for anyone to take if they are so inclined.

I shared my reservations because I don't hear reservations being shared. Modeling is a big deal in current high school physics pedagogy, and I've attended or have been aware of countless presentations from modelers on how earth-shatteringly wonderful modeling is.

The pro-modeling good news is easy to find. It seems AP Physics B is being redesigned to accommodate the pace of modeling quite nicely.

I love teaching physics. I take it seriously, and pour myself into it as much as I can. I am all for interactive engagement. But modeling didn't grab me the way it seemed to grab others.

My attempt with my modeling posts was to convey the reasons that I, Dean Baird, haven't chosen modeling. I know that modelers will, by and large, not find my reservations/misgivings compelling.

I knew my posts would attract posts from modelers defending the program. But I really wasn't attacking modeling to begin with. If there was a way to express my personal rejection of modeling without the chiding tone you felt, I failed to find it. That's just me falling short in terms of effective communication.

For what it's worth, I remain in opposition to password-protecting curriculum materials as is done in modeling. To me it comes across as insular and placing too much supposed importance on what lies behind the curtain. Or raises concerns that there's actually nothing behind the curtain and the curtain's purpose was to hide that fact.

And as long as there is such an imbalance between available curriculum in mechanics vs. second semester--and lack of evidence that modelers actually use second semester curriculum, I'm hard-pressed to modify my perception of modeling physics as modeling mechanics.

If modelers are content that they cover the spectrum of topics and that some curriculum should be kept from the public, I don't expect them to try to convince me.

I expect that choosing not to be a modeler and publicly stating the reasons for my choice will earn me some harsh judgment among modelers. I wouldn't have written the posts if I wasn't prepared to accept that judgment.

But someone who acknowledges great value in modeling and supports teachers who are happy with modeling is not really an enemy of the modeling state. A lonely voice on a low-traffic blog doesn't constitute much of a threat to anything.

Colleen Megowan said...

A few comments:
1. As many have stated, Modeling is first and foremost an educational philosophy and a pedagogy. The curriculum materials are optional resources created for for Modelers to use.
2. Modeling curriculum resources are intellectual property. Since the American taxpayer (NSF) no longer underwrites the program we no longer give these materials away. This is something I'm sure you can appreciate since you are in the publishing business yourself. Does Hewitt give away his(your)lab manuals? I doubt it but I could be mistaken. The modeling mechanics materials you see on the ASU website are old and are merely examples--there is much that has been created but not posted for free access. These mechanics resources are the portion of the intellectual property of the Modeling Instruction Program that we are willing to make freely available.
3. The American Modeling Teachers Association (AMTA) is in the process of building a new website that will have extensive resources available (including but not limited to the copyrighted, password protected resources currently available on the ASU modeling website), but only to AMTA members. I agree with you that the current AMTA website is limited, but we are currently operating on a shoestring. AMTA would be grateful for any donation you could make to help us move the website construction process along.

It seems like this all boils down to a burning desire to look at the "hidden curriculum" of Modeling Instruction. I'd be happy to sit down with you next time I am in Sacramento and show you what's there to satisfy your curiosity.


Dean Baird said...

Thanks for the comment.

I think a comparison of ASU's Modeling Instruction to CU's PhET is more apt than a comparison of MI to Hewitt's Conceptual Physics (or any published textbook). PhET has generated financial support to sustain the program and make it possible to disseminate sims a curriculum materials free to end-users.

Another apt comparison might be with Washington's Physics Education Group. Their curriculum is available for purchase and that arrangement appears to be working for them. They'd prefer you went through their training before you use their stuff, but the uninitiated can still "make a buy."

Hewitt gives away Next Time Questions (via TPT and ArborSci) and is in the process of generating free, physicsly-correct screencasts that users might find more useful than Khan's physics stuff. Pearson is happy to send evaluation copies of any of Hewitt's latest intellectual property to any physics teacher.

Of course, Paul Hewitt is an individual textbook author who signed on with a publisher c.1970 and whose textbooks and curriculum have proved very successful in the free market. As it is with so many Apple products, people are happy to pay for CP.

Hewitt is an author, not an academic group affiliated with a university. And yet his approach outpaced and outlasted PSSC, Project Physics, Modern Physics, and titles by many other authors/publishers. If there's someone who's done more to revolutionize college and high school physics instruction in the past 40 years, I don't know who it is.

As for little ol' me, I hope that nobody comes away from The Book of Phyz online thinking "I wish this guy made some of his curriculum available for the rest of us to use." My sins may be many, but undersharing is not one of them.

Thanks for the generous offer to share curriculum with me. But it's really not about me getting my hands on the information. It's about the program's decision not to share the information with outsiders.

If the argument is one of protecting intellectual property, that's a valid concern. Most authors (and UW's PEG) find publication to be a valid solution.

But Modeling is neither giving it away nor making it available for purchase.

Look, I know that any misgivings I have about modeling are going to come across as attacks to those who embrace the program. I'm not the keenest observer of the human condition, but I do understand a thing or two.

Don Yost busted me* for the enduring purpose of my instigations here: to let modelers know why "holdouts" like me are holding out. We're not necessarily heads-in-the-sand curmudgeons clinging to The Old Ways and Teaching As We Were Taught.

If modelers look at this conversation and decide I'm an unreasonable, stubborn outlier, then fair enough. I'm pretty sure I've been thought of less charitably by people who know me well. If modelers look at this conversation and it reveals any blind spots ripe for redress, then huzzah!

*The shortest time interval I know of is the length of time I can get away with anything before Yost figures me out.

noyes said...

Anonymous 9:22 pm,

How would I know if it's worthwhile to pack up my family and move to Arizona for 3 weeks if the only way I can find out about modeling in any significant detail is to take the 3-week Arizona course?

If MI is really that good, why the gnosticism? Surely a weekend workshop is reasonable to get an "intro" to MI without bastardizing MI's message.