Monday, January 09, 2012

Why I am not a Modeler

Modeling Instruction is a big deal in high school physics. If there is a bigger movement afoot in high school physics pedagogy, I am unaware of it.

There is no shortage of praise for Modeling Instruction. It seems every article, post, or comment I see about Modeling promotes its virtues.

And don't get me wrong: I think there are important virtues to Modeling. I reserve the right to become a Modeler, myself, at some point in the future.

But I'm not there yet. And I'll tell you why.

1. Modeling Physics is really Modeling Mechanics. Whenever I see the yearlong breakdown of what Modelers do with their 180 days of instruction, it's nearly all about mechanics. I do not doubt that students of Modelers come away with a deep understanding of mechanics. But is their grasp of electricity, magnetism, heat, waves, and optics anywhere as firm? Modelers often dismiss the omission of these topics. I cannot. To me those topics are legitimate high school physics topics not to be marginalized. While physics learners may well harbor many misconceptions regarding mechanics, they tend to harbor no conceptions regarding electricity and magnetism.

If you visit the Modeling Instruction Summer 2011 Workshops page, you'll find as many mentions of "kinematics" as there are of "electricity" and "magnetism" combined. (And kinematics isn't even physics!) "Electricity" comes up three times, "magnetism" twice. "Mechanics" appears 28 times. The term, "light," comes up once and "waves" three times. Mechanics: 28.

I wonder if the performance gains claimed by Modelers are apples-to-apples comparisons in terms of instructional time. Modelers freely admit their methods are time-consuming. But the content-based performance gains are impressive. Are they comparing outcomes of one semester of traditional instruction to the two semesters of Modeling Instruction required to teach the equivalent amount of content? I ask because I do not know. I'll nourish the hope that someone will educate me via the comments.

2. The FCI is not the beacon from which all Truth radiates. The Force Concept Inventory (FCI) is ingenious. I love it! It shines light on the myriad flaws of "traditional" instruction. (Is there any term more derogatory than "traditional" in education?) There is some irony in that tradition-bucking Modelers use results from a multiple choice test to measure their success. There are some in education who find multiple choice tests to be incapable of measuring anything useful. I don't throw in with them, either. The FCI has excellent multiple choice questions. But I don't justify my curriculum by how various students have or haven't performed on a multiple choice mechanics test.

And if there is talk about CSEM (or equivalent) gains in Modeling Instruction, I haven't heard it.

3. The progression into any new topic seems a bit canned. Observe a prescribed phenomenon. Figure out how to make a graphical representation. Interpret the slope. Transpose axes; interpret. As an outsider, I could have it all wrong. But I prefer to let the content to be an important guide to instruction. My methodology for magnetism is different from that for motion.

4. As an "outsider," Modeling seems just a wee bit cultish. If this is my perception, alone, then it's my problem. But Modelers are the products of well-organized workshops in which they learn The Method. Once trained, they go forth and spread the good news. They tell joyful tales of how they used to be "traditional" but are now enthusiastic practitioners of The Method. The Method is not specific to physics, it can be applied to all sciences. Content is nice, but it's The Method that really matters.

Practitioners don't appear suffer much uncertainty regarding the superiority of The Method. Nor do they appear bothered by the physics content that is "left behind." A Modeling friend (great guy and great teacher) once assured me that Modeling teaches students how to think; physics is merely the delivery device. Me? I like physics! To me, physics is what we're painting, not just the canvas on which we paint.

In any case, I perceive an air of absolutism in the movement. And I find that disquieting. It's similar to the disquieting vibe I get from most Libertarians, who lace their certitude with impatience: "We've got it all figured out and why are you not already on board with us? Are you really that blind to the obvious?"

My fear in posting this note is that I will be labeled "anti-Modeling" and incur the wrath of the Modeling community. This post will be regarded as an attack. It's not. It is a list of my misgivings: the reasons I am not a Modeler. Maybe someday I will be a Modeler. And maybe I'll be happy when I am. (Then again, something chills me whenever I see "Number 12 Looks Just Like You." Scariest. Twilight Zone. Ever.) I may well make it to retirement never fully embracing Modeling.

If you think Modeling Instruction is the best use of the 180 days you get with physics students, I will make no attempt to take that away from you. I'm happy for you. I've decided on a different approach for my 180 days and hope not to be judged too harshly for that. I don't presume I've got it all figured out. If anything, I'm quite certain that I don't have it all figured out. I hope to do better next year than I did this year.

I've spent 25 years writing and rewriting and picking and choosing and polishing and smoothing. Much of what I do this year I will do again next year. But not everything. For what it's worth, a valued physics teaching colleague and enthusiastic proponent of Modeling, assured me that my curriculum and instruction—while not Modeling—bore little resemblance to the accursed "traditional" instruction that Modeling seeks to replace. So there's that.

Comments?

24 comments:

Tim Erickson said...

As another outsider—and one whose work is widely considered "modeling-friendly"—I share both your awe of their impressive results and your caution. Some of the teachers and thinkers I most respect are Modelers, but I've never seen the aspects of big-M Modeling that make me a little worried described so well before. Well done. And what a brave man you are!

Perhaps to help deflect a little ire, let me add another locus of doubt for me: the devotion to normalized gain, , as the only appropriate measure of a class's success. Now, might be the best statistic ever, but as a stats person, I worry what might be hidden in the methodology—and the original raw data is not available for us to see for ourselves.

Brett said...

I've never attended a Modeling workshop, but the teacher with whom I student taught as well as my "mentor teacher" were both trained Modelers, so my exposure was pretty thorough. I feel that Modeling made me a much more effective new teacher than I could've been otherwise, but I agree that there are some cons to go with the many pros.

I too felt the paradigm labs were a little canned. They are surely an improvement over the "give the student every step so they can perform the lab without thinking" labs that are out there. But there's some acting involved to convince the students that they came to the conclusions on their own when you knew where you were taking them all along.

You bring up a good point about comparing one semester of instruction to two. It will differ according to the student population, but in my experience (which was generally teaching sophomores) the Modeling Mechanics curriculum takes about 1.5 - 1.75 semesters. A junior or senior level class could probably get through it in a semester, but I've always seen Modeling as geared toward a bit younger students.

Your point about Modeling short changing E&M sort of comes down to the old question of depth vs. breadth. I recently surveyed the syllabi of several HS physics courses and was rather turned off by the propensity of teachers to try to cover all things physics in one year. One example covered 32 topics from mechanics, E & M, optics, waves, and thermodynamics, to modern physics. Maybe Modeling swings the proverbial pendulum too far the other way, but personally I welcome a shift away from the firehose approach.

David Talcott said...

You are invited to take the modeling in electricity and magnetism seminar hosted this summer at ASU. It will be led by Michael Croftin. He has recently retired, so this might be one of the last opportunities to learn from him.

Many members of the "cult" are teachers who were given a taste of the method without having a seminar experience. Without the training, practice, and hours of reflection, their brand of modeling is usually distorted and downright annoying. I have run into many of these teachers. The immediate consequence of this is a misconception of what modeling instruction is, and what it is attempting to achieve. While this is true, the modelers I have run into at ASU are among the most open minded, kind, and talented teachers I've met. To compare them with Libertarianism would likely make them vomit.

If you have any interest in the "modeling of light materials" or storyline, I would be happy to share with you the information and files. The author, Mark Schober,told me that he credits you with the "creative impetus needed" in the latest development of the materials (camera presentation at AAPT, development in the particle model of light). I am sure that you would enjoy at least looking through them to see the congruancies with modeling and what you teach.

I would be happy to share my experiences and ideas with you (or anyone else who wants to talk to a member of the cult).

David Talcott
Carlmont HIgh School

Harding said...

Your post summarizes all of my concerns about Modeling to a 'T', except you left out the part about slavish devotion to very specific terminology (and I didn't share the fear about canned labs, seems to be a great deal of variation available there). None-the-less, I attended an indoctrination session last summer and am busily drinking the kool-aid as we speak. I had attended a one week workshop back in '05, but they didn't "get" me that time. This last time around, I fought mightily, but my mind was weak and I caved in part way through the nature of science discussions on day 1. I was worn down from my 4th year of the "AP B in one year fire hose" approach.
I've always had a strong skepticism towards the claim that the Approach yields the Gain, as opposed to the increased time allotment on the material. I'm collecting data on that and will report back eventually. My FCI post test point had always been just prior to winter break, this year it will be closer to spring break. As part of my workshop, I really need to wait until then to do post testing. Next year, I plan to throw the FCI post at them prior to Winter break so I can make some comparisons to past years (although the claim could be made that the times would still not be 1:1 since I don't assign readings and most of our problem solving happens in class). I did do pre-post scientific reasoning via the Lawson CTSR over the same time period this year and last year. Results were not what I had hoped. My reading and experience seem to indicate strong ties between FCI gain and reasoning level. I had hoped with an increased emphasis on NOS and classroom discourse with constant exposure to evidence based arguments I would see significant difference between my old and new ways. Looks pretty much the same. I've consistently had FCI gains around 0.6 for my AP'ers and 0.3 for my regulars, prior to adopting Modeling. I will be crushed if I don't see a change in that 0.3 this time around. I've thrown most everything in the PER handbag at that stat over the course of the past six or seven years with little to no improvement. In spite of all of that, and the extra couple of hours a day I seem to be averaging this year with the change to Modeling, I'm still enjoying the changes I'm seeing in my class. It seems to do a better job of of forming an obvious, consistent thread through all of the materials for the students. Over time, I've come to see changing their view towards science/physics as potentially an even greater benefit than improved FCI performance. Accepting claims without supporting evidence is not a very scientific way to go about things, I strongly encourage you to give a workshop a try. If nothing else, you'll get to network with a bunch of other physics people who are passionate about what they do. It's not like there's an overabundance of worth wile PER PD out there.

David Talcott said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dean Baird said...

Accidentally double-posted David's comment. My mistake.

Dan Burns said...

I am convinced that the modelling approach is an effective way to teach physics. I am not convinced that it is the ONLY effective way to teach physics. The research backs this up. If you want to give modelling a try, check out the materials for the momentum unit on the ASU website: http://modeling.asu.edu/Modeling-pub/Mechanics_curriculum/9-momentum/ I don't think you have to do modelling all year long to use the approach.

Jane Jackson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stevie Ray said...

Looks like your reader list is bigger than you think - you've struck a nerve.

Stevie Ray said...

To me, one of the most important techniques incorporated into the Modeling pedagogy is the Socratic Dialogue used in conjunction with white-board presentations made during lab work debriefings. The interactions during these dialogues between the "leader" and the "learner" model (pardon the expression) the way science-based knowledge is amassed and how it is that we know anything at all.

Also crucial to Modeling is the concept of “representations of physical phenomena” whether these representations be in sentence, graphical, algebraic, or pictorial form. Far too many physics classes have been served up from the “memorize the equations” plate often to the detriment of many who might have an understanding of the phenomenon semantically or pictorially. Those teachers who fail to show how the equation x = xo + vt can be DERIVED by applying y = mx + b to position versus time data collected via an appropriately designed and executed experiment using an inexpensive battery-powered dune buggy and a stop watch are doing their physics students a severe disservice in my opinion.

Though surely not the only mechanics evaluation instrument, the FCI questions are far superior to those “Trivial Pursuit” kinds of questions often foisted upon us by folks claiming to know how to quantify student understanding. The FCI not only exposes the Aristotelian thinking prevalent among those who never partake in a physics class in high school, but also provides a well-researched instrument to evaluate student mastery after instruction and, equally important, a way to measure teacher performance in delivering that instruction. A student who memorizes (or discovers on the provided equation sheet) Ohm’s Law (E=IR) will more than likely be able to solve for one of the quantities in this equation given the other two in the statement of the problem. Is this true understanding of the physics principles involved in the relationships among EMF, Current and Resistance? Does it even hint at an experimental protocol that would lead to the derivation of this relationship? Hardly.

One valid criticism of using physics Modeling in its current iteration is that it does omit lot of material from a first year physics course. On the other hand it could be argued that the number of discreet topics found in the table of contents of many high school physics books is absurd for any 180 day schedule. Modeling is still a work in progress. My personal belief is that once students are armed with Modeling tools, they are better equipped to tilt at other topics in physics. A major challenge is for the Modeling community to expand the breadth of topics covered during the first year physics course - and this is being done not only in physics, but also in chemistry and biology. For example, in physics, the way Modeling approaches the conservation of energy with "The Law of Everything" is brilliant in its content and delivery.


There are many ways to deliver meaningful physics education to high school students and Modeling in one such vehicle. There surely are others that involve meaningful student interaction with the subject matter. I’ve always admired teachers who eschew cook-book type lab manuals and develop their own interactive materials. However, in my experience it is a rare person indeed who possesses the combination of intelligence, motivation, dedication, and resources needed to produce such materials. It is another matter entirely to disseminate these materials to others in the physics teaching community. Modeling offers a community of researchers and teachers striving to provide students with a deeper understanding of the process of science.

As once stated by Henri Poincare, “Science is constructed of facts as a house is of stones. But a collection of facts is no more science than a heap of stones is a house.” Teach your students how to build that house. Modeling provides an extremely powerful set of tools which allow students to build an understanding of the physical world.

Scott McNees said...

Dan I find your post incredibly articulate and I understand your reservations completely. My first four years I was free to use my own approach, somewhere between traditional and constructivism. After that I switched to a school where using the modeling method was a requirement to teach physics, and was a bit worried. My advice to you would be to attend a training session to see what the approach is all about. Don't let some of the more fanatical Modelers deter you from an approach that can be implemented at variable levels and has some incredibly effective (and clever) techniques to increase student understanding. Even if you never do anything remotely considered modeling, it may give you some new methods to approach topics that both you and your students would enjoy.

Mr. Lulai said...

I've taken a modeling workshop. I use many aspects of it. As I've worked my way through other Physics Education Research (PER) methods, I find that the modeling materials (worksheets and labs or activities) often use pieces of other research.
I fully believe that some of the fci gain that Modeling achieves is due to the use of a N3L lab based off of the Interactive Lecture Demos and worksheets that focus on free body diagrams in a manner similar to Alan Van Heuvelen's Active Learning Problem Solving. Additionally, modeling worksheets in energy use Van Heuvelen's energy bar charts (with some modification).
Modelling methods have done what we all do. Find good stuff from others and use it ourselves.
However, we need to then remember that ILDs, ALPS, and peer instruction are also effective methods. Why else would someone have put them into Modeling methods?
Have a good one.
Paul.

Paul Bianchi said...

Hi Dean. I spent two summers at ASU doing modeling classes about ten years ago, when I'd already been teaching Physics for fifteen years. It was without doubt the most effective professional development I've had in my career. But that said, I don't use all the materials, I skip some stuff and add other stuff, and I don't give the kids the FCI. And I suspect lots of other Modeling grads don't either. If your experience of Modeling is strictly second-hand, then filter what you hear with the realization that you are mainly hearing from zealots, as is true with any "following". But what I experienced in the ASU classes was quite different. Modeling struck me (and still does) as a collection of best practices: a lab-based curriculum, making good use of Socratic dialogue and white boarding for discussion, and appropriate use of technology. The university connection made it rigorous, and the teacher-designed materials made it realistic and practical. In class we had thoughtful discussions about priorities and different approaches - It never felt cultish in class. Even though the workshop leaders (appropriately) recommended trying the approach as presented for the first year or two, I never felt an obligation not to tinker with it - and I've tinkered quite a bit. That said, the people at ASU - Dave Hestenes, Larry Dukerich and Jane Jackson among others - struck me as really intelligent, thoughtful edicators. They may be proud of their work (and should be) but never struck me as dogmatic - though some regular posters on the listserve can certainly sound that way. Don't let the ideal be the enemy of the good. Modeling Instruction as designed at ASU became a much-needed model for physics teacher preparation around the country. Without it, there'd be an awful lot of bio teachers out there drafted into making sense of Newton's laws in front of 30 kids with no background training, and that wouldn't be doing anyone - or the state of physics education - any good. There is no one right way to teach anything, but I'm awfully glad Modeling Instruction has established a high standard for everyone else to be measured against.

Jane Jackson said...

Thank you, Dean, for bringing up these issues. I'll respond the your first two. I encourage you to visit the weblinks here.

For perspective, it is important to realize that Modeling Instruction is a grassroots movement by teachers. Our motto is continuous improvement; our goal is better thinking, reasoning, and understanding in science; and our guiding thought is, as ASU physics emeritus professor & co-founder David Hestenes wrote, “Scientists explore the physical world for REPRODUCIBLE PATTERNS, which they represent by MODELS and organize into THEORIES according to LAWS.”

1. Physics content:
a) in physics courses. Experienced modelers like David Braunschweig (http://modeling.asu.edu/modeling/DB_AAPT_talk.html) and Larry Dukerich find that Modeling Instruction takes a little longer than before they used Modeling Instruction. Larry always finished mechanics in January in his honors physics course.

Malcolm Wells and his control teacher for his dissertation research taught mechanics for the SAME time duration. You can read about his classroom teaching experiment in excerpts from his doctoral dissertation at http://modeling.asu.edu/Projects-Resources.html, and in the article: A MODELING METHOD for high school physics instruction, by Malcolm Wells, David Hestenes & Gregg Swackhamer (American Journal of Physics, July 1995) at http://modeling.asu.edu/R&E/Research.html.

Malcolm Wells developed Modeling Instruction because he found that inquiry that was NOT structured by modeling principles wasn’t much more effective than traditional lecture-cookbook lab instruction in physics.

b) in Modeling Workshops. Mechanics is the initial workshop, since mechanics is the first topic taught in most physics courses. In most locations nationwide, Modeling Instruction is just starting, so teacher demand is for mechanics workshops. Teacher turnover is another reason for yearly demand for mechanics workshops. (I help coordinate & announce the 50 Modeling Workshops nationwide each year.)

2. Force Concept Inventory as a measure of success.
a) We use the FCI in our research because it is easy to measure (our funds are limited), reliable, validated, & gender-neutral (see http://modeling.asu.edu/R&E/Research.html). We have some CSEM and DIRECT data, and gains are high.
b) Many other indicators of success exist; some are described by modeling teachers & their students at http://modeling.asu.edu/SuccessStories_MI.html. Categories are test data (AP, SAT, TIMSS), student success in college and career, teacher satisfaction, teacher retention. You can read essays by students about their teacher, letters from college students to their high school teacher, and letters by teachers to policy makers and the press.

I am glad to answer questions; but first please peruse the modeling website, particularly the high school webpage: http://modeling.asu.edu/modeling-HS.html.

One more thing: as Larry Dukerich says, "There are no modeling police". (Larry is a founding Modeling Workshop leader, long-time physics and chemistry teacher, and chief developer of Modeling Workshops in chemistry and physical science, among many other worthy endeavors.) And David Hestenes has written that Modeling Instruction is A way, not THE way.

cheers,
Jane Jackson, Co-Director, Modeling Instruction Program, Department of Physics, Arizona State University, Tempe

David said...

I would guess I'm a modeling cultist (the lower case m is significant). After 1 year of teaching physics in a very traditional manner I started to incorporate Modeling methods from the website. That lasted for one year before I went to a multiweek workshop (actually a two year series of workshops) in NC. It was and still is the single best professional development activity that I have been to; it should be required for all physics teachers.

With that said the intervening 10 years have moved me from a Modeler to a modeler. The cycle is great. The concept of making models of physical behavior is powerful even if the paradigm labs are somewhat canned. I can see how one would feel that there is a Modeling cult but I've found that to me it is more of a framework on how I think about my course and, hopefully, how my students think about science then a One True Path.

Colleen Megowan said...

A closer look at the ASU Modeling Instruction (MI) website reveals that Modeling is not just for physics anymore. Chemistry Modeling is 7 years old and Physical Science Modeling is older. Biology Modeling is about 3 years old. Middle School STEM Modeling is 2 years old. Mechanics is writ large in the public view of MI because it was the first Modeling course developed and is the first course that most folks new to MI take. Over 4000 teachers have taken one of 350 15-day Modeling Workshops (MW) held in 32 different states (physical science workshops, 1190 teachers; chemistry workshops, 615, biology workshops, 125) over the past 20 years. Mechanics is also the first MW typically offered by school districts, colleges and universities nationwide who adopt MI as a professional development outreach option for in-service teachers. FYI there are four 2nd semester physics topic MWs: Light, Electricity & Magnetism, Mechanical Waves, and Electricity (an adaptation of CASTLE).
Maybe mechanics is the part of MI that physics teachers talk about most it’s the one thing we ALL teach, and I suspect that many of us spend more time teaching mechanics than we readily admit. Moreover, the second semester topics we teach differ from one teacher/school/district to the next—there is no right answer to the question: ‘what MUST be covered in second semester physics?’ as there is to the question of whether a high school physics course ‘ought to include mechanics.’
The MI curriculum you can view on the website is but the tip of the iceberg. There is much Modeling curriculum that is password protected. “Heirloom” mechanics materials are the only part open to the public, because, in the view of most modelers, you can’t use the curriculum effectively unless you’ve had a MW. Modelers don’t want MI judged and dismissed as ineffective by people who don’t have the necessary pedagogical underpinnings to use the curriculum well.

You are not the first to refer to MI as cultish. Every community has its missionaries. (Remember that cult of Macintosh computer users we had at our first SCAMPI Workshop in 1994?) Roughly 10% of all physics teachers are modelers—MI’s bound to come up in gatherings of physics teachers.

90% of active teachers who have taken a MW still use MI in their teaching practice. The Modeling Physics listserv has 2600 subscribers. There are 1000 subscribers on the chemistry listserv, 440 subscribers on the physical science listserv, 365 on the biology listserv and 380 on the 9th grade physics listserv. Physics education researcher Stamatis Vokos of Seattle Pacific University has described Modeling as ‘sticky.’ Unlike many reforms that have come and gone in the last 40 years and even though there is no textbook, MI persists.

Here are my hypotheses about MI’s resilience: (1) it works well for a lot of teachers – most teachers who take a MW feel that their students learn better in their Modeling course than they did in their non-Modeling course; (2) it is a community – the listservs are a source of “just-in-time” support, encouragement, ideas, strategies, resources (not just those created a decade or two ago by the NSF-funded project but new, fresh, materials are being created by modelers all the time); (3) it is an identity—a way of establishing ‘common ground’ for thousands of people who are otherwise strangers to one another. I can’t tell you how often people introduce themselves to me at conferences saying, “you’re a modeler, aren’t you?” and then tell me how long they’ve been using MI and who they learned it from.

To paraphrase my favorite Hewitt quote, “I’m not trying to change the world (of science or math education), I’m trying to keep the world from changing me.” MI works for me. I am a better teacher than I was before I learned Modeling. I’ll always be interested in new strategies, tactics, tools and affordances that might help me be a more effective teacher, but I doubt I will ever give up MI. It provides a window on my students’ thinking and helps me provide my students with powerful thinking tools.

Jane Jackson said...

In my comment (above, 2b), I gave the wrong URL. Omit the l at the end; it should be .htm. So the correct statement is:

Many other indicators of success exist; some are described by modeling teachers & their students at
http://modeling.asu.edu/SuccessStories_MI.htm .

Don Yost said...

Considering point by point:
“Modeling Physics is really Modeling Mechanics.” While a cursory examination may suggest this, it is in fact not the case and can be easily refuted by accessing the modeling site. You will find robust units on optics, waves, electricity and magnetism, and modern physics. My modeling program included mechanics, electricity and magnetism, waves, optics and quantum physics Granted, beginning modelers often spend an inordinate time on mechanics, but this is usually a temporary phase while they are mastering the program.
If the first part of the program were just mechanics, the criticism would be justified. Yes, a great deal of time is spent on mechanics, and one of the reasons for this involves student training. Many, if not most, students come into physics expecting to be told what to memorize in order to pass a test and move on to another topic. Modeling is taught constructively, and this change in expectations is difficult for many students. It involves a paradigm shift requiring a great deal of training by the teacher, and therefore takes time. Also, conceptual learning is a lengthier process than rote learning because student understand is constantly monitored during the process rather than assuming understanding then checking with a test. In addition, students are involved in learning how to use electronic probe ware, data analysis, Socratic dialog, and lab experiment design as well as group cooperation. These are often new skills for students requiring time and training.
“The FCI is not the beacon from which all Truth radiates”. This is true, and it does not claim to be. The FCI is designed to measure understanding of force, and is one of the most documented tests in education. It is not designed to measure a student’s success in class, but used as a guide for the teacher to measure their own success as an instructor. Student success is measured with the Mechanics Baseline Test and numerous tests throughout the program. These are not multiple choice and require justification for many of the answers.
“The progression into any new topic seems a bit canned”. The student learns that there is a concept flow in much of physics. They learn that there is a reliable method to study physical phenomenon. Observation, experimentation, discovery, analysis, generalization, discussion, consensus. If this is “canned”, then science itself could be accused of being “canned”. The advantage of this procedure, is that it leaves the student with multiple representations of the phenomenon so that learning does not rely on one equation or one graph, but available over many different expressions of the same phenomenon. These would include system schema, diagrams, written descriptions, motion maps, graphs, and math representations. The student learns that there can be a systematic reliable process which will lead to understanding and that it is applicable across many topics and disciplines. Does it make more sense that each topic involves a new and unique approach of exploration of study?

Don Yost said...

“As an “outsider” Modeling seems just a see bit cultish”. First, I would disagree that modeling teaches students how to think. Modeling teaches physics and gives the students tools to understand physics on a conceptual level. It integrates many of the practices proven effective by education research, and attempts to avoid practices which have not proven to be successful. Hake has collected thousands of pieces of data supporting the success of Modeling. This, along with data indicating the failures of the traditional lecture – demonstration, has convinced the Modeling community that they at least have a better tool to help students understand physics. What is wrong with wishing to share this with other teachers? Are modelers sure that they have the right answer? No. They are just sure that Modeling produces a deeper understanding of physics and they have data supporting that position. If this point is disputed, please provide supporting data.
Cultish?: No more than any group of professionals who share a common vocabulary and expertise. I have never met a Modeler who was not more than willing to share their experience and knowledge with other teachers.
Modeling is more than mechanics. It includes things like multiple representation, concept flow, Socratic dialog, conceptual learning, scientific models, experiment design, electronic data collection, data analysis, and involves these across the curriculum. A student is presented with a unified view of physics rather than a collection of unrelated topics. There is an emphasis on having the student examine and support and their understanding under the direct guidance of the instructor. The principals of Modeling have been expanded to Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Science. Those principals were adopted by CSIN and taught to thousands of California Elementary teachers and have made their way into physics programs at UCD and Harvard, to name two.

Dean Baird said...

Don:
While a cursory examination may suggest this, it is in fact not the case and can be easily refuted by accessing the modeling site. You will find robust units on optics, waves, electricity and magnetism, and modern physics.

I must be looking in the wrong place, that place being http://modeling.asu.edu/Curriculum.html
Where--specifically--should I be looking? Please send me a link. I really did try to find some.

Beyond that, I'd like to know of HS modelers who are doing robust second semester physics. I didn't find evidence of modelers going much beyond mechanics either here or here. Mark Schober spends some time on light, but forgoes electricity and magnetism (and heat/thermo). Time will tell where Frank Noschese's going.

As I move into second semester, I'm done with mechanics and heat/thermo. And I don't dare go any slower.

Dean Baird said...

As much as I respect the FCI, I find modelers to be too dependent on it when they make claims of success.

Take a look at the ASU Modeling website's article, "How effective is modeling instruction?" and imagine what it would look like if references to the FCI were removed.

...is my point.

Dean Baird said...

Don Yost said:
Hake has collected thousands of pieces of data supporting the success of Modeling.

When modelers make such a claim, I fear they may be overreaching.

Is this the study? Interactive-engagement vs traditional methods: A six-thousand- student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses

If it's not, kindly direct me to the correct study. But if it is, remember that Hake was comparing traditional instruction to Interactive Engagement. Not modeling, exclusively. Interactive engagement. IE includes modeling but is not limited to modeling.

So I cannot accept Hake's thousands of data points to be an exclusive endorsement of modeling. Nor do I think it should be claimed as such.

And IE? I consider myself a non-modeling practitioner.

So while I have no quarrel with the study, the study doesn't incline me toward modeling.

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Mathematica

Anonymous said...

My experience with modeling has been very similar to that of the authors. One member of my department fits the "cultish" description to a big capital T. Although I believe there are numerous benefits to modeling, the over the top "what I'm doing in modeling is so much better than what you do" is nauseating. The idea that anything that isn't strictly modeling is traditional is another issue I have with what is going on at my school. Traditional (lecture, here's the formula, now plug in the numbers) teaching does not happen with the non-modelers at my school but they are still lumped in as "traditional". Published anonymously for very legit reasons