A success story in high school physics education

Lessons from
A success story in high school physics education.
Presented by Barbara McKinnon, JMSS
1. What is Modeling
2. What is successful about
Modeling Instruction?
3. What are the implications
for the Australian curriculum?
Scientific Thinking
Constant Velocity
Constant Acceleration
Force causing change in velocity
Force as an interaction
Force diagrams and net force
Relationship between force and acceleration
2D motion
Energy (storage and transfer via working, heating, radiating)
Circular motion
Impulsive forces (conservation of linear momentum)
Modeling Mechanics
Mechanics Modeling
90 hours of professional
development consisting of
• intensive immersion in the
mechanics modeling
curriculum and pedagogy
• discussion of research
• building connections with the
modeling teaching community
Why is a new pedagogy
- Traditional instruction does not
effectively address misconceptions
- For many students, traditional
instruction is not successful in
teaching conceptual understanding or
scientific reasoning
What is modeling?
Students actively engaged in
1. construction of a phenomenological model
based upon their own observation and
2. deployment of the model in problem solving
and testing
3. model breaking
What the students say about modeling
Essential Tools
1. Multiple representations
2. Small whiteboards to
facilitate presentation of
3. Socratic questioning
Effective scientific reasoners who have
advanced problem solving skills.
How is this measured?
1. Performance on conceptual assessment
instruments such as Force Concept
2. Results on conventional statewide tests.
3. Retention of students in Science
170 teachers
Hestenes, D. 2000 Findings of the modeling workshop project (1994 –
2000). Final report submitted to the National Science Foundation
Hake, R. 1998 Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: a six thousand student survey
of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. Am. J. Phys. 66(1) 64-71.
Hake, R. 1998 Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: a six thousand student survey
of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. Am. J. Phys. 66(1) 64-71.
Modeling curricula have been written for
• Chemistry
• Biology
• Humanities – English and History
Is modeling only for
Modeling is about creating multiple
connections between the physical
system and mental model.
Symbolic Representations
Points to consider
 Modeling takes more time, can’t cover as
much curriculum.
 The Physics First experience:
Students in Year 9 spend a year doing Physics using
Improves outcomes in Chemistry and Biology
Increases retention in Science
 Don’t have to teach everything using
modeling for procedural benefit to be
Outcomes in the USA
Using a modeling approach find that
• Students are engaged
• Students improve their reasoning through
communication of their scientific thinking and by debating
with peers.
• Students achieve a deeper conceptual understanding
and become better problem solvers
• Students increase their learner confidence by building
their own conceptual framework.
• Both girls and boys respond well to approach.
Modeling instruction is a demonstration of the power of
teaching informed by education research.
• Modeling has been found to be most successfully
delivered when teacher has attended a three week
• Whiteboard discussions best suited to groups of 1524
The essence of modeling
Recommended reading: Etkina, Warren and Gentile
“The Role of models in Physics Instruction” The
Physics Teacher 44 2006 pp34-39
1. Models are simplifications of an object or process
2. Models can be descriptive or explanatory
3. A model must have predictive power
4. The predictive power of the model has limitations
• Implement modeling fundamentals in teaching
• Evaluate teaching of mechanics in Physics at JMSS
using the Force Concept Inventory
• Learn more about the application of the modeling
method to other areas of Physics and the other
• Build a modeling community in Australia
My goals
Other Australian modelers
• George Przywolnik
School Curriculum and Standards Authority WA
STA John de Laeter medal winner 2007
• Kenneth Silburn
Head of Science, Casula HS, NSW
National Award for Teaching: Excellence in Teacher
Leadership (2009)
Australian Academy of Science Teaching Award (2010)
Prime Minister’s Commendation for Excellence in Science
Teaching (2010).
Where to find out more
about modeling:
• American Modeling Teachers’ Association
• Mark Schober “What is Modeling”
• Mark Schober’s webpage http://modelingphysics.org/
• Arizona State University Modeling website:
• Success stories from teaching Physics using modeling to
American 9th graders
Barbara McKinnon would like to acknowledge
• the generosity of her school, the John Monash
Science School in awarding her the first JMSS staff
• Boeing for subsidising the cost of the
accommodation during the three week workshop,
• the American Modeling Teachers’ Association for
allowing her to participate in the workshop.

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