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[Phys-l] Report: Modeling Workshops at ASU for 150 science & math teachers

Physics ed colleagues,

I summarize our summer program of modeling workshops and other graduate
courses at Arizona State University. All teachers were positive, many
saying that it was the best professional development they've ever had.
Jane Jackson

150 teachers of physics, chemistry, physical science, and mathematics
participated in our 3-credit graduate courses this summer.

Fifty were from out of state. Longest distance teachers were from Maine,
North Carolina, Singapore (4 teachers), Australia, and the state of
Washington. They had to find their own funding because our NSF grant ended
last year, but ASU Summer Sessions kindly gave tuition waivers to the 20
continuing MNS degree students.

The other 100 teachers are in Arizona. They could attend because of two
state grants that funded their tuition. 20 teach in Tolleson, an
impoverished area of metro Phoenix (grades 6 to 9 - their workshop was in
Tolleson). The rest took courses on campus in Tempe.

We held 7 sections of 5 different modeling workshops: physical science with
math, mechanics, chemistry, electricity/magnetism, and waves/sound. Also,
courses in Astronomy and Structure of Matter. Typical enrollment was 20,
but the chemistry modeling workshop had 38 teachers.

50 Arizona high school physics and chemistry teachers participated (the
others teach physical science and/or math). Of these 50:

* Half teach at high poverty schools (Title I schools).
* Half are out of field teachers.
* 40% teach in urban schools
5% in rural schools
50% in suburban schools
* 60% teach physics, 60% chemistry. (Almost half teach multiple subjects:
physical science, math, biology, earth science).

Teacher satisfaction with Modeling Workshops was very high. On a scale of
1 (poor) to 10 (excellent), teachers rated each Modeling Workshop higher
than 9.

Teachers could attend seven colloquiums: by David Hestenes (on naive
beliefs) and by teams of MNS degree teachers who spoke on their action
research. (Later one MNS degree teacher wrote me, "thanks again for
everything. Your program was definitely a career changing experience for

Information about the courses and program is at

As an example of the impact of Modeling Instruction, here are answers to a
question on the evaluation given on the last day of the 3-week mechanics
modeling workshop (the first workshop):

QUESTION: In what ways, if any, has the workshop affected your views about
physics and/or physics education?

* I no longer have any illusions that in the past I successfully taught my
students the necessary concepts of physics.

* We need to teach students and teachers with modeling to understand physics.

* I understand physics much better now. Before, I was full of these
misconceptions/preconceptions, the ones we read about. Very few of them
got corrected, even though I taught this last year (but from a traditional
text, in a traditional way.) I also believe now that teachers DO need
training. Before, I didn't think so.

* I knew there was a better way to teach physics, and this is it.

* My views did a total 180 degrees.

* I have a greater appreciation for physics.

* Modeling is the way to go!!

* It confirmed what I was thinking in general but put those nebulous
thoughts into a coherent whole.

* It has given me a renewed drive to instruct. I can see how to present
concepts and guide students towards the proper understanding of the
information and concepts.

* I want to lecture a lot less and incorporate white boards. Home Depot,
here I come!

* I better understand the connection between students having correct
conceptions and dialogue/discussion.

* I know how to implement a constructivist approach.

* Shown that less emphasis on problem-solving and more on conceptual
foundations can be a good thing.

* It has offered a very rich pedagogy. Before that, we had only vague
ideas on how to promote inquiry-based learning.

* Reinforced things I've learned from my personal discovery and research of
PER this past year.

* It showed me that physics should be taught as a continuous process, not
in pieces.

* I can see a well-structured, coherent inquiry-based curriculum rather
than a series of unconnected activities - much more effective!

* I'm now in favor and understand why physics first can be effective.

* It has given me new direction and hope for the future of our country's
scientific endeavors.

Jane Jackson, Co-Director, Modeling Instruction Program
Box 871504, Dept. of Physics, ASU, Tempe, AZ 85287
480-965-8438/fax:965-7565 <>
For 16 years, the Modeling Instruction Program has been
helping teachers attain knowledge and skills needed
to benefit their students. Modeling Instruction is the
only high school science program recognized as Exemplary
by the U.S. Department of Education.