Structure of Modeling Instruction

I was fortunate to attend a two-week workshop on the modeling approach to physics instruction. The approach is constructivist, rooted in students’ conceptual models — hence the name. I picked up a lot of great ideas, including a bunch of labs I want to try. However, what stuck with me most is the modeling approach as it appears over the course of a unit. I should note that this specific approach was heavily influenced by the fantastic instructors.

Here is a typical modeling unit:
1. Demonstration. Introduce a simplified physical situation, such as a styrofoam pie plate rubbed on the head and stuck on the ceiling. What is going on?
2. Pre-lab. Identify the revelant variables to investigate the phenomenon in (1).
3. Paradigm lab. Students do an investigation, analyse data, etc.
4. Sharing. White-board lab results and share. What conclusions can we draw? What are the relationships between the variables? (this is where the standard equations are discovered: a=F/m, etc).
5. Post-lab. In groups, students whiteboard the whole model as a summary.
6. Practice. Using results from experiments, students do worksheets in groups, then share as a group with whiteboards. Socratic questionning is used to address errors and (especially) misconceptions.
7. Assessment. As a test, students complete a task requiring calculations (ie. place a jar to catch marble rolling off the table in a defined way, calculate where in a potential field to place the leads of an LED to light it).

I think I want to add a couple steps:
0. Assigned reading to acquire vocabulary, along with an entry quiz on vocabulary and the reading.
8. Some sort of bridge to IB test problems, perhaps homework assignment and a short quiz using IB-style questions.


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