Unlike traditional teaching approaches, in which students wade through an endless stream of seemingly unrelated topics, Modeling Instruction organizes the course around a small number of scientific models, thus making the course coherent. In development since 1990 under the leadership of David Hestenes (Emeritus Professor of Physics, Arizona State University), Modeling Instruction applies structured inquiry techniques to the teaching of basic skills and practices in mathematical modeling, proportional reasoning, quantitative estimation and technology-enabled data collection and analysis.


Modeling Instruction is an evolving, research-based program for high school science education reform that emphasizes constructing and applying conceptual models of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena as a central aspect of learning and doing science. The Modeling method of instruction corrects many weaknesses of the traditional lecture-demonstration method, including fragmentation of knowledge, student passivity, and persistence of naïve beliefs about the physical world.


From its inception, the Modeling Instruction program has been concerned with reforming high school teaching disciplines to make them more coherent and student-centered, and to incorporate the computer as an essential modeling tool. In a series of intensive workshops over two years, high school teachers learn to be leaders in science teaching reform and technology infusion in their schools. They are equipped with a robust teaching methodology for developing student abilities to make sense of physical experience, understand scientific claims, articulate coherent opinions of their own and defend them with cogent arguments, and evaluate evidence in support of justified belief.


Instead of relying on lectures and textbooks, Modeling Instruction emphasizes active student construction of conceptual and mathematical models in an interactive learning community. Students are engaged with simple scenarios to learn to model the physical world. Modeling cultivates science teachers as school experts on use of technology in science teaching, and encourages teacher-to-teacher training in science teaching methods, thereby providing schools and school districts with a valuable resource for broader reform.


Data on students of teachers who have been through the Modeling Instruction program show that students typically achieve twice the learning gain on a standard test of conceptual understanding as students who are taught conventionally. Further, Modeling Instruction is successful with students who have not traditionally done well in physics. Experienced modelers report increased enrollments in physics classes, parental satisfaction, and enhanced achievement in college courses across the curriculum.



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