PHS 530/PHY 480: Methods of Teaching Physics I

Modeling Instruction Workshop in Mechanics

June 10 to 28, 2019 at Arizona State University in Tempe, room PS-H356

Instructor: Jeff Steinert


Modeling Instruction Workshop in Mechanics (3 credits). Prerequisite: Two semesters of college physics (trigonometry-based).



A. Objectives: The workshop is a Methods of Physics Teaching course that thoroughly addresses most aspects of high school physics teaching, including the integration of teaching methods with course content, as it should be done in the high school classroom. The workshop incorporates up-to-date results of physics education research, best practice high school curriculum materials, use of technology, and experience in collaborative learning and guided inquiry.

Participants are introduced to the Modeling Method as a systematic approach to the design of curriculum and instruction. Content of the entire first semester course in high school physics (mechanics) is organized around a set of basic models to increase its structural coherence. Participants are supplied with a complete set of course materials and work through all the activities alternately in the roles of student or teacher.

B. Course plan and rationale: Since “teachers teach as they have been taught,” the workshop includes extensive practice in implementing the curriculum as intended for high school classes. Plans and techniques for raising the level of discourse in classroom discussions and student presentations are emphasized. Teachers are immersed in studying the physics content of the entire semester, providing in-depth remediation for under-prepared teachers. Altogether, the Modeling Instruction Workshop in Mechanics provides a detailed implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards.

The course begins with a discussion of participants’ goals for the workshop and the greatest content- and instructional-related teaching challenges they face in their classrooms. Teachers are given a manual of sample course materials. To develop the familiarity with the materials necessary to fully implement them in the classroom, we find that teachers must work through the activities, discussions and worksheets, alternating between student and teacher modes. This constitutes the rest of the course. Each unit in the course manual includes an extensive Teacher Notes section and practicums, microprocessor-based sensors, demonstrations, and deployment activities are employed throughout. Teachers are required to reflect on their practice and how they might apply the techniques they learn in the course in their own classes.  


C.  Description of the units: The Mechanics Modeling Instruction materials are organized into nine units that employ guided-inquiry, student-designed experiments to develop descriptive and explanatory models. These models are then deployed to analyze and predict the behavior of physical phenomena.


In Unit 1, students learn the fundamentals of experimental design, data collection, and mathematical modeling. These skills are a prerequisite for the analysis of the results of the paradigm labs in each of the succeeding units of study.


In Unit 2, Constant Velocity motion is investigated and the Constant Velocity kinematical model developed and deployed. Students use graphical representations from the dune buggy paradigm lab to derive mathematical representations of the motion and interpret and analyze them using graphs, motion maps, and verbal descriptions.


In Unit 3, the study of motion is extended to situations involving Constant Acceleration and the Constant Acceleration kinematical model is developed and deployed. Students use graphical representations from the ramp paradigm lab to derive mathematical representations of the motion (kinematic equations) and interpret and analyze them using graphs, motion maps, and verbal descriptions.


In Unit 4, the Free Particle (∑Fi=0) causal model for Constant Velocity motion is developed and deployed. Students use free-body diagrams and mathematical relationships to interpret and analyze situations in which objects are motionless or moving at constant velocity. Newton’s First and Third Laws of Motion are derived from study in this unit.


In Unit 5, the Constant Force (∑Fi=constant) causal model for Constant Acceleration motion is developed in the Force and Acceleration paradigm lab. Deployment of the model aids students in extending the use free-body diagrams and mathematical relationships to interpret and analyze situations in which objects are accelerating, adding to their understanding of the causes of constant velocity motions developed in Unit 4.


In Unit 6, the Constant Velocity and Constant Acceleration kinematical models are combined with the Free Particle and Constant Force causal models to describe and explain projectile motion. Students use graphical representations from their video analysis of the flight of a projectile to develop the combined mathematical relationships that govern projectiles and deploy them to interpret and analyze related physical phenomena.


In Unit 7, the Uniform Circular Motion kinematical model and the Central Force causal model are developed from the paradigm lab, extending student understanding of accelerated motion to situations where the direction of the velocity is changing. Students deploy the models to interpret and analyze situations in which a central (centripetal) net force acts to accelerate an object that is turning in a partial circle or completing multiple revolutions. Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation is included in this unit.


In Unit 8, the Energy Storage and Transfer model is developed through a series of paradigm labs that illustrate how forces acting over a distance can change the energy stored in a system and that changes in the system may transfer energy from one account (kinetic, gravitational, elastic, or thermal) to another. The Law of Conservation of Energy and the Work-Energy Theorem are derived from the graphical representations from these paradigm labs and deployed to interpret and analyze closed systems that may or may not be isolated from the effects of unbalanced external forces.


In Unit 9, the Collision kinematical model and the Impulsive Force causal model are developed from the “Explosion” paradigm lab and its extension. The Law of Conservation of Momentum is derived from student analysis of these experiments and the models are deployed to interpret and analyze closed systems that may or may not be isolated from the effects of unbalanced external forces.


STUDENT LEARNING GOALS: At successful completion of this course, students will have

Š      improved their instructional pedagogy by incorporating the modeling cycle, inquiry methods, critical and creative thinking, cooperative learning, and effective use of classroom technology,

Š      deepened their understanding of content in the Mechanics Modeling Instruction Curriculum (see above),

Š      experienced and practiced instructional strategies of model-centered discourse, Socratic questioning/whiteboarding, use of standardized evaluation instruments, coherent content organization,

Š      strengthened coordination between mathematics and physics,

Š      increased their skill in all eight science and engineering practices included in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Models and theories are the purpose and the outcomes of scientific practices. They are the tools for engineering design and problem solving. As such, modeling guides all other practices.


LISTING OF ASSIGNMENTS: This course meets for ~90 hours (studio format) in summer, and ABOR policy requires you to do at least 30 hours of work outside of class, including reading, worksheets, lab reports, and writing. Assignments are listed in the course itinerary/calendar; their links to student learning outcomes are evident in the itinerary.



A.  Attendance: You are expected to attend all days of this course.  If you miss 2 classes (i.e., 13 contact hours), your maximum grade will be a B; if 3, you can earn no higher than a C.  Please be on time and ready to go!  Report any expected absences to the instructor as soon as possible.  ASU credit-seeking students who miss course time are to complete and write a reflection for all activities missed, design an activity modified or developed for pilot use in the classroom this coming year, and present results to the instructor and peers when appropriate.


B. Grading policy:

Students will contract for a letter grade on the second day of class. Contracting for a letter grade is not a guaranteed grade. Work must be completed at ASU standards and meet all class requirements. Within grade categories, additional requirements are assigned for the graduate level course, than for the undergraduate course. All participants, whether seeking ASU credit or not, are expected to do activities and homework, as described below for a “C” grade. (Non-credit participants should email the instructor, specifying which days they intend to participate, at the start of the course.)


PHS 530 graduate

PHY 480 undergrad

Minimum Requirements (additional assignments are required for the same grade in the graduate course as in the undergraduate course):



PHY 480 and PHS 530: Class attendance and class participation in activities. Discussions, whiteboard presentations, log of activities/teacher notes in the lab book, completion of assigned readings/reflections, worksheets, tests etc. Reflections and Lab Writeups due first two Fridays of Workshop (June 14 & 21) in your lab notebook.



PHY 480: All of the above plus a two-page typed paper reflecting on specific differences in instructional practices between a Modeling classroom and a traditional classroom. Reflection Paper due Tues, June 25, 2019.
 PHS 530: All of the above plus a two-page typed reflection paper discussing how Modeling Instruction differs from your current practices and what changes you plan to incorporate or the issues with which you will have to deal to implement Modeling Instruction in your classroom. Reflection Paper due Tues, June 25, 2019.



PHY 480: All the above plus 1 activity (lesson plan) modified or developed for classroom use. Lesson plan must be in a Modeling format (pre-activity discussion, exploration, post-activity discussion) and lead to constructing a model or using a model to solve a problem (3 page minimum). Lesson Plan due Wed, June 26, 2019.

PHS 530: All the above plus 2 activities (lesson plans) modified or developed for pilot use in the classroom this school year. Lesson plans must be in a Modeling format (pre-activity discussion, exploration, post-activity discussion) and lead to constructing a model or using a model to solve a problem (3 page minimum for each lesson plan). Lesson Plans due Wed, June 26, 2019.



Š   Lab Notebook: (40%) 

Š   Lab Writeups: (20%) You will perform several labs each week in “student mode”. You will be 
expected to submit a lab write-up for selected labs. For details on the expected format for a lab report, please see “Writing the Physics Lab Report”, “Laboratory Investigations in Physics”, and “Physics Laboratory Write-up Checklist” in the first section of the Modeling Instruction in High School Physics lab manual provided to you in class. 

Š   Reading Reflections: (15%) You will regularly be asked to read articles from physics education research (and chapters in the Arons book). You will be expected to write a one-page reflection (not a synopsis) on each night’s assigned reading, in your lab notebook. These reflections should include your reaction to ideas discussed and whether they will or will not be beneficial in your classroom. 

Š   Paper: (10%) A 2-page paper describing how the Modeling Method of instruction differs from your current practice and/or issues with which you will have to deal in order to implement Modeling Instruction in your classes. 

Š   Lesson Plans: (15%) Submit lesson plans for two activities (PHS 530) or one activity (PHS 480) modified or developed for pilot use in the classroom this school year. Lesson plans must be in the same format as modeling teacher notes and lead to constructing a model or utilizing models to solve a problem. A lesson plan template will be provided. 
Notebooks containing Lab Writeups and Reading Reflections will be collected and evaluated as listed in the agenda. We believe they will be a valuable resource as you use the curricular materials in your classes. 


C. Grading scale        97-100  A+    93-96.9  A       90-92.9 A-

                                    87-89.9 B+      83-86.9  B      80-82.9 B-

                                    77-79.9 C+      73-76.9 C        70-72.9 C-


D. Policies of Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), ASU, and Department of Physics:

* ABOR: Each student is expected to work a minimum of 45 hours per semester hour of credit.

* Pass-fail is not an option for graduate courses.

* 3.0 grade point average (GPA) is minimum requirement for MNS & other graduate degrees.

* Incomplete: only for special circumstances. Must finish course within 1 year, or it becomes “E”.

* An instructor may drop a student for non-attendance during the first two class days (in summer).

* An instructor may withdraw a student with a mark of "W" or a grade of "E" only in cases of disruptive classroom behavior."

* The ASU Department of Physics is critical of giving all A's, because it indicates a lack of discrimination. A grade of "B" (3.0) is an average graduate course grade, and obviously not all students do above-average work compared to their peers. Some of you can expect to earn a "B”, and those who are below average but do acceptable work will earn a "C".


E. Academic dishonesty policy: Academic honesty is expected of all students in all examinations, papers, laboratory work, academic transactions and records. The possible sanctions include, but are not limited to, appropriate grade penalties, course failure (indicated on the transcript as a grade of E), course failure due to academic dishonesty (indicated on the transcript as a grade of XE), loss of registration privileges, disqualification and dismissal.  For more information, see


F. Disability policy: Qualified students with disabilities who require disability accommodations in this course are encouraged to make their requests to the instructor on the first class day or before. Note: Prior to receiving disability accommodations, verification of eligibility from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) is required. Disability information is confidential.



Textbook:  Teaching Introductory Physics, Arnold Arons, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1997, 816 pp., ISBN-13: 978-0471137078.

Materials: In-state teachers will be provided with a copy of the mechanics manual, Modeling Instruction in High School Physics, by the Modeling Instruction Program free of charge. For out- of-state participants, the manual costs $18. 

In-state teachers are provided with the following items free of charge.

Out-of-state teachers need to buy the following:

A two-inch 3-ring binder and 10 tab inserts, a 9”x12” quad-ruled lab notebook (~$20 at Staples) (to keep data you collect and evaluate from labs you perform during the workshop, as well as your reflections on activities and readings assigned), and the textbook (see above -- half price if ordered using the special code for Modeling Workshops – see Jane Jackson). 


REQUIRED READINGS: (Check the course website for links to readings, or get a print copy from the instructor if you cannot download.)


Arons, A. B. (1997). Teaching introductory physics. New York: Wiley.


Camp, C., & Clement, J. J. (2010). Preconceptions in mechanics: Lessons dealing with students’ conceptual difficulties. College Park, MD: American Association of Physics Teachers.


Coletta, V. P., Phillips, J. A., & Steinert, J. J. (2007). Why You Should Measure Your Students Reasoning Ability. The Physics Teacher, 45(4), 235-238. doi:10.1119/1.2715422.


Hestenes, D., Wells, M., & Swackhamer, G. (1992). Force concept inventory. The Physics Teacher, 30(3), 141-158. doi:10.1119/1.2343497.


McDermott, L. C. (1993). Guest Comment: How we teach and how students learn—A mismatch? American Journal of Physics, 61(4), 295-298. doi:10.1119/1.17258.


Megowan-Romanowicz, C. (2016). Commentary: What is modeling instruction? NSTA Reports.


Meltzer, D. E., & Thornton, R. K. (2012). Resource Letter ALIP–1: Active-Learning Instruction in Physics. American Journal of Physics, 80(6), 478-496. doi:10.1119/1.3678299.


Mestre, J. P. (1991). Learning and Instruction in PreCollege Physical Science. Physics Today, 44(9), 56-62. doi:10.1063/1.881275.


Miyake, A., Kost-Smith, L. E., Finkelstein, N. D., Pollock, S. J., Cohen, G. L., & Ito, T. A. (2010). Reducing the Gender Achievement Gap in College Science: A Classroom Study of Values Affirmation. Science, 330(6008), 1234-1237. doi:10.1126/science.1195996.


Redish, E., (2004). The physics suite. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.


Royce, B., (2004). Question their answers. The Physics Teacher, 42(10), 25.


Royce, B. & Dukerich, L., (2005). Managing discourse during class discussions. Modeling Instruction Materials in Chemistry.


Swackhamer, G. (2005). Making work work. Unpublished manuscript.


Van Heuvelen, A., & Zou, X. (2001). Multiple representations of work–energy processes. American Journal of Physics, 69(2), 184-194. doi:10.1119/1.1286662.


Wells, M., Hestenes, D., & Swackhamer, G. (1995). A modeling method for high school physics instruction. American Journal of Physics, 63(7), 606-619. doi:10.1119/1.17849.


Yost, D., (2003). Whiteboarding: a learning process. Unpublished manuscript.

Course itinerary (15 days, ~ 90 contact hours. Can be changed at instructor’s discretion)

Week 1

Day 1

AM Welcome, Introduction of leaders and participants, Schedules, Workshop description, goals, FCI overview, Pre-testing:  FCI.


PMUnit 1: Scientific Thinking in Experimental Settings Pendulum lab, Graphical Methods, lab report format, grading of lab notebook


HWReadings: Hestenes, “Force Concept Inventory.” Skip Sections II and III,  

                            Focus on Sections I, IV, and V.

                            McDermott, "Guest Comment: How we teach…"

 Day 2

AM - Discussion of reading, clarification of Unit 1 lab; lab write-ups, worksheet/test unit 1, Linearization with Logger Pro.


PM – Whiteboarding, presentation criteria, discuss unit materials Unit 2:  Particle with Constant Velocity,  Battery-powered vehicle lab, post-lab discussion, motion maps, deployment.


HW – Reading: Arons, Chapter 1. Focus on Sections 8, 9, 11, and 12.

Day 3

AM – Discussion of readings, problems, worksheets/presentations, Intro to Body modeling, Motion sensors.


PM – Unit 2 lesson plan, Whiteboard WS and Test,

           Introduction to Unit 3: Uniformly Accelerating Particle Model



HW – Readings: Mestre, "Learning and Instruction in Pre-College..."

                            Arons, 2.1-2.6.

Day 4

AM – Discussion of readings, Timer software, ball-on-rail lab, white board results.


PM – Motion Detectors, post-lab extension: instantaneous velocity, acceleration, motion maps, deployment worksheet/white board.


HW – Readings: Arons, 2.7-11.

                            Megowan-Romanowicz, “What is Modeling Instruction?”

Day 5

AM – Discussion of readings, Intro to Ramp n Roll, instructional comments, descriptive particle models, more deployment exercises. wrap up unit 3 materials, test, free fall w/ picket fence.


HW – Readings: Redish, The Physics Suite (Chapter 2).

                            Meltzer & Thornton, “ALIP Resource Letter.”


Week 2

Day 6

AM Discussion of reading, Unit 4: Free Particle Model-inertia & interactions,  inertia demo (Newton 1), the force concept, force diagrams, statics lab, the normal force demo questioning strategies.


PM – Deployment worksheets/WBs, force probes, paired forces, Newton 3.


HW – Readings: Three Readings on Whiteboarding and Socratic Dialogue:

           “Managing Discourse”, “Question Their Answers”, and “Whiteboarding:

           A Learning Process.”.

Day 7

AM – Discussion of reading, more deployment exercises. wrap up unit 4 materials, test.


PM – Unit 5: Constant Force Model-force and acceleration,  weight vs mass lab, modified Atwood's machine lab (compare different equipment).


HW – Reading: Camp & Clement, “Preconceptions in Mechanics” Pages 1-13.

Day 8

AM – Discussion of reading, whiteboard results of previous days labs, post-lab extension: derivation of Newton 2, lab write-up.


PM – Deployment worksheets/whiteboard, Unit 5 test.  


HW – Reading: Miyake, “Reducing the Gender Achievement Gap …”

Day 9

AM – Discussion of reading, friction lab:  pre lab and data collection, white board. Discussion of reading.


PM – Unit 6: Particle Models in Two Dimensions, combinations of FP and CDP models, deployment.


HW – Reading: Arons, 3.1-4, 3.6-13.

Day 10

AM – Worksheets/whiteboard, projectile motion lab, explore use of Video Technology.


HW – Reading: Hestenes, Wells, "A Modeling Method For High School...”



Week 3

Day 11

AM Discuss Readings, projectile practicum

           Unit 7: Central Force Model, uniform circular motion lab.


PMCollect/analyze data; further use of spreadsheets, whiteboard problem sets.

HW – Reading: Coletta, Phillips, and Steinert, “Why You Should Measure Your Students’ Reasoning Ability”.

Day 12

AM Complete WBs, Buzz Lightyear circular motion practicum.


PMUnit 8: Energy Storage and Transfer, Stretched spring lab, work on lab notebooks, graph, whiteboard prep & practice critiques.



Day 13

AM Gravitational potential energy, elastic potential energy to kinetic energy deployment, work-kinetic energy theorem.


PMUnit 9:  Impulsive Force Model, conservation of linear momentum lab, collect data, plot velocity ratio vs. mass ratio.


HW – Reading: Swackhamer, “Making Work Work.”


Day 14

AM Lab extension for Conservation of Momentum, deployment worksheets.


PMImpulse-Momentum Theorem lab activity, WB worksheets.


HW – Reading: van Heuvelen, Zou: “Multiple Representations of Work-Energy  


Day 15

AM WB presentations of deployment exercises. unit test, FCI and MBT, post- 

           test, door prizes (Thank you, Christine Vernier!), closing remarks.