Syllabus for PHS 531: Modeling Instruction in Electricity and Magnetism

ASU  description: Teaching electricity and magnetism in high school and community college physics from a microscopic perspective using Modeling Instruction and computer technology.  (3 credits) Prerequisite: PHS 530/PHY480. 

Offered every 3 years, in June. Last held June 8 to 26, 2020, via Zoom (3 hours each morning, 5 days/week). In April 2020, ASU notified employees that all summer courses that begin in June must be remote learning, for social distancing because of Covid-19. The essence of the course description, student learning goals, ASU  & ABOR policies remain the same as the usual face-to-face version, as much as possible. This is the remote course syllabus, updated in July 2020.

Course Description: 

A. Objectives: The course begins with a review of the basic features of the modeling approach to physics. Teachers are then given sample course materials and work through them. 

The main objective of the first Modeling Instruction course in physics (PHS 530/PHY 480: mechanics) was to acquaint teachers with all aspects of Modeling Instruction and develop some skill in implementing it. To that end, teachers were provided with a fairly complete set of written curriculum materials to support instruction organized into coherent modeling cycles (as described in Wells et al., A Modeling Method for High School Physics, 1995). The physical materials and experiments in the curriculum are simple and quite standard, already available in any reasonably equipped physics classroom. 

In this course teachers review core modeling principles, discuss ways to successfully implement a modeling approach, then work through coherent model-centered materials for electricity and magnetism from a microscopic perspective to develop a deep understanding of content and how to teach it effectively. To these ends, they read, discuss, and reflect on related physics education research articles. The focus is on first-year physics courses that incorporate algebra and trigonometry. 

B. Rationale and course plan: To develop familiarity with 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, much as they did in PHS 530/PHY 480. This constitutes the rest of the course. Each of the four units in the E & M course manual includes an extensive Teacher Notes section. Throughout the course, teachers are asked to reflect on their practice and how they might apply the techniques they have learned in the course to their own classes.   In the E&M workshop there is less emphasis on why we believe that modeling is superior to conventional instruction, since we assume that teachers coming back to take a follow-up course have come to accept this as true.  While the class is facilitated as a modeling classroom and teacher discussions will focus on how to facilitate E&M content through modeling pedagogy, there will not be priority placed on direct instruction for how to facilitate a modeling classroom. (ie: this is not a “What is Modeling?” and not a “How to Model For Beginners” course).

 C. Description of each unit of the course:

Unit 1: Charge and field.  We begin with the study of electric charge and the different methods of charging matter electrically.  Next we determine the relationships for the force between two charged particles.  We finish by defining the electric field, investigating the electric field produced by charged particles and collections of charged particles, and determining the force on a charged object by a field.

Unit 2: Potential.  In this unit we delve into the concepts of electrical energy and electric potential.  We make topographic maps to help develop an understanding of equipotential lines.  We will learn whether energy is transferred into or out of an electric field when a charged particle is moved in the field, along with whether or not the object has been moved through a change in potential (potential difference).    

Unit 3: Circuits.  The circuit unit begins by developing the surface charge model as the causal agent for steady state circuits.  We continue to use the concept of the electric field but now we relate it to circuit behavior.  We then experimentally determine the relationship of potential difference and current for a circuit after which we move into the investigation of circuits with series and parallel resistors.  

Unit 4: Magnetism.  The magnetism unit begins with an investigation of the magnetic field around a current bearing wire after which we look at the fields of permanent magnets.  We then delve into the magnetic force on a charged particle and the on a current bearing wire.  We make a motor taking advantage of this force.  We study the behavior of charged particles in both magnetic and electric fields.  We finish the unit with the study of electromagnetic induction.  Faraday’s Law is studied both conceptually and mathematically.

D. Student learning outcomes. At successful course completion, students will have:

 Course Requirements:

Listing of assignments: (June 2020): This course meets synchronously for 45 hours (online format) in June, and you are required to do at least 90 hours of work outside of class daily in order to prepare for the next class, including performing experiments/collecting data, completing worksheets, reading, and participating in asynchronous online discussions.  Additional longer term assignments will include completion of problem sets and writing lab reports. Assignments are listed in the daily course calendar which you will receive in class each Monday as a pdf and on the “Canvas” online learning platform.


Š       Attendance and participation:  

  1. You are expected to attend and actively participate in all synchronous class sessions of this course. 
    1. Be on time and ready to go! 
    2. Have all assigned labs and worksheets completed.
    3. Be professional online as you would in any class.
  2. If absence is unavoidable due to illness or adult/family obligations, report any expected absences to the instructor as soon as possible. Be aware of ASU attendance policy:
    1. If you miss two classes (~ 6 contact hours), your maximum grade will be a B.
    2. If you miss 3 classes (~ 9 contact hours), you can earn no higher than a C.  
  3. ASU credit-seeking students who miss course time must make up lost hours.  They must demonstrate accurate completion of all work accomplished during the missed class and write a reflection on the value of the activities and how these will be enacted in their own classroom.

Š       Grading policy for all other work: Students will contract for a letter grade on the second class day. 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, compared to 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. The components of the grade and rubrics are listed below.

Category weights:

  1. (50% of course grade) Synchronous class activities and discussions: fully prepared with all assignments completed and ready to discuss or present in class; participate actively and thoughtfully in synchronous whiteboarding sessions, discussion of readings, activities, and problem-solving whiteboarding. 
  2. (10% of course grade) Keep a course notebook/provide evidence that labs have been effectively done and notations pertaining to future use of models/modeling in participant’s classroom have been carefully made:  Teachers have found this notebook to be a valuable resource as they use the curricular materials in their own classes.  Consequently, you are expected to record notes pertaining to everything that we do.  When you return to your own classroom and do the labs and activities you are not going to remember many of the details that came out in discussions and activities.  Place them in your notebook as you work.  For all labs you are to record notes from the pre-lab discussion, record and evaluate data (include any graphs you make) and summarize the findings of the “class” in your lab notebook.  (Summarize means write the relationship, the equation if applicable, the general equation and what the slope represents).  Write down notes that will help you when you are doing the lab with your students.  Most teachers benefit by writing down good questions asked during whiteboarding sessions.  Take notes on demonstrations and the concept they are meant to illustrate. Your attention to these details while you are present in class will be evident during the online class sessions and in your level of participation in the asynchronous discussions.  
  3. (15% of course grade) Turn in a formal lab write up of the investigation of the relationship between electrical potential difference and current for conductors.
  4. (10% of course grade) Complete/turn-in two problem sets of E&M problems of the level found in an honors or AP course. 
  5. (5% of grade) Final Reflection Paper: Record your reflections on the activities and materials as you worked through the four units. (minimum 2 page paper, 12 font, and using 1.5 line spacing on the topic below). 
  6. (10% of grade) Final Test and completion of post-class survey. All participants must complete this test and the post-class survey.


A. Synchronous class activities and discussions (weighted 50% of course grade)

A range

B range

C range


Is a prompt and regular attendant; stays until the completion of the session; participates in group activities and discussion by asking questions and offering ideas during white boarding and actively contributing to the whiteboard produced; effectively shares results of the small group session back to the large group; assignments are carefully/thoughtfully completed by the start of the class session

Is a prompt and regular attendant; arrives late or leaves early only with the prior notification of the instructor; participates in group activities and discussion by asking questions and offering ideas during white boarding; effectively shares results of the small group session back to the large group; assignments are carefully completed by the start of the class session

Is usually but not always a prompt and regular attendant; participates most of the time in group activities and discussion; listens when others talk, but infrequently participates in whiteboard discussions; sometimes assists in sharing results of the small group session back to the large group; assignments done by the start of the class session

Rarely participates in group activities and discussion; does not listen when others are talking; is absent without prior notification; assignments are frequently not completed; participant is not ready for class


B. Notebook (weighted as 10% of course grade: This may be assessed randomly and without prior warning. If a sample of notebook work is requested, it must be turned in digitally upon request).

A range

B range

C range


Participant records all labs, activities & demonstrations. All labs include the pre-lab, data, evaluation, conclusion and post-lab class discussion.  Entries include additional suggestions for implementation.

Participant is missing a few activities and/or demonstrations.  Most of each lab has the required components but lacks complete notes.  Entries include few suggestions for implementation.

Participant is missing more than a few activities and/or demonstrations.  Labs are missing required components &/or lack complete notes.  Entries include no suggestions for implementation.

Participant turns in a very incomplete notebook.


C. Formal Lab Report (weighted as 15% of course grade)

Section 1: worth equivalent 3 pts of 10 (-1 for each requirement not checked scores range 3/3 to 0/3)





1.     Each section clearly labeled, neat and organized

2.     Spelling correct

3.     Punctuation, complete sentences. correct grammar

4.     12-pt single-spaced typed, (diagrams and math analysis may be hand drawn)

5.     Presented in formal essay format...not bullet points or chart responses.







1. Pertains to and clearly identifies the lab



1.     Relationship to be studied is clearly stated

2.     Independent and dependent variables correctly identified




and Procedure

1.     Equipment list included

2. appropriate circuit diagrams correctly drawn with all components labeled

3.     Clear sequence of steps

4.     Clear indication for how variables were controlled.






Section 2: worth equivalent 3 pts of 10 (-1 for each requirement not checked scores range 3/3 to 0/3)



1.     Measurements organized into a neat table

2.     Column headings show variables clearly/accurately labeled

3.     Column headings show correct units

4.     All data is included

5.     Range/quantity of data appropriate

6.     Data set is of good quality – supports conclusions of physics community

7.     No calculated values mixed into raw data table









Evaluation of Data


  1. Graphs (there are 2, 1 graph has two lines)

For each graph:

a. appropriate graph title using DV vs IV format

b. variables on appropriate axes, names, variable symbols, and units included

         c. scale is appropriate

d. trendline is appropriate

  1. Interpretation of graphs

         a. identify type of graph and explain relationship

         b. mathematical equation correctly written (proper variables, units on slope, intercept is zero)

3. Identification of meaning for area under the curve along with sample unit analysis clearly/logically shown

4. Percent error for slope values (setups shown)










Section 3: worth equivalent 4 pts of 10 (-1 for each requirement not checked scores range 4/4 to 0/4)




1.     Correct relationships clearly identified w/ data-based justification

2.     General equation provided and variables identified

3.     Meaning of slope, justification

a. How to change slope w/ direction of change indicated

4.     Significance of Y-intercept and reasoning

5.     Description of new terms

6.     Reference percent error for slope values

7.     Give reasonable explanation of why percent error is not zero, and give reasonable suggestion for improvement









D. Turn in two problem sets of E&M problems of the level found in an honors or AP course. (Both sets must be carefully completed to earn this credit -- average of scores is weighted as 10% of overall course grade).

Four problems, most questions have multiple parts.

  • ½ credit if there is no setup for calculations (work must be clearly, logically supported)
  • One point deduction for incorrect or missing unit
  • One point deduction for a computational error where the setup is correct.
  • If an answer to a question is done correctly but used an earlier answer that was incorrect, there is no deduction.
  • 25% score deduction for each un-attempted/completely incorrect problem



E. Final Reflection Paper (5% of grade)

Assessment Item

A range

B range

C range



Well written; easy and interesting reading; thoughts are fully elaborated and illustrate what is meant; examples are provided as appropriate; discusses what they liked and didn’t like and explain why; suggestions are offered to improve the course

Reasonably well written; easy and interesting reading; points are made, but not always elaborated; discusses what they liked and didn’t like but didn’t always explain why

Fairly well written; confusing to reader; key points are made, but not often elaborated

Poorly written; unreadable; paragraphs are a jumble of sentences and/or sentences are a jumble of words; key points missing and/or not elaborated

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

No punctuation errors; no spelling errors; no grammatical errors

3 or fewer errors in these areas

5 or fewer errors in these areas

More than 5 spelling and/or punctuation errors

Format and Appearance

Uses size 12 font or smaller, 1.5 line spacing or hand written. Legible if hand written.

Fails to meet one of the guidelines for appropriate font size, line spacing or legibleness

Fails to meet two of the guidelines for appropriate font size, line spacing or legibleness

Gross violation of format guidelines dealing with font size, and line spacing; not legible

Script Length

2 pages

1½ to 2 pages

1 to 1½ pages

Less than 1 page


Š      F. Final Test: (10% of course grade): Participants must take and pass a final test over the content completed in class. The percentage of that score will be weighted as 10% of the overall course grade.

III.   Grading scale:

99-100  A+     

93-98.9  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-

Note: Points awarded for each assignment are not summative.  The percentage earned for each category will be calculated and then weighted according to the designated percent of the course grade.  For example, if the participant earns 88.0% points for the readings; 88.0 x 0.1 =8.80 pts.  If the participant earns an 92.7% on the lab; 92.7 x 0.15= 13.91 pts.  Summing up all of the points calculated in this manner will yield a score out of 100 from which the grade is determined using the percentages above.

 IV.   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". 

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

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.



RECOMMENDED READINGS (by the Ohio State University leader, Kathy Harper, Ph.D.):