PHS 531: Modeling Instruction in Electricity and Magnetism

Last held June 5-23, 2017 at Arizona State University. Held at ASU every three years


ASU catalog description: PHS 531: Modeling Instruction in Electricity and Magnetism (3 credits). Teaching electricity and magnetism in high school physics from a microscopic perspective using Modeling Instruction and computer technology. Prerequisite: PHS 530/PHY480.


Course hours: 8:00 – 3:30 M-Th, 8:00-12:00 F


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 high school 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.

*In the past it has been common to have a class with many experienced modeling teachers mixed with many teachers that just finished their first year of using the Modeling Method. On the first day we have generally had the experienced teachers meet together in groups, and the “newbies” meet in other groups. The experienced teachers come up with advice for the newbies and the newbies come up with items they wish to discuss. Some of the topics that past debriefing sessions have covered are whiteboarding (grading), pace/coverage, successes/what to avoid, grading labs, and teaching with non-modelers. We will discuss whether we still wish to do this and if we do, what format we will use.


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 will continue to use the concept of the electric field but now we will 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. A motor will be made taking advantage of this force. We will 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.


STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES: At successful course completion, students will have

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

-     deepened their understanding of content in microscopic electricity and magnetism,

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

-     strengthened coordination between mathematics and physics,

-     increased their skill in all eight scientific practices recommended by the National Research Council in “A Framework for K-12 Science Education.” 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 you are required to do at least 45 hours of work outside of class, including reading, worksheets, lab reports, and writing. Assignments are listed in the daily course calendar which you will receive each Monday.



A. Attendance: You are expected to attend all days of this course. If you miss two classes (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 course instructor and peers when appropriate.

B. Grading policy:

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, 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.) The components of the grade and rubrics are listed below.

·  Keep a course notebook. 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 home 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. When we perform 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). You are expected to write down notes that will help you when you are doing the lab with your students. Some teachers benefit by writing down good questions asked during whiteboarding, but that is up to you. You should also take notes on demonstrations and the concept they are meant to illustrate. (50%)

(250 points: 100 + 100 + 50, 50% of course grade)

225-250 pts = A

200-224 pts = B

175-199 pts = C

0-174 = F

Participant records all labs, activities and 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 demonstrations. Most of each lab has the required components but is lacking complete notes. Entries include few suggestions for implementation.

Participant is missing more than a few activities and demonstrations. Labs are missing required components but is lacking complete notes. Entries include no suggestions for implementation.

Participant turns in a very incomplete notebook.


·  Work out all problems and questions on the worksheets and insert them into your 3-ring binder.

(50 points: 5% of course grade)

45-50 points

40-44 points

35-39 points

0-34 points

Participant records reasonable attempts for all problems and questions on the worksheets.

Participant records reasonable attempts for 95% of the problems and questions on the worksheets.

Participant records reasonable attempts for 90% of the problems and questions on the worksheets.

Participant records less than 90% of the problems and questions on the worksheets.



·  Participate actively and thoughtfully in lab whiteboarding sessions, discussion of readings, activities, and problem-solving whiteboarding. (30 points: 10% of course grade)

27-30 points

24-26 points

21-23 points

0-20 points

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 whiteboarding

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 whiteboarding

Is usually but not always prompt and regular attendant; participates most of the time in group activities and discussion; listens when others talk but infrequently participates in whiteboard discussions

Rarely participates in group activities and discussion; does not listen when others are talking; is absent without prior notification

·  Read excerpts from the Matter and Interactions textbook by Ruth Chabay and Bruce Sherwood and physics education research articles. For each reading you will be expected to write a one-half to one-page reaction (not a synopsis) in which you offer your views about the ideas discussed in the reading assignment. (10%)

Rubric is for each individual essay. (20 points each, probably be 6 of them: 10% of course grade)

Assessment Item


18-20 points


16-17 points


14-15 points


0-13 points


All statements are relevant to the topic or bear on the question at hand; it is obvious the excerpt or article was read

All statements are relevant to the topic or bear on the question at hand; it is not as obvious the excerpt or article was read

Paper is more of a synopsis than a reaction

Paper was not relevant to the article of excerpt that was to be read


Discussion is well-reasoned and makes sense. Paper shows thoughtful consideration of material

Fairly good use of logic. Paper illustrates less thought was put into it

Some discussion but not a great deal of thought put into it

Garbled discussion lacks logical flow and little thought.

Spelling and Punctuation

Insignificant number of punctuation errors; no spelling errors

No spelling errors, and only a few punctuation errors

A modest number of spelling and punctuation errors

Numerous 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

Over ½ page

½ page

Less than ½ page

A few sentences


·  Turn in a formal lab write up of the investigation of potential difference and the current for conductors.

(92 points: 10% of course grade)




1.   Group names, written on one side only, in correct order (3)

2.     Each section clearly labeled, neat and organized (2)

3.     Spelling correct (1)

4.     Punctuation, complete sentences. correct grammar (3)

5.     In ink or word processed, no fringe (2)







1. Pertains to the lab (1)



1.     Relationships to be studied is clearly stated (2)

2.     Independent and dependent variables identified (2)




and Procedure

1.   Equipment list, diagram drawn with all components labeled (4)

2.   Clear sequence of steps (6)

3.   How variables were controlled was shown. (1)






1.     Measurements organized into a neat table (2)

2.     All data included (2)

3.     Values are clearly labeled (2)

4.     Units on all values (2)

5.     Range of data appropriate (1)

6.     Data of good quality (1)

7.     No calculated values in raw data (1)









Evaluation of Data

1.     Sample calculations, (1)

2.     Table of calculated values, labels, units, sig figs (4)

3.     Graphs (there are 3, two lines on one of them) (14)

a. title

b. variables on appropriate axes, units included

      c. scale appropriate

d. lines appropriate

4.     Interpretation of graphs

      a. identify type of graph and explain modification (3)

      b. mathematical model (proper variables, units on slope, intercept is zero, unit analysis shown) (7)














1.   Correct relationships and justification (4)

2.     General equation provided and variables identified (4)

3.     Meaning of slope, justification (4)

a. How to change slope and direction of change (4)

4.     Significance of Y-intercept and reasoning (2)

5.     Description of new terms (1)

6.     Identify error and give reasonable explanation of cause (2)

7.     Percent error for slope values (setups shown) (4)








Total             /92


·  Turn in two problem sets of E&M problems of the level found in an honors or AP course.

(100 points each, 10% of course grade)

Four problems worth 25 points each, most questions have multiple parts.

§       ½ credit if there is no setup for the calculations

§       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.

·  Prepare a minimum 2 page paper, 10-12 font, and using 1.5 line spacing on the topic below.

§  Record your reflections on the activities and materials as you worked through the four units.

(100 points, 5% of grade)

Assessment Item


90-100 points


80-89 points


70-79 points


0-69 points


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 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


C. 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-

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 220 points for the notebook; 220/250 = 88%, 88 x 0.5 = 44 pts. If the participant earns an 89 on the Ohm’s Law lab; 89/96 = 92.7%, 92.7 x 0.1= 9.27 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.


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.



There is no textbook. You will be provided a manual of instructional materials (teacher notes, labs and worksheets). If you are an Arizona teacher, the materials will be free due to a grant that Jane Jackson obtained. Out of state teachers will need to pay $18 for the manual. You will need a 3-ring binder with dividers to organize these materials. This will also be provided free to Arizona teachers.

You will need a 9” x 12” quad-ruled lab notebook. This size will allow you to easily tape or paste in data you collect and graphs you produce from the labs you perform during the workshop, as well as your reflections on the activities and readings assigned during the workshop. This will also be provided free to Arizona teachers due to the grant.



Ruth W. Chabay and Bruce A. Sherwood, Matter and Interactions, 3rd Edition, Volume 2: Electric and Magnetic Interactions. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. (Hoboken, NJ). ISBN 978-0-470-50346-1, ©2010, 576 pages. Drs. Sherwood and Chabay posted many resources and information on a NCSU distance course for teachers at

      Required Sections:

      Chapter 15: Electric Fields and Matter

      Chapter 18.9-18.11: Magnetism

      Chapter 19: Efield and Circuits

      Chapter 21.1 – 21.5: Magnetic Force


MacKenzie R. Stetzer, Paul van Kampen, Peter S. Shaffer, and Lillian C. McDermott: “New insights into student understanding of complete circuits and the conservation of current”, American Journal of Physics 81, 134-143 (2013).


R. Cohen, B. Eylon, and U. Ganiel, “Potential difference and current in simple electric circuits: a study of students’ concepts”, Am. J. Phys. 51, 407-412 (1983).



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


Van Heuvelen, A., Allen, L., & Mihas, P., "Experiment Problems for Electricity and Magnetism," The Physics Teacher 37, 482-485 (1999).

“We have the teachers read these three articles, usually three nights in a row, and usually starting around the end of the first week. A day or so after they've read all of them, we have everyone turn in three alternative problems (in any combination of types they wish), and give them feedback.”


N. Fredette and J. Lochhead, "Student Conceptions of Simple Electric Circuits", The Physics Teacher 19, 194-198 (1980) 194-198


David P. Maloney, “Charged poles?” Physics Education 20, 310–316 (1985) (on magnetism)

Both of these two articles are easy to read and help teachers to think about what might be going on in students' heads when learning these topics. We include the Maloney article if folks are working on magnetism. I always expose them to the Fredette & Lochhead and Maloney articles anyway.


Bat-Sheva Eylon & Uri Ganiel, "Macro-micro Relationships: the Missing Links", International Journal of Science Education 12(1) 79 - 94 (1990).

This article is a tough read, used only with a fairly experienced group.