Modeling Instruction prepares students very well for college: letters from college students


See also the document in the teachers’ section of this webpage, for more evidence of student success in college.



A letter from a college student, written in fall 1996 to Jeff Hengesbach, a modeler formerly in Phoenix: "I just wanted to let you know that although at MANY different times last year I hated you for saying 'I don't know, what do you think?' whenever I asked you a question, it really paid off in the long run.  I still remember everything we did last year and am acing my class now.  What a great way to pad that college GPA!"


Jay and Anna Zimmerman, modelers in Milwaukee, wrote in 2000:

"Modeling has completely changed the way we teach and we don't ever see ourselves going back to a traditional approach.  Students have come back from college and thanked us for the approach because of the excellent preparation they received.  One student's physics test average in a

college course was so far above the class he is embarrassed to tell the other students."


Anne Mayher Hall, a modeler in Pittsburgh, wrote in 2000:

"So many students who graduated from using modeling have returned to me saying they remember so much from the year, so much so that most if not all who have pursued science-centered degrees have passed their calculus-based physics courses with A's or B's."


A high school modeling teacher in Tennessee wrote:

     "A student came to my house last week.  She is a sophomore in civil engineering and told me that the lab reports I "made" them do in the full modeling approach were well worth the effort.  The rest of the class was suffering while she breezed right through because the format was exactly the same as the one she had had in high school.  I now have students transferring IN to physics from other, less challenging, courses instead of the other way around."


"One of my former students is taking a calculus-based physics course at Texas Tech.  He recently sent me an email telling me about his first lab report in this course.  He didn't understand

the format the instructor wanted so he wrote the report like I taught him 2 years ago.  His grade was the highest in his section.  The next highest grade was a 67.  He also said that the course (as well as the lab) had been a breeze so far after his 2 years of physics at our school."



Date:         Wed, 21 Nov 2001

From:         mitchell johnson (in Las Vegas, Nevada)

    … just this week I heard from my student at Caltech and he said that physics is the only class that he is not having difficulty in, and thanks for being so tough.

    … I am sorry for those who were forced to change or quit modeling, because we know it is the only way to teach.



Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2003

From: Dennis Ewert (Lincoln High School, Manitowoc, WI)

    I have only taught physics through modeling for the past five years.

   Students have told me that first semester physics was just a review for them. This includes students at the Air Force Academy, Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), Lawrence University in Appleton Wisconsin (two students - one was my daughter ), and three students from U of Wisconsin various locations.  I have had no negative feedback. I have asked students to come back and tell what we can improve on and they all say we are doing it right.  Two seniors at my high school were taking calculus based physics at our local two year campus and they said they felt their background was better than other students. These two young men also scored 29 on the FCI.

 ...  Thanks for the wonderful job you people do on the list serve. It has helped my teaching greatly.



Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2006

From: "FRANZEN, GREG"  (in Wisconsin)

A former student of mine after a year of mostly mechanics modeling sent me the following note.  This was a student in my 2nd year of modeling. She had an excellent calc teacher here as well.  She contacted me several times throughout the semester and did very well in the class.


>"Hey Mr. Franzen. I just wanted to check in with you and let

>you know how much your physics class last year really helped me. I'm

>taking physics this year at --- College, and it's a really advanced

>class here because it's all calculus based. but I kept my notebook from

>last year and it's already helped me a lot. I'm the only freshman in a

>class full of juniors and seniors. We had a test on Monday, and I'm proud

>to say that I was one of the few people who aced it."



Date: Mon, 06 Feb 2006

From: "SULLIVAN, PETER" (in Minnesota)

     Even though I do not consider myself a pure modeler, or even a competent one, I have been significantly influenced by the modeling framework.  So here is one anecdote.   A student of mine went off to a liberal arts college in Minnesota.   On trying to register for the first semester of physics he found it full.  He spoke with the head of the physics department about going right into the second trimester.  The professor who heads the physics department gave my former student a few tough problems - and said he was as competent as many students who do take the first semester of physics at this college.

     I also can boast of close to a dozen former students that I know of who have chosen physics as a course of study as a result of my course. (in about 10 years, from an honors physics class of about 22).

     Finally, I often have former students write and say that they pretty much ignore what their first semester college profs tell them, and just use the models and tools I taught them.



>Date: Mon, 19 May 2008

>From: SIegwart Barry (in Tempe, Arizona)


>I am forwarding this very pleasant message I recently received from a past student of mine. He is now an engineering major at ASU. I have edited the letter to remove his identification.

I had taken the modeling course in mechanics the summer before my first year of teaching physics. I believe that the techniques and philosophy that I learned in that modeling course allowed me to make such a good and lasting impression to this particular student and many others.


Mr. Siegwart,

I don't know if you remember me, but I'm going to give you feedback after three years of college. You are most definitely the best Physics teacher I have had. The physics you taught me still sticks with me, even when the other classes fade from memory. I know that I gave you a hard time about your "simple" teaching style, but it worked. I learned more there than in some of college classes, although they used calculus. Anyway, I appreciate your guidance and teaching.


A student at ASU