Modeling Instruction prepares students very well for college: evidence from teachers and professors


See also the document in the students’ section of this webpage, on students’ letters and reports to their high school physics teachers about their success in college.



In May 1999, Prof. James Vesenka, a young university physics professor and participant in the ASU Leadership Modeling Workshops for two summers, wrote the following:

    After 3 years of struggling with different pedagogical approaches at CSU Fresno, I latched onto the modeling course and have not looked back since. I have adapted and implemented the modeling curriculum to a college environment, my last two semester's results have been outstanding. Students in my class and the modeling laboratory have averaged a 45% gain, placing my students close to the top of the high gain category on the Hake plot.  The study was run against two other traditional classes, with average gains of 0.25 and 0.15.  I have ALL the statistics, including breakdown by problems. Basically I know that it is not me, but the students, laboratory and the workbook approach that has made this difference.  



Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2001

From: Kathleen Andre Harper (at Ohio State University)

        From time to time on this listserv, I see the issue raised of, "What happens to modeling students when they take college physics?"  I have one anecdote relating to this, which may be of interest.

        I teach the introductory physics sequence for a special program at Ohio State called the Freshman Engineering Honors Program.  We use a method called ISLE (Investigative Science Learning Environment) to teach this class.  This method is extremely close to modeling, probably as

close as we can get within the limitations that we have here.

        A few weeks ago, as students were preparing for finals, one of the students who visited my office chatted with me a bit about various things.  In the course of this conversation, he said something to the effect of, "This class is being taught the way my high school physics class was supposed to be taught."  This caught my attention, so I asked him who his teacher was, and, sure enough, he mentioned a teacher who I know has been using modeling.  The reason he said it was "supposed" to be taught this way was that his teacher had to leave partway through the year, and the sub that came in didn't do such a hot job with it (at least according to him.)

        What do I notice about this student?  First, he really criticized his fellow students who used a formula-centered approach to learning and problem solving.  I was surprised at how strongly he voiced this opinion.  Second, he performed terrifically on any measure of achievement I can think of, including exams, the FCI, the MBT, and final course grade.  His incoming FCI score was very high, so he clearly learned a lot in high school and retained it.

        While this isn't strong enough to be evidence of anything all by itself, it is one small success story for modeling.


Date: July 3, 2003

From: Bob Baker (Sacramento, CA)

Since I have been using the modeling method, I have had a few students each year decide to major in physics. Some of my former modeling students are physics PhD candidates.  I believe modeling helps students to more easily attack problems and communicate better with others.  The whiteboard work is an invaluable experience.


From: Carmela Minaya (in Hawaii)

Date: Tue, 2 May 2006

I have several students who are majoring in science related fields largely due to the

implementation of Modeling Instruction in my classroom.  The percentage has gone up from 13% (pre-modeling) to 51% in more recent years.


Date:    Thu, 5 Jun 2008

From:    Jeff Bohrer (in Ohio)

Subject: a pat on the back for modeling


I know there is a great desire to find evidence confirming whether or not modeling is helpful in helping high school students prepare for college physics.  Well, today, I had a great conversation that I feel is worth sharing with the modeling community.


I teach physics at Carroll High School in Dayton, OH.  Summer is here, and I found myself bike riding through the University of Dayton campus where I obtained my engineering degree.  As I was riding, I happened upon my physics teacher from UD.  We exchanged pleasantries, and then he told me that he wished he could talk to my administrators because he wanted to tell them that I was really doing a good job teaching physics to Carroll students.  He said that it used to be that Carroll students couldn't pass his class, and now they are doing much better.  That made my day!  I then discussed with him that I have been using the modeling method for the last two years, and it was great to get such positive feedback.  So, I thought I'd pass along the good news.  It’s nice to get feedback that the modeling method is impressing even college professors!