MODELING INSTRUCTION SAVES TEACHERS’ CAREERS

 

In summer 2007, Kelli Gamez Warble, a long-time mechanics modeling workshop co-leader at ASU, told a group of us that she would have left teaching if it weren't for Modeling Instruction.

 

Numerous teachers have echoed her statement. Here are quotes from teachers. They have widely different amounts of teaching experience.

 

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"Modeling has proven to be a career-saving change. I always felt OK about teaching, but I never felt truly "alive" until implementing full-scale modeling. Kids are truly engaged in what they are doing, and I learn something new every year about the process and how to improve upon it."

 

".. I was considering giving up teaching before I found the modeling program.  This program and meeting Wayne Finkbeiner were the best things that could ever happen to a new teacher."

 -- BethAnn Prause, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

“As an alternative track teacher, I teach 4 different types of classes (math and physics) and take education courses to become fully certified, so it has been wonderful to have many of the physics lessons planned out before the school year started.  Physics is not a subject most teachers can easily walk into and know how to teach.  Without the Modeling course I could have easily become one of the many alternative track teachers who leave the teaching profession before they have a chance to become proficient.”   -- Deborah Clement (2008)

 

 "…thanks again for everything.  Your program was definitely a career changing experience for me."

 

"If I had not found the Modeling Instruction pedagogy when I did, I would most likely left teaching by now because I was so discouraged with the mile wide, inch deep (1.64 km wide, 2.54 cm deep just doesn't sound as good) approach that I was using at the time."

 

“I am a high school physics teacher who probably would have left teaching had I not taken a modeling instruction workshop in the summer of 1999. For me, this workshop and the modeling method of instruction became a catalyst that completely changed my approach to teaching and my attitude about teaching.  I was transformed from a teacher who was constantly frustrated with students who couldn't "get it" into a teacher who better understands students and guides them to make sense of physics by giving them the opportunity and the means to do so through modeling

instruction.”   -- John Crookston, Pennsylvania

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Wayne Williams was the high school teacher who had acted as Malcolm's control for his doctoral dissertation research in which Malcolm developed and tested modeling instruction in mechanics.  In a carefully controlled seven-month study, Malcolm and Wayne both taught the same content in mechanics, for the same length of time; but Wayne taught traditionally and Malcolm used Modeling Instruction. Malcolm's students did much better on a problem-solving test. As David Hestenes wrote in his 1995 published paper, A Modeling Method for High School Physics, Wayne Williams was "impressed and eagerly signed up for the first workshop. The experience revolutionized and rejuvenated his teaching, so he postponed his retirement."

 

Wayne Williams elaborated on this in 1994, when he wrote, "After teaching science for 30 years, I felt that it was going to be too hard to change my style of teaching...Today my approach is completely changed and I have no desire to ever return to my old way of teaching physics by lecture, cookbook labs, etc.  My students are excited about learning physics."

- Wayne Williams, Corona Del Sol High School, Tempe, Arizona. (Wayne received the NSTA’s Science Teaching Award in 1995. This award carries a $10,000 prize.)

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From: Gheri Fouts

Date: Sat, 21 Jul 2007

     I wanted to comment on how the modeling workshop "saved" me.  At the time in the early '90's, I was teaching at an all-girls high school in Honolulu.  Physics was not a popular course.  The kids were bored and so was I.  Teaching Physics was a task.  Computers in the classroom were just beginning and I could not figure out how to use new equipment much alone how to present the material to make it all exciting.  The more I did problems at the board, the less they learned.  Before this time, teaching Physics with with no equipment was just problem sheet after problem sheet.  At least at my new school I could buy equipment, but I knew that was not enough. 

     Things completely changed when I came back from the modeling workshop and started using my newfound talents.  Doing it right was difficult at first, but the kids loved the classroom dialog and involvement in their own learning of a very difficult subject. 

     In those days, after the first workshop, I only had the mechanics materials.  When it came to the second semester, I had to revert back to my old ways; and the kids picked up on that immediately.  They wanted to continue with the modeling method for second semester and I had to explain that I did not have that workshop yet.  The following summer I returned to River Falls and we put together the second semester materials.

     I was so pleased with the results of using this method that I could not understand why anyone would defend the old out-dated method of teaching Physics with lectures, problem sheets and tests. 

As a Physics teacher, I did not have the comedian personality to get me through my day entertaining my students with showmanship.  I was happy to see the statistics declaring that colorful demonstrations in the classroom did not significantly increase student performance.  But teaching in a way that lets students be responsible for their own learning does increase performance, and gets me out of the mode of putting the teacher as the center of the classroom.

     Hearing other teachers complain about poor results in trying to teach Physics made me want to share modeling with them.  So, Consuelo Rogers and I taught the first course in Honolulu for modeling Physics.  Consuelo went on to teach modeling in Chemistry and I continued to teach the Physics modeling to fellow teachers and had many success stories.