Response of modeling teachers and post-secondary faculty to the

Federal Interagency Committee on Education: Directive to the National Alliance of State Science & Mathematics Coalitions

 

In November, 2007, in response to a request from the Federal Interagency Committee on

Education, NASSMC asked its member coalitions to identify high performing science, mathematics and technology education programs currently operating in the states. Several modeling teachers and post-secondary faculty nationwide nominated Modeling Instruction as a high performing STEM education program. (The request is at the end of this document, as Appendices A and B.)

 

ALABAMA:

From: Tim Burgess

To: cnash@uasystem.ua.edu, dnichols@uasystem.ua.edu

AMSTEC Leaders,

    I wanted to inform you that Modeling Instruction is a high performing science and technology education program currently operating in Alabama.  I use it in my classroom and the results are overwhelmingly positive.

    In my 25 years as an award winning science teacher in public and private schools and as a leader of in a variety of science education initiatives I have never seen a program with the impact of the modeling training for teachers.  I invite you to check out this program for yourselves and see the possibilities for this state.

    This program could serve our Alabama population in a wide variety of ways and is focused on equipping the most important aspect of the science classroom: the teacher!

    You have a number of modeling leaders in Alabama located throughout the state.  You have supporters in a number of the Universities.  I think Alabama is ready for genuine effort to improve science education in a big way.  This program has materials of high quality, leaders with extensive training available, university partners able to help.

    Please add "Modeling Instruction" to your list of highly effective science and math education programs.

 

HAWAII:

From: Carmela Minaya

To: <furutod@byuh.edu>

Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2007

Subject: Modeling Instruction & FIC directive

Aloha Dr. Furuto:

This email is in response to the directive from the Federal Interagency

Committee on Education: "NASSMC is asking its member coalitions to identify

high performing science, mathematics, and technology education programs

currently operating in the states."  I would like to request that you

include Modeling Instruction to your Hawaii list.

 

My name is Carmela Minaya.  I am a chemistry teacher at Hanalani Schools, a

private school in Mililani.  I have also taught a professional development

summer course for high school teachers at the University of Hawaii in

chemistry modeling.  Modeling Instruction courses have been offered at UH

since 2000.  Local funding was exhausted after 2006, which was when the last

course was offered.  I chose to procure my MNS from Arizona State largely

due to my experience in taking a chemistry modeling course at UH in 2000 and

due to the compelling evidence in support of Modeling Instruction.

 

MODELING INSTRUCTION is a high performing science and technology ed program,

which received a rating of "exemplary" by the United States Department of

Education: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/ORAD/KAD/expert_panel/math-science.html.

To get more information about Modeling Instruction, please visit http://modeling.asu.edu.

 

Nationwide, 2300 high school physics and chemistry teachers have learned

modeling instruction: half at Arizona State University and the other half at

30 universities and school districts nationwide. 500 middle school and ninth

grade teachers nationwide have taken physical science with math modeling

workshops. The median duration of workshops is 15 days; and 125 Modeling

Workshops have been held.  In Illinois, 20% of physics teachers have

participated. Large numbers of teachers in California, southern Florida,

Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, North Carolina, western New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania,

Virginia, and Wisconsin have learned Modeling Instruction.

 

I wear other hats as well.  I am the Hawaii Science Teachers Association

President, the University of Washington Alumni Association Hawaii Chapter

President, and the Founding Secretary of the American Modeling Teachers

Association.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need further

information about Modeling Instruction or would like me to add my personal

experience in the classroom around Modeling Instruction as well.  After you

research this program, I hope that you will include Modeling Instruction to

your Hawaii list.  Based on how many teachers attended professional

development in Modeling Instruction content and pedagogy, I would estimate

the impact to be 200+ teachers trained in Modeling Instruction in Hawaii.

Mahalo,

Carmela Minaya, MNS

 

 

ILLINOIS:

Date: Mon, 03 Dec 2007

From: Tom Egan

To: <mcconachie@niu.edu>

Subject: High performing science program: identified

Miss McConachie,

 

My name is Thomas Egan, and I am a physics teacher at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois.  This is my thirteenth year teaching physics.

 

I am writing in regards to information that I have received that the NASSMC is being asked to identify high performing math programs.  I feel very passionately that there is one you should be aware of as the Illinois representative of IMSTA.

 

This is my fifth year using the Modeling method if teaching physics, originally developed at Arizona State University.  I personally paid my way to travel to Tempe, Arizona to learn from the source.  I have never once regretted this.

 

I am most amazed at the level of thinking that students are required to do with this process.  Students are required to combine mathematics and spatial learning, as well as develop language (both spoken and and written).  The biggest secret that we keep from the students is that while they are not an accelerated class, they are doing work on par with an accelerated class.  I have had nearly two dozen students go specifically into engineering in the past four years, and five of them specifically cited this approach to learning physics as giving a big advantage in their physics courses over former AP and accelerated students.  Even students who are not going into engineering claim that they have never had to think so hard and so much about a subject before, often comparing the course to AP classes in other disciplines.

 

I do not like this approach because students claim it is difficult.  I like it because, according to students, it is transformative in terms of their thinking.  Having talked to teachers about other approaches to teaching (PBL, EL, PSSC), and having practiced some of them myself in the past, Modeling is the one method I have seen that demands students to perform at their highest academic level, while working different areas of the brain simultaneously.

 

In short, as a teacher who is focused on not simply teaching students, but seeing them changed in terms of how they view our universe, I see Modeling as the best system to accomplish this that I have seen.  Had I been taught this way at an earlier age, I think any difficulties I had with material would not have been so great.

 

Anecdotally, I ran into my former high school physics teacher, Jim Stankevitz, a Presidential Science Teacher of the Year, and was excited to tell him about Modeling and the expereinces of my students.  He listened intently, and invited me to attend one of his workshops  .... given that he had not only switched to Modeling himself, but was now a teacher-leader in the method.

 

I hope you will pass this on to interested parties.

 

Educationally,

Thomas Egan

Science Department

Maine South H.S.

 

 

ILLINOIS (POST-SECONDARY PHYSICS FACULTY)

Date: Thu, 06 Dec 2007

Subject: High performing science and technology education program

From: Carl J. Wenning

To: <mcconachie@niu.edu>

Dear Ms. McConachie,

 

In response to a request from the Federal Interagency Committee on

Education, I understand that NASSMC is asking its member coalitions to

identify high performing science, mathematics and technology education

programs currently operating in the states. I'd like to add my voice to that

chorus supporting the Modeling Method of Instruction promoted by Arizona

State University and originating with Malcolm Wells and David Hestenes (see

http://modeling.asu.edu/).

 

As coordinator of perhaps the largest and most advanced physics teacher

education program in the nation (http://phy.ilstu.edu/pte/), I promote the

Modeling Method of Physics Instruction among my nearly 50 teacher

candidates. Each year my students come to understand the strength of this

program through their course work, and many complete independent study

projects in this area to learn more about it. They often adopt the Modeling

Method as their main mode of high school instruction for the areas of

kinematics (motion) and dynamics (force). Modeling, by its very nature,

results in classrooms that are student centered, knowledge centered,

assessment centered, and community centered. In a phrase, Modeling aligns

extremely well with the current expectations of the science teaching reform

movement promoted by the National Research Council, Project 2061, and major

science teacher organizations such as the National Science Teachers

Association. It also aligns very well with the Applications of Learning of

the Illinois Learning Standards.

 

Over the past 6 years I and a team of Modeling experts have garnered over

$475,000 in grants to educate in-service teachers in the use of the Modeling

Method of Physics Instruction. During this time we have educated nearly 100

physics teachers - approximately 20% of the state's total. We are just now

completing a three-year run of summer workshops in Chicago that have

involved 66 teachers in three-week summer workshop. We have had to turn away

teachers each year due to a lack of positions within the workshop. I'm

already getting requests for next year for colleagues of these teachers.

They, too, want to take the Modeling workshop so effective has the method

been in improving student scores and understanding.

 

I could go on at length to describe (and provide evidence for) the

effectiveness of the Modeling Method of Instruction in improving student

understanding and NCLB-related test scores, but that is not called for here.

What is called for is an expression that many people believe the Modeling

Method of Instruction to be an effective mode of instruction for the state

of Illinois. I most strongly believe this to be the case.

 

Most cordially yours,

 Dr. Carl J. Wenning, Coordinator

Physics Teacher Education

Department of Physics

Illinois State University

Normal, IL  61790-4560

 

 

PENNSYLVANIA (and reply by NASSMC Executive Director):

To: Kathy Malone

Subject: Re: Pennsylvania

From: jmcmurtray@nassmc.org

Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2007

Thank you.  We have added Modeling Instruction to the list.

--------------------------------

James W. McMurtray

Executive Director

National Alliance of State Science & Mathematics Coalitions

1840 Wilson Blvd., Suite 200 Arlington, VA 22201-3000

Telephone: 703-516-5973  Fax: 703-516-5979

URL: www.nassmc.org

 

 

Kathy Malone

12/09/07

To <info@NASSMC.org>

To whom it may concern:

This email is in response to the directive from the Federal Interagency

Committee on Education: "NASSMC is asking its member coalitions to identify

high performing science, mathematics, and technology education programs

currently operating in the states."  I would like to request that you

include Modeling Instruction to your Pennsylvania list.  I am aware that

there is no affiliate on the list for Pennsylvania so I wanted to make sure

that the state was represented in this effort.

 

I am a physics teacher and science department head at Shady Side Academy in

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I have also taught a professional development

summer course for high school teachers in Modeling Instruction since the

mid 1990's.  I was trained as a national leader in this program in 1995-97.

At Shady Side we now teach modeling in our ninth grade physics classes,

tenth grade chemistry classes and  our junior level biology courses.

Modeling instruction methods will also be used in our senior level courses.

We have tracked our students' progress in these courses in the past and

currently.  Modeling instruction has not only shown a significant increase

in conceptual development but also in scientific reasoning, math abilities

and in cognitive and metacognitive problem solving skills.

 

MODELING INSTRUCTION is a high performing science and technology ed

program, which received a rating of "exemplary" by the United States

Department of Education

(http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/ORAD/KAD/expert_panel/math-science.html).

To get more information about Modeling Instruction, please visit

(http://modeling.asu.edu).

 

Nationwide, 2300 high school physics and chemistry teachers have learned

modeling instruction: half at Arizona State University and the other half

at 30 universities and school districts nationwide. 500 middle school and

ninth grade teachers nationwide have taken physical science with math

modeling workshops. The median duration of workshops is 15 days; and 125

Modeling Workshops have been held.  In Illinois, 20% of physics teachers

have participated. Large numbers of teachers in California, southern

Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, North Carolina, western New York, Ohio,

Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin have learned Modeling Instruction.

 

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need further information about

Modeling Instruction or would like me to add my personal experience in the

classroom around Modeling Instruction as well.

 

Kathy Malone, Ph.D.

Science Department Head

Shady Side Academy

423 Fox Chapel Road

Pittsburgh, PA  15238

 

 

WASHINGTON

(Nick sent it directly to NASSMC because the state of Washington doesn't have a state affiliate.)

From: Cabot, Nick

Sent: Sun 12/2/2007

To: info@nassmc.org

Subject: High performing science and technology education programs

Good morning,

 I have been informed that NASSMC is looking for information about high performing science and technology education programs in the US.  Please let me tell you about the Modeling Instruction in High School Physics program located at Arizona State University http://modeling.asu.edu/.  I am sure that you will get the necessary statistics from program staff and, I hope, from many teachers as well, that support some pretty bold claims about the effectiveness of this pedagogy compared to traditional teaching techniques.  Let me assure you, they are all true.

 

I would like to give you a slightly different take on the program.  I am completing a PhD in education at the University of Washington in Seattle and my dissertation is entitled Transforming Teacher Knowledge: Modeling Instruction in Physics.  I want to understand just what it is about the Modeling pedagogy and the training program that so profoundly affects teachers' conceptions of physics and physics teaching.  The impact is significant - to the point that almost all teachers who go through the training first ask, "Why wasn't I taught this way!?", and then, after they have tried it in their own classes say, "I could never go back to my old way of teaching - now my students are actually learning the physics."  How and why does this transformation happen? 

 

This is not a trivial issue.  As you probably know, only about one-third of high school physics teachers in the US actually have a degree in physics or physics education, so any program that can at once successfully teach teachers physics and how to teach physics deserves close scrutiny.  And if it really is successful, it deserves your wholehearted support.

 

Cast in the framework of conceptual change theory (Posner et al, 1982), the fundamental premise of my research is that the traditional didactic style of physics teaching is in its very essence based on a "naïve" conception of learning, that is, many physics teachers have misconceptions about teaching and learning just as do their students about physics.  The critical misconception in this case is that this teaching style is an effective pedagogy for promoting student assimilation of physics concepts.  The discrepant event that should be the source of teachers' cognitive conflict is their students' chronic and apparently irremediable inability to master these concepts.  Teachers have found a variety of strategies for accommodating this dissonance, the most important historically being to blame the students for lack of wit or perseverance or their previous science and math instructors.  Over many years, physics teachers have evolved the notion that their discipline is really for the "best and the brightest" and their job is to weed out "inferior" students. 

 

But in the face of so much research that places the blame on the pedagogy, many teachers have found themselves ethically unable to perpetuate the charade and have sought a new accommodation.  To resolve the cognitive conflict, many teachers have turned to alternative conceptions of learning and teaching in the form of constructivist theories.  These pedagogies generally emphasize a shift in the teacher's role from "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side."  One such pedagogy, Modeling Instruction in Physics, has, in many cases, proven remarkably effective at inducing conceptual change so as to progress the conceptual ecologies of practitioners and their students.  This is so, at least in part, because Modeling Instruction focuses on a small set of connected models embedded in a self-consistent theoretical framework and thus is closely congruent with human cognition in this context, which is to generate mental models of physical phenomena as both predictive and explanatory devices.

 

To make a long story short, Modeling Instruction in Physics is unique in its emphasis on model construction as the essential path to understanding in physics.  This emphasis has a similar effect on teachers and their students - BOTH groups are learning (or re-learning) physics.  Modeling completely reorganizes teachers' conceptions of physics and thus enables them to become effective physics teachers - the transformation is profound and, in most cases, complete.  It is essential that you understand that this transformation occurs via teachers' immersion in the same curriculum they will teach (3 weeks each summer for two summers, 8 hours per day).  The duration and social interactions during the training program also promotes teachers' self-identification as members of a professional community, that is, the community of Modelers.

 

Simply put, Modeling is demonstrably the most effective physics pedagogy around because it finally takes into account HOW PEOPLE LEARN physics and because the teacher-training program gives teachers the chance to experience a coherent presentation of the material they will teach!

 

Please give this program your full consideration.  As you well know, change is very slow in education, too slow in many respects, and many wonderful programs have vanished into the ether because too many people in leadership positions weren't ready to hear; they simply didn't want to get outside their comfort zone.  At the risk of being offputting, please don't be intellectually lazy - take a good look at what this program has done and what it can still do.  You owe it to so many.  As the authors of The Gathering Storm would tell you, America's competitiveness is at risk.

Sincerely,

Nick Cabot

Ingraham High School

Seattle, WA

 

 

Appendix A: The request:

 

WHAT:  In response to a request from the Federal Interagency Committee on Education, NASSMC is asking its member coalitions to identify high performing science, mathematics and technology education programs currently operating in the states.  High performing programs are generally defined as those P-16 programs, in or out of formal education setting, which are

demonstrating significant success in any of the following:

    > Increased student interest and engagement in science, mathematics, and technology

    > Increased student enrollment in science, technology and mathematics courses

   > Improved student achievement in science, technology and mathematics

   > Lowered dropout rates

   > Increased interest, participation, and enrollment of underrepresented minority and/or female students in science, technology and mathematics activity or course offerings

  > Increased numbers of students pursuing technical careers (including teaching in STEM fields)

 

The analysis is based solely on your perspectives.  The specific interest of the Committee is to find out what programs -- and types of programs – are cited most frequently by state coalitions of business, education and policy as advancing desired STEM outcomes and results. The Committee is interested in identifying a range of programs, regardless of scale or origination, which are now producing the results called for in Rising Above the Gathering Storm and other state and national STEM education reports.

 

WE NEED:  Please tell us which programs, in your view, are the most successful in the state.  If possible, also include sources for additional information on specific programs.

 

 

Appendix B: The Federal Interagency Committee on Education

 

"The function of this committee is to study and make recommendations for assuring effective coordination of Federal programs, policies, and administrative practices affecting education. The membership includes the Secretary of Education, or his designee, who chairs the Committee, and senior policy making officials from those Federal agencies, commissions, and boards that the President may find appropriate. OMB, the Council of Economic Advisors, the Office of Science and Technology policy and the Domestic Policy Staff designate a staff member to attend the Committee's meetings. The Secretary recommends member agencies to the President.

 

Contact: Anthony Fowler, Acting Executive Director (202) 401-3673 "

[This is one of 16 committees in the U.S. Department of Education. copied/pasted on Nov. 17, 2007 at http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/com.html]