Preservice teachers value modeling workshops


Modeling workshops at Arizona State University attract a few preservice teachers each summer. At Florida International University (FIU) and at California State University - Fresno, graduate and undergraduate students regularly attend modeling workshops.


Modeling workshops are greatly valued by preservice teachers. Here is evidence compiled by Jane Jackson. (Probably the FIU and Fresno workshop organizers have evidence, too.)


See also the compilation “student teacher in Modeling Instruction classroom” at .



Physics Modeling Workshop: Reflections of preservice teachers in summer 2000:

Transcripts from interviews by Susan Haag <>, an education researcher, on Aug. 2, 2000 (3rd week of the 18-day modeling workshop in mechanics)


Three PRESERVICE Teachers

Teacher #1: I am a pre-service student.  I think this program (or this course, PHY480) has helped me greatly.  I think that after taking the modeling course I feel more confident teaching physics and I know that I can be more effective in transmitting the information to young students.  What I like about modeling is the students participate in discussions and questioning other students.  There is also cooperation among students.  The instructors for this class have been great in guiding the students and maintaining an open atmosphere in the classroom.  I have taught adults, but I have not as yet taught younger students.


Teacher #2: This course has shown me two things:

 - I am a non-Newtonian thinker

 - There is hope

Taking the FCI & MBT the first day of class was a devastating experience for me.  I have probably come to understand physics better in these 3 weeks than I did in 3 years of physics courses.  The hope is in the form of these support networks that the modeling program provides.  The material and ideas would have taken me forever to develop on my own. I plan on attending every modeling workshop that I can.


Teacher #3: I have found the modeling workshop to be a good tool for promoting physics reform.  I am currently a student in the physics education program at ASU and I have had classes which took the traditional approach as well as the modeling approach.

     The modeling classes I had were taught by Dwain Desbien at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.  The course was completely different than any class I had previously experienced.  I was very uncomfortable in the beginning, wondering if I would learn anything.  I was waiting for the right answer and the instructor would not give it.  Eventually, the comfort level did rise and it was okay to be wrong.  We discussed amongst ourselves what we were finding and we found we did not need equations or books, we could use our graphs and self-developed formulas to solve the presented situations.  The following year, I continued in physics at ASU.  The format was straight lecture, book and list of equations.  I found I got much more out of the modeling format and learned more than my ASU classes combined. 



Weekly reflections of a preservice teacher:

Here are excerpts from weekly reflections of a pre-service teacher who took two Modeling Workshops in summer 2003 and then student-taught in a public school in Flagstaff, Arizona in fall 2003. Her cooperating teacher, David Thompson, is a modeler who received the NSTA Shell Award a few years previously. (For her complete report, please e-mail


WEEK 1:  I’m going to sound like an advertisement for the modeling workshops, but I think I was able to jump right into working with the students and lesson planning because of those workshops. ...

     I really have to credit the research behind the modeling workshops because a lot of the things I was told would happen, really do happen.  The fact that the students are resistant to taking a more active role in their learning at first and some of the common misconceptions they have were brought out over and over again in the workshop so I wasn’t caught off guard by anything (yet – I know it’s bound to happen). ...It was also really cool to be able to talk to my cooperating teacher about lesson planning with this group and actually be able to contribute a lot of ideas and create a lot of activities and assignments based on the physical science modeling workshop. ...

     Student teaching with a modeler is great because it is helping reinforce some of the ideas and methodologies I picked up during the workshops. 


WEEK 2: I can see even more of the benefit of the modeling workshops now!  I can’t imagine how lost I’d be without them!


WEEK 6: ... Our CIT [freshman physics] students are really starting to shine and come into their own at this point.  The biggest pleasure for me is watching the girls, especially the more quiet Native American ones, start to get things.  Then their confidence starts building and they start participating more and more. ...

     I am reassuringly comfortable with the CIT material because it is all the material that I just covered in the modeling workshops this last summer and I picked up all kinds of great tools to help

guide students to a deeper conceptual understanding of mechanics concepts.  I feel confident that I can explain things to students and help them get through their misconceptions.


WEEK 8: I received the best 'evaluation' I could ever hope to receive this week.  Dave was going through his mid-semester evaluation with me and he said the best way he could put it is that he would want his own child to be in my class.  I know how high his standards are, so hearing that almost made me faint from shock!

     I do have full control of the freshman class now – lesson planning and all.  I’m really having a blast with it!


(Update in July 2005: This new teacher taught physics and physical science for two years in Flagstaff; she returned for more Modeling Workshops in summers 2004 and 2005. In summer 2005, she took the chemistry modeling workshop to prepare to teach chemistry at the high school to which she was moving, out of state. (Her experienced chemistry colleague at the Flagstaff high school took the chemistry modeling workshop too, because of "the superb physics program at our school", she wrote.)   This new teacher is thriving as a result of her modeling workshops.)