So you’re enrolled in a course that uses Modeling Instruction and you’re looking for more information. Well, you’ve come to the right location. Below you will find information about the strengths of Modeling Instruction, as well at tips for how you can help you succeed.

For years, leaders in the Physics Education Research community like David Hestenes, Emeritus Professor of Physics at ASU, have recognized that the traditional lecture-demonstration mode of instruction is ineffective. Students can memorize procedures to get “the right answer” when they encounter problems like the ones they have practiced working, but they flounder when they run into word problems which demand a real understanding of the concepts behind the formulas. Hestenes concluded that students learn best when they are guided to construct their own understanding of the essential ideas. Working with Malcolm Wells, an experienced high school teacher, he helped to develop Modeling Instruction, an approach that emphasizes the construction and application of conceptual models as a way of learning and doing science.

Your instructor is one of thousands nationwide who has most likely attended (or is working closely with someone who attended) an intense summer workshop to learn how to implement this instructional approach. One of the key components is to avoid “teaching by telling”; instead the instructor guides students to a deep understanding of the principles by asking leading questions and encouraging discussion among the students in class. If you are used to viewing the instructor as the “source of knowledge” you might find this approach uncomfortable at first. But after a while, most students come to appreciate being in a class where the instructor encourages them to express their own ideas by asking, “How do you know that?” and “Why do you think that?” Research shows that students in a class where they are actively engaged consistently outperform those in traditional classes.

So, don’t get frustrated when your instructor answers your question with a question. He or she is simply trying to get you to think the matter through on your own. You will find that, in the long run, your ability to frame a thoughtful question or convincingly express your position during a discussion will be far more useful than being able to spout back “factons” that you have memorized.  Talk to your instructor about your feelings about the class – you will find that he or she is genuinely interested in a dialogue with you. Eventually, you will come to wish that all of your courses were taught in this manner.

Here is a short video that might be of use to you in understanding the learning environment to expect in a Modeling Instruction classroom

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