The Modeling Method: a Synopsis

The Modeling Method has been developed to correct many weaknesses of the traditional lecture-demonstration method, including the fragmentation of knowledge, student passivity, and the persistence of naive beliefs about the physical world.

Coherent Instructional Objectives

  • To engage students in understanding the physical world by constructing and using scientific models to describe, to explain, to predict and to control physical phenomena.
  • To provide students with basic conceptual tools for modeling physical objects and processes, especially mathematical, graphical and diagrammatic representations.
  • To familiarize students with a small set of basic models as the content core of physics.
  • To develop insight into the structure of scientific knowledge by examining how models fit into theories.
  • To show how scientific knowledge is validated by engaging students in evaluating scientific models through comparison with empirical data.
  • To develop skill in all aspects of modeling as the procedural core of scientific knowledge.

Student-Centered Instructional Design

  • Instruction is organized into modeling cycles which move students through all phases of model development, evaluation and application in concrete situations — thus promoting an integrated understanding of modeling processes and acquisition of coordinated modeling skills.
  • The teacher sets the stage for student activities, typically with a demonstration and class discussion to establish common understanding of a question to be asked of nature. Then, in small groups, students collaborate in planning and conducting experiments to answer or clarify the question.
  • Students are required to present and justify their conclusions in oral and/or written form, including a formulation of models for the phenomena in question and evaluation of the models by comparison with data.
  • Technical terms and concepts are introduced by the teacher only as they are needed to sharpen models, facilitate modeling activities and improve the quality of discourse.
  • The teacher is prepared with a definite agenda for student progress and guides student inquiry and discussion in that direction with “Socratic” questioning and remarks.
  • The teacher is equipped with a taxonomy of typical student misconceptions to be addressed as students are induced to articulate, analyze and justify their personal beliefs.