Using the Modelling Approach in Physics

Using the Modelling Approach in Physics - A Model-Centered...

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A Model-Centered Approach to High School Physics an invited paper by David Braunschweig, just retired from Madison West HS, Madison, WI. AAPT Summer Meeting: 1997 (edited 4/98) Download this paper as a pdf file. When I began teaching, I used the same textbook that I had learned from in high school: Modern Physics . Of course, I began by trying to "cover" all the material. It didn't take too long for me to begin to feel uncomfortable with that approach. I tried several other books and finally settled on the PSSC text. A few years later my high school began offering two physics classes - one using the PSSC text and the other using Project Physics . During this time we were also involved in modular scheduling and learning packets. The 80's brought computers and interfacing. Now, block scheduling appears to be the experiment of choice. So in my 35 years of teaching I have seen many different approaches to education as a whole and in physics in particular. My journey to modeling probably began in 1981 when I attended my first AAPT Summer Meeting. It exposed me to more physics teachers and what was happening in physics education. One of the workshops I attended was on using computers in the classroom; that marked the start of my own use of them. The next big impact for me was the 1985 PTRA program which put me in contact with even more physics teachers. The PTRA program gave me lots of good materials to use in my classroom, but perhaps most importantly as I look back, it encouraged me to start reading the literature about physics pedagogy. I had avoided that because many of my education courses had been terrible. I just concentrated on the physics concepts. One of the approaches that came from the PTRA program that I used to work on misconceptions was discrepant events. However, I gave up on the approach quickly because when I asked my students to predict what they thought would happen in a demonstration, it didn't take very long before their explanation would become, "Well, I think 'A' is going to happen, but because my predictions are always wrong I know it is going to be 'B'." That was their only defense for their predictions, and that never happens with modeling. They can now give me very good reasons why they think something has to happen, based on the models that we have developed. My next step toward modeling came in the late 80's. I was fortunate to work in the LabNet program where the ULI was being developed and MBL tools were being used to work on the physics misconceptions. I followed it with the Project PhysLab workshop in Portland, Oregon, which gave me a good familiarity with all of the MBL materials. Now my curriculum was based on using MBLs, particularly Real-Time Physics in mechanics and the CASTLE materials for electricity. My students really were making progress in correcting their misconceptions. But after several Real-Time units or CASTLE units, I would get comments from them like, "Why are you killing all of these trees? There are so many hand-outs. And all the fill-in-the-blanks. And all of these questions to answer." But I kept
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