Modeling… no, not that kind of modeling

So the workshop at the conference led to me taking a 3 week class in Modeling for Physics Teachers.  IT WAS INCREDIBLE.  Can I say that any more clearly?

Ok so the name isn’t great – but it has meaning.  Whatever you teach (fill in the blank), ask yourself are you training your students to be a ___________ teacher, or something else?  If you want your students to all become teachers, then keep doing what you always have done.  You know, the way your teacher did it!

I asked myself this question and thought well it would be cool if all my students wanted to be engineers.  That would prove I was a physics teaching rock star!  And damn my administrators would tell everyone how “amazing” I was and the other teachers might even be a bit jealous of my prowess.  Hmmm – sound narcissistic?  It is.  Come on – there is a little bit of Napoleon and/or Bart Simpson in all of us.

When I stopped dreaming and asked myself that question a second time, I decided what most of us want are kids who are nice people who can think well enough to become what they want to be in this world.  If a few become particle physicists – cool – but whatever.  So why was I pandering to the fantasy above and the rhetoric of what I know to be total garbage? Why had I bought into the myth painted with veiled threats that students would benefit from a  standardized education?  I have not met a teacher or student yet who says “Yes, those standardized tests are everything to me!”  Perhaps the ACT is important, but we can talk about that later.

So now that I am ready to stand on the soap box and risk it all:


So here is where MODELING and SBG comes in.  What do you want kids to be able to do?  What should they be able to perform when they leave you?  Can they teach your subject?  Perhaps… and that’s good because?  I want my kids to know what a scientist DOES, not jump through the “memorize all the words in the textbook” hoop that we had to to jump through which another “scientist who didn’t actually become a scientist” wrote.

So could your kids be a historian?  An interpreter?  An actuary? A profitable blogger?  The person who cures cancer?

Modeling instruction is just that.  MODEL the skills you want them to have and then use a standards based system to GRADE the skills you want your kids to have, let the content be the context.

So how the heck do you do it?

Imagine a physics class where the instructor never gave you any formulas.  Imagine being a teacher that could escort your students through the journey to find out the formula for themselves.  And then imagine this all fueling actual thinking in your students’ brains.  Its glorious!  I highly reccomend visiting the website and further recommend actually finding a workshop.  But if there is an interest here in describing what you can start doing to try and make a change I would be glad to give you some ideas. 


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