ASU Modeling Instruction in High School Physics & Chemistry: Annual Report

Posted in: Partner News
January 13, 2017
To: AZ Tech Council  Workforce Development & Education Committee colleagues
From: Jane Jackson, Co-Director, ASU Modeling Instruction
Subject: 2016 annual report on ASU Modeling Workshops

      The Modeling Instruction Program in the ASU Department of Physics has addressed a severe shortage of qualified physics teachers in Arizona since 1998, even while the number of local physics teachers doubled. Since 2005 we have addressed a shortage of local chemistry teachers as well. A surplus of biology teachers exists, and we have prepared many of them to teach chemistry and/or physics.
Physics is STEM! Physics is a true STEM course, when Modeling Instruction is used. It includes more math, technology, and engineering than any other  high school science course.
        High school physics is the chief pathway to STEM majors in college. A student who takes active learning (hands-on, minds-on) high school physics, such as Modeling Instruction, is three times more likely to earn a STEM degree than a student whose last high school science course was chemistry. (See for references). Physics is the foundation of all sciences, engineering and technology. Thus, Arizona’s economic health depends on a strong K-12 education that includes robust physics courses.
        Modeling Instruction began in the 1980’s, developed by ASU professor David Hestenes and Malcolm Wells, a veteran physics teacher at Marcos De Niza High School in Tempe. It corrects weaknesses of the traditional lecture-demonstration method, including fragmentation of knowledge, student passivity, and persistence of naive beliefs about the physical world. Courses are coherent, since they are organized around a small number of scientific models.
        Modeling Instruction is designated by the U.S. Department of Education as an Exemplary K-12 science program and a Promising K-12 Technology program. It was recognized with the 2014 Excellence in Physics Education Award of the American Physical Society (APS), the largest professional organization of physicists worldwide. Change the Equation designated the ASU Modeling Instruction Program and Master of Natural Science (MNS) degree program as ³Accomplished STEM Programs²: see Change the Equation, a coalition of Fortune 500 companies, is a critical resource for funders.

Actions for sustainability in 2015-16:
* Special recognition for first-time supporters Air Products and ON Semiconductor.

* Special recognition to long-time supporter Salt River Project and first-time supporter Western Alliance Bank (to finance a fall 2016 chemistry Modeling Workshop in the West Valley).

* Increased participation on Sun Devil Giving Day by 100% and raised  more than $2000 for scholarships. Teachers and the community that benefit from this program also support it!

Recent news stories:
* ASU Impact Magazine, fall 2016:  (& 2-minute video interview of Jane Jackson at
* Arizona Education News, Oct. 29, 2015: ASU alleviates physics teacher shortage, strengthens STEM pathway. 

ASU graduate courses in summer 2016:
    Enrollment increased: 76 physics and chemistry teachers — 63 in Arizona and 13 from out-of-state — participated in four peer-led Modeling Workshops and three other graduate courses.  Included were four teachers sent by the Ministry of Education in Singapore. This brings their total to 47 teachers in ten years. Singapore students have highest math and science scores in international tests; this is strong evidence for the high quality of Modeling Instruction.
        Our courses are for lifelong learning for teachers of high school and community college physics, chemistry, physical science and math. They can lead to a Master of Natural Science (MNS) degree. Since inception in 2001, 70 teachers have earned this degree. Physics professor Robert Culbertson has directed the MNS degree program since 2005.
     Courses are content-intensive; and integration of physics, chemistry, and math is emphasized. The ultimate target is not the teachers themselves but their students. Therefore each course addresses the subject at a level that prepares them to entice and inform their students.

     We are thankful for our two major donors, The Boeing Company and Salt River Project. Their donations for program support and partial tuition scholarships made our summer 2016 program possible. ASU tuition is unaffordable for most teachers. For 6 years, we have not been eligible for state grants, so we serve
half as many Arizona teachers, with one-fifth the budget. We are thankful for partial tuition scholarships provided also from donations by Air Products, ON Semiconductor, & numerous individuals, and payout from our scholarship endowment fund.

About Modeling Instruction:
     Modeling Instruction is an innovative, effective hands-on pedagogy: it is guided inquiry structured by modeling principles. It develops in students the ability to analyze data, reach a conclusion and defend it; and it emphasizes experiment design.  Other 21st century skills developed include scientific use of computers and probeware, teamwork, and verbal and written communication skills. Students become self-directed, independent learners. It is aligned with the National Research Council (NRC)’s Framework for K-12 Science Education, the research-based document upon which the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have been developed.
     Student achievement on tests of concept understanding is typically
double that of traditional instruction.  A modeler wrote, “One can only imagine the future of science if only we all could understand the power of modeling.”

Effect of ASU Modeling Instruction in Arizona:
  Since 1998, 1000 unique Arizona teachers have taken 15-day Modeling Workshops. We estimate that 100,000 Arizona students benefit each year.
     Modeling Instruction is used in many schools in Greater Phoenix; for example, Hamilton High School in Chandler USD, Red Mountain High School in Mesa USD, Mountain Pointe High School in Tempe UHSD, Arizona School for the Arts, Tempe Preparatory Academy, some Great Hearts Academies, Estrella Mountain Community College, and Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Our main school partner is Phoenix Union High School District.

* Information about our summer courses:
* Modeling Instruction resources, research, annual reports: .
* Would you like to contribute to the success of ASU Modeling Instruction and MNS programs by donating a partial tuition scholarship or contributing to our $1M endowment fund for teacher scholarships?
As of Nov. 2016, donations to our endowment fund are matched 1-for-1, thus doubling your investment. For advice, call Linda Raish, Assoc. Dir. Of Development: 480-727-2767.