Modeling Physics

Modeling Physics

Jun 19, 2012

MODELING PHYSICS: We're big fans of this professional development video featuring high school physics instructor, Mr. Seth Guiñals-Kupperman. Like our first DILO (Day In The Life Of) teacher, Mr. Greg Schwanbeck, Mr. Kupperman is a big fan of inquiry-based physics instruction, particularly modeling likely outcomes. Unlike conventional lectures that start with a conclusion, he says, he begins by posing a question. "Students don't even know the answer to it until they're done with the experiment." Such an open-ended approach, which aims to nudge students to overlay physics models on the world around them, sounds simple enough, but properly scaffolding the process can be tricky. To promote the "interactive engagement" he craves, Mr. Kupperman employs some low-tech edtech -- a whiteboard.

But instead of asking one or more students come to the front of the class to work through problems, Mr. Kupperman distributes a medium-sized whiteboard and a single marker that all members of a group must share. This moves each student's thought process from isolation (individual worksheets) to dynamic interaction, which is easy for Mr. Kupperman to observe. In the end, each group explains its problem-solving process while standing in a big circle while Mr. Kupperman stands outside of it. The result? A democratic dialogue on how and why each group's solution is correct or incorrect. Speaking to each other not only reinforces ideas but clarifies concepts for their peers who receive it differently than they would coming from an authority figure. Be sure to watch the 12-minute clip in its entirety to get a full understanding of the process. If you're already intimate with the modeling approach, you may find other gems of wisdom on the hosting site, Teachers' Domain, which offers an amazing set of digital media and professional development resources for the classroom.

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