Modeling and AP Physics

I thought I’d begin posting some thoughts on teaching AP Physics with the modeling philosophy. . .

This is the topic of an invited talk I’ll be giving later this summer at the AAPT Summer Meeting. David Jones is the other speaker on this topic.

The cornerstone of this approach is the paradigm lab. The successful paradigm lab is what changes the classroom climate. In the paradigm lab, teachers set students up for success as scientists.

The paradigm lab sequence works like this:

  • Demonstration by the teacher.
  • Brainstormed observations by the whole class.
  • Identification of testable variables by the whole class.
  • Small group investigation of the variables.
  • Small group report of findings.
  • Consensus reached by whole class.

During this process the teacher is the leader, and the teacher attitude helps create the student buy-in that is necessary to the process. The teacher has to get the students to believe that they can be successful as student-scientists, that the process is important, and that the analysis of the results is the way for the class to move forward.

This is a sort of fiction, really. The students recognize that they are not doing cutting edge science, and that the teacher could just tell them how the lab is supposed to turn out. That’s why the teacher attitude is so important. I’m not much of an actor, but a certain role-playing ability is necessary to being an effective teacher.  If the teacher doesn’t appear to be interested in what the students propose and in their findings, the students won’t invest in the process.

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One Response to Modeling and AP Physics

  1. Desmond Frost says:

    I am very interested to hear more about this.

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