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Developing + Using Models in Physics

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Science Teacher Volume 80, Number 6, ISSN 0036-8555


Of the eight practices of science identified in "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" (NRC 2012), helping students develop and use models has been identified by many as an anchor (Schwarz and Passmore 2012; Windschitl 2012). In instruction, disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and scientific practices can be meaningfully situated around modeling. But helping students develop and use models can be difficult for science teachers who've had few opportunities to develop and use models themselves. Using models can lead students to deeper understandings of scientific concepts, practices of science, the nature of science, and the ability to explain phenomena and solve problems (Khan 2011; Louca, Zacharia, and Constantinou 2011). "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" (NRC 2012) describes how models help scientists to visualize and better understand what they are investigating. Further, "[i]t is important for students to construct models that explain phenomena, show how their models are consistent with their evidence, and explain the limitations of those models" (Krajcik and Merritt 2012, p. 7). Each article in this issue of "The Science Teacher" addresses important starting points for helping students develop and use models, grounding instruction around scientifically rich, often complex natural phenomena. "The Next Generation Science Standards" ("NGSS") (Achieve 2013) describes models as diagrams, physical replicas, mathematical representations, analogies, and computer simulations. The focus of the authors in this article however, is narrower. They define models as a set of ideas about how something in the world works. They have focused on eliciting students' understanding of models through iteratively refined depictions or external representations as they develop explanations about specific phenomena. Over the last several years, these authors have used modeling modules across the high school physics curriculum. This article presents easily implementable examples of these modules that can be used in physics classrooms or as exemplars to help identify similar examples in other science disciplines.


Campbell, T., Neilson, D. & Oh, P.S. (2013). Developing + Using Models in Physics. Science Teacher, 80(6), 35-41. Retrieved May 6, 2021 from .

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