In this study, we set out to investigate whether model-based teaching can have an influence on the interest, attitudes, and confidence levels of high school physics students compared to their traditionally instructed counterparts, and particularly whether there were any differences by gender. Statistical analysis of students' self-reported pre/post instruction problem solving confidence levels indicated that students who learned about electricity through model-based instruction experienced significantly greater gains in their levels of confidence about scientific reasoning. We also conducted an exploratory survey which indicated that the students in the model-based classes, particularly the females, gave responses to a science learning survey that were significantly more positive than students in the control group in regard to four factors: interest in science, use of imagery, the experience of active learning, and curiosity about science. The purpose of this exploratory study was to generate interesting hypotheses. It is hypothesized that the latter four differences originated in the whole class discussions during which students in the model-based classes were encouraged to cooperatively generate, evaluate and modify their explanatory models, and that the four differences led to deeper comprehension and consequently higher confidence in conceptual problem solving. Research indicates females are less likely than males to pursue post-secondary study and careers in STEM disciplines. We hope that this study and further studies in the future may contribute to finding solutions to this inequity.
In this study, we analyzed the participation of teachers and students during their co-construction of explanatory models for concepts in circuit electricity in two high school physics classes. While students in both teachers’ classes experienced comparable levels of impressive pre to post-instructional test gain differences over controls, analysis of class discussions showed that considerable differences existed between the two groups in the ratios of student-to-teacher contributions to the development of explanatory models. Applying a new cognitive framework for the analysis of classroom dialogue (Williams & Clement, 2015), teacher and student contributions at the non-formal reasoning level were coded into model construction process categories of: referring to observations (O), generating explanatory models to explain phenomena (G), evaluating models currently under discussion (E), and making modifications to these models (M). This analysis based on the OGEM modeling processes made it possible to categorize each teacher and student contribution and to describe the specifics of how the model co-construction process was shared in each classroom. Ratios of teacher to student contributions in each category differed markedly between the two teachers. We conclude that teachers may vary in their styles and degrees of participation in model co-construction processes and still produce similar gains in conceptual understanding. We hypothesize that what remains most important is their ability to foster students’ engagement in the four key processes of modeling.