I am a second career teacher, moving from science research to teaching a few years ago. Since becoming a science teacher, I have taught biology, chemistry, physics and physical science, mostly in a large urban school district. I am currently teaching chemistry in a large urban high school to students who come primarily from working class or poor backgrounds.
I became aware of and eventually an advocate of modeling by taking a summer modeling workshop while preparing to shift from teaching biology to chemistry. One of the things that thrilled me about the “Modeling” curriculum is the way that it allows students to learn in a style that parallels the practice of science. Since becoming a teacher, I was dismayed by the manner in which the standard lecture and notes; demonstrations and cookbook labs distort the students’ impression of science as well as limiting their ability to understand important foundational laws and theories of science.
What I see as the most important structure of the “Modeling Curriculum” is the goal of setting up situations (through lab experiments and other activities) where the students are brought into conflict with their incorrect preconceptions about how the world works. Once the student has experienced the limitations of their preconceptions to explain the results they see in the lab, they are ready to develop a new understanding. The teacher’s role is then to set-up the situation that will bring the student to examine their preconceptions and then to guide the student to collect and analyze observable evidence, to develop a student-constructed understanding of scientific principles correlating with current knowledge.