Modeling Momentum: Student Reflections

I recently blogged about my first large-scale implementation of modeling with my higher level physics students. After that experience I had them write a reflection. To be honest, I was looking more along the lines of ‘did they get it,’ and I was thinking of using reflections as the way to assess the modeling process; this was a sort of test-run for that idea. However, because I was (purposefully) vague in what I wanted from the reflections, I found out more about the modeling process than I did about my students’ understanding. Turns out that is pretty awesome.

The Positive

I’ll start with some of the positive comments, with screenshots below.

The next student stated that she didn’t get as much out of the modeling process itself as she felt she could have. However, she liked the culmination of looking at the model from a theory perspective (deriving conservation of momentum using Newton’s 2nd and 3rd laws), which they again did on their own;

A couple of students noted that they felt like they were doing ‘real’ science by participating in modeling;

A couple of students noted that they were frustrated during the process but saw the value in hindsight;

There were a few ‘meta’ comments, where students explored the bigger picture, realizing that we were learning much more than simple conservation of momentum through the process;

It was also interesting that a number of students connected modeling with goal-less problems, of which I have only done a few. I’ll be looking more into those in the future, that much is certain!


Both students above were in groups that struggled (if I remember correctly). One of my goals in the future is to figure out how to stimulate those couple of groups who seem to quickly hit a wall. I do think that one aspect of that is that this was really my first full-scale, set them loose model building process, and that is not always going to go well, especially with very concrete learners. This was pointed out by one other comment;


I like the above thought a lot. In fact, I am now planning on modeling central forces next, and I think I am going to do some jigsawing by having certain groups test radius and others mass, then mix them to compare results. Post coming eventually on that!

I value this student’s thoughts; however, part of the larger value of Modeling Instruction is teaching students to learn for themselves, as pointed out by a student earlier (the ‘meta’ comment). It is my hope that a student with this viewpoint can come to see the value of starting from scratch, because it’s not just about the concept of momentum; it’s about doing science.

Lastly, one student did in fact include his Awesome Modeling Comic, which I couldn’t possibly leave out.

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