Arizona State University Modeling Instruction and Master of Natural Science Programs


“I teach in a very high needs school in Phoenix. Due to an extreme shortage, they asked me to teach physics. ASU Modeling Workshops have been an incredible resource for me; my administrators are constantly impressed by my teaching methods and I owe it all to modeling.”

-- Arizona teacher

Program Type

Teacher Development/Training

Target Audience

Teachers/Educational Leaders




Grades 6 - 8
Grades 9 - 12

 Accomplished link

Program Impact

Since 2000, the ASU Modeling Instruction Program has served more than 1000 teachers and benefited a million students. Nearly 10% of physics teachers nationwide use Modeling Instruction. It received the 2014 Excellence in Physics Education Award by the American Physical Society. Student achievement on tests of concept understanding is typically double that of traditional instruction. Models and theories are the purpose and the outcomes of scientific practices. They are the tools for engineering design and problem solving. Thus, modeling guides all other practices.


Program Overview

The Master of Natural Science (MNS) degree and the Modeling Instruction Program are two innovative and successful approaches to science teacher development in Arizona. At a time when most of the state’s physical science teachers are teaching out of field, these programs improve learning and achievement of K-12 students in science and mathematics by providing model-centered professional development for teachers in grades 8 through 12.

Instead of relying on lectures and textbooks, Modeling Instruction emphasizes active student construction of conceptual and mathematical models in an interactive learning community. Teachers engage students with simple scenarios where students learn to model the physical world. Modeling instruction emphasizes experimental design. It develops students’ ability to analyze data, reach a conclusion, and defend that conclusion. Other 21st century skills developed include scientific use of computers and probeware, teamwork, and verbal and written communication skills. Students become self-directed, independent learners

ASU Modeling Instruction provides teachers nine distinct 90-hour Modeling Workshops in physics, chemistry, and physical science with mathematics. The MNS degree with concentration in physics adds eleven more courses in interdisciplinary science and contemporary physics.

ASU is committed to social and cultural embeddedness in Arizona. Our programs primarily serve Arizona, but teachers worldwide participate. Ultimately, our programs serve the public good. For information, visit: and

How To Get Involved

Support for the ASU Modeling Instruction Program will help alleviate a chronic shortage of qualified physics and physical science teachers in Arizona, providing needed research-validated professional development each summer for more than 50 Arizona teachers of physical sciences.  A $1900 donation provides program support or a tuition scholarship for a three-week summer Modeling Workshop. Investments in the program prepare out-of-field “cross-over” teachers, ensuring that schools continue offering physics. Currently, only 20% of Arizona students take physics, compared with almost 40% nationwide. Physics is the foundation of all sciences, engineering, and technology -- and the chief STEM career pathway. The economic health of Arizona and of physics-related companies depends on a strong K-12 education that includes a robust physics course.

Funders and Partners

The ASU Modeling Instruction and MNS programs are funded by The Boeing Company, Salt River Project, Arizona Technology Council, and individuals. Former funders include the National Science Foundation, ESEA Title II-A “Improving Teacher Quality” Program, Knowles Foundation, Cheng Foundation. The scale-up national partner is the American Modeling Teachers Association (AMTA), formed in 2005 to ensure sustainability of Modeling Instruction and expand it to more sciences and to middle school. Other partners include science education researchers, Arizona Science Education Leadership Association (AzSELA), American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). A list is at


Jane Jackson, Co-Director, Modeling Instruction Program

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Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.