Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 114–124 | Cite as

The Effects of a Model-Based Physics Curriculum Program with a Physics First Approach: a Causal-Comparative Study

  • Ling L. LiangEmail author
  • Gavin W. Fulmer
  • David M. Majerich
  • Richard Clevenstine
  • Raymond Howanski


The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of a model-based introductory physics curriculum on conceptual learning in a Physics First (PF) Initiative. This is the first comparative study in physics education that applies the Rasch modeling approach to examine the effects of a model-based curriculum program combined with PF in the United States. Five teachers and 301 students (in grades 9 through 12) in two mid-Atlantic high schools participated in the study. The students’ conceptual learning was measured by the Force Concept Inventory (FCI). It was found that the ninth-graders enrolled in the model-based program in a PF initiative achieved substantially greater conceptual understanding of the physics content than those 11th-/12th-graders enrolled in the conventional non-modeling, non-PF program (Honors strand). For the 11th-/12th-graders enrolled in the non-PF, non-honors strands, the modeling classes also outperformed the conventional non-modeling classes. The instructional activity reports by students indicated that the model-based approach was generally implemented in modeling classrooms. A closer examination of the field notes and the classroom observation profiles revealed that the greatest inconsistencies in model-based teaching practices observed were related to classroom interactions or discourse. Implications and recommendations for future studies are also discussed.


Physics education Model-based physics curriculum Introductory physics courses Conceptual learning Physics first Rasch measurement 



The authors would like to thank all participating teachers and students in the member schools of the Math Science Partnership of Greater Philadelphia (MSPGP). In addition, we want to thank Jane Jackson, David Hestenes, Xiufeng Liu, Steven Kramer, Joseph Merlino, Victor Donnay, Deborah Pomeroy, Laurie Bernotsky, Donna Cleland, and other MSPGP research team members, for their support and valuable input regarding this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ling L. Liang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gavin W. Fulmer
    • 2
  • David M. Majerich
    • 3
  • Richard Clevenstine
    • 4
  • Raymond Howanski
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of EducationLa Salle UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.National Science FoundationArlingtonUSA
  3. 3.Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Ridley School DistrictFolsomUSA

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