Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




George Smeaton


A basic knowledge of physics concepts is the gateway to success through high-paying careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Many students show little understanding of concepts following traditional physics instruction. As an alternative to current lecture-based approaches for high school physics instruction, Piaget's theory of cognitive development supports using real scientific experiences to lead learners from concrete to formal understanding of complex concepts. Modeling instruction (MI) is a pedagogy that guides learners through genuine scientific experiences. This project study analyzed the effects of MI on 9th grade physics students' gains on the test measuring mastery of physics concepts, Force Concept Inventory (FCI). A quasi-experimental design was used to compare the FCI scores of a traditional lecture-taught control group to a treatment group taught using MI. A t test t(-.201) = 180.26, p = .841 comparing the groups and an analysis of variance F(2,181) = 5.20 comparing female to male students indicated MI had no significant positive effect on students. A partial eta squared of the effect size showed that 5.4% of the variance in FCI gains was accounted for by gender, favoring female participants for both groups. The significant relationship between content and gender bears further inquiry. A lesson plan guide was designed to help teachers use computer simulation technology within the MI curriculum. The project promotes positive social change by exploring further ways to help adolescents experience success in physics at the beginning of high school, leading to future success in all STEM areas.