Teaching and Learning via the Network

The CASTLE Project

Project Number 20 - 1994

Dr. Camille L. Wainwright
Assistant Professor
Pacific University
2043 College Way
Forest Grove, OR 97116
(503) 359-2205
Fax: (503) 359-2907


Other Individuals And Organizations Associated With The Project

Dr. Melvin Steinberg
Smith College
Clark Science Center
Northampton, MA 01063
(413) 585-3884
Fax: (413) 585-3786


Dr. Marvin Nelson
Physics Instructor
Green River Community College
12401 SE 320th St.
Auburn, WA 98002-3699
(206) 833-9111
Fax: (206) 939-5135


Camille L. Wainwright
Biographical summary: Camille Wainwright is a science educator and Director of Teacher Education at Pacific University, with several decades of classroom teaching experience in the physical sciences at the high school and college levels. As one of the original authors of the CASTLE curriculum, she also served as the editor for the project. She holds numerous awards for exemplary teaching, has developed software and print curriculum projects, and has coordinated many science education grant projects. Currently Dr. Wainwright serves as the Director of Teacher Education and teaches mathematics and science methods courses as well as courses in the physics department.

Melvin Steinberg
Biographical summary: Melvin Steinberg is a physics professor at Smith College, with a strong interest in science education. He served as the Project Director for the CASTLE development grant and has been a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Committee on Research in Physics Education. Dr. Steinberg has presented paper at numerous AAPT meetings, interacts with the community involved with research on misconceptions, and has provided many training sessions for Physics Teacher Resource Agents (PTRA).

Marvin Nelson
Biographical summary: Marvin Nelson served as one of the original authors of the CASTLE Project, and has participated in providing CASTLE presentations and training workshops for more than four years. He has been active in the development of physics curriculum and courses, is a leader in the collaborative Seattle-area physics teachers group, and has served on the American Association of Physics Teachers Committee for Community Colleges as well as numerous other leadership positions.


The CASTLE Curriculum (Capacitor-Aided System for Teacher and Learning Electricity) was developed for teachers who want to engage students' interest through hands-on investigation, overcome misconceptions that inhibit learning and reasoning, and foster development of effective explanatory models. It provides a complete laboratory-based teaching module that can replace the sections of electricity in all introductory physics courses -- undergraduate college level as well as high school.

The CASTLE curriculum emphasizes circuits because they provide settings for inquiry that are intensely interesting for students with varied learning styles and are well-suited to the development of intuitive mental models. Instructors report that the CASTLE activities foster an enthusiasm for physics, and field testing research has shown that the investigations and curriculum design raise student confidence levels -- dramatically so for females. The Program Effectiveness Panel of the National Diffusion Network (Department of Education) has identified this as a proven exemplary science project.

This curriculum evolved from a three-year NSF grant which was initially funded in 1990 (MDR #9050189). The development team consisted of 14 authors who were all actively teaching physics at either the college or high school level. The team met together at the same site only one week each year during the three years of development. All other communication and collaboration was facilitated electronically by means of phone, fax and e-mail. The completed curriculum is currently distributed nationwide by PASCO Scientific, Inc. along with the ancillary equipment kit. Collaboration within the team continues, however.

Electronic mail now supports the vibrant interactions of the many instructors across the nation who are implementing this curriculum in their schools; they share teaching tips, management suggestions and have ongoing discussions resulting in recommendations for further refinement of the curriculum. In addition, the collaboration has lead the preparation of several manuscripts, conference presentations and proposals for funding future instructor training workshops.

The number of college courses utilizing the CASTLE curriculum is expanding rapidly with the growth of awareness and respect for this novel approach. Student evaluations are enthusiastic, containing remarks such as "this is the way I like to learn science", and "I not only learned electricity, I feel like I learned how to think!" A snapshot of the course would show the students actively engaged in constructing and discussing circuits, questioning each other's hypotheses, and challenging their own thought processes through a "predict-observe-explain" model that encourages reflection and metacognition.

Project Criteria

The development and continuing refinement of the CASTLE project has been accomplished through the rich interaction and collaboration of many physics professionals, facilitated by electronic communication. The entire Resource Book -- including Laboratory Manual, Instructor's Guide, and Homework/Test Bank -- was developed using electronic media. The layout of the text was processed with desktop publishing software, over 500 diagrams were prepared with graphics software, additional artwork was scanned in, and communication was constantly maintained among the writing team electronically. Research results were statistically analyzed and distributed via computer network and have formed the basis of continued refinement of the project. In the current phase, e-mail provides a support system for instructors interested in and those implementing the curriculum.

The evidence of the effectiveness of the project is overwhelming. A detailed evaluation of the achievement gains of students is available. Additionally, support for the project is represented by student requests for "another course like this one, where we learned by doing science", and by student teachers borrowing equipment kits and modifying segments of the curriculum for their middle school students so they can have the benefit of this unique approach to investigating electricity concepts.

The curriculum is marketed nationally and is available for adoption by any physics instructor; information on training workshops is available from members of the development team; anyone with an interest in teaching and learning electricity is encouraged to engage in the electronic dialog leading to further improvement of the project.

Additional information

The course titles/curriculum name and number of students reached per semester for a sample of undergraduate courses in which this curriculum is used is listed below. The CASTLE curriculum is being adopted by a constantly expanding number of college courses and high school courses as well. The list which follows is a representative but incomplete sample:

Pacific University:        Physics 155  Concepts of Electricity
Pacific University:     Ed 342, Ed 543  Science Methods for Elementary 
Smith College                  Ph 216b  General Physics
Smith College:                  Ph 311  The Teaching of Physics
Green River Community College:  Ph 101  Concepts of the Physical World
Green River Community College   Ph 111  Applied Physics
Chaffey Community College:      Ph 111  Fundamentals of Physics
Maine Maritime Academy:         PS 201  Technical Physics II

Also courses at Ohio State Univ., Univ. of North Carolina and numerous other colleges and universities.

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