Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Physics course named among best in the nation

KINGSVILLE - September 15, 2006

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361-593-4143

A two-part Texas A&M University-Kingsville physics course has been named among the top physics courses in the nation by the College Board, a non-profit association made up of more than 5,000 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations across the country.

Attributes of the Texas A&M-Kingsville course were identified among the best in the country through a College Board Advanced Placement (AP) study to identify those college courses that exemplify best practices in subject areas tested by AP.

College Physics I/College Physics II, taught by Dr. Dan Suson, professor and chair of the physics/geosciences department, was among 139 courses submitted for the study. Five of the 139 courses were fully endorsed as “best practices” courses. Suson’s course was among another group of five that were endorsed as having attributes of a “best practices” course.

Suson has taught the undergraduate course for about 13 years to mostly juniors and seniors. He said he was surprised and pleased when he heard the news. “ I've put a lot of energy into this class, but I've seen other faculty work on their classes just as hard,” he remarked.

He added that the national recognition emphasizes the caliber of the entire department. “ I hope that this helps others recognize the quality of the faculty in our department, both in physics and in the geosciences. Our department is viewed by some as a diamond in the rough. We have outstanding people, but are so often overshadowed by the bigger departments found at larger universities. It's nice to see that we more than hold our own” in comparison with departments nationwide, he said.

The Center for Educational Policy Research (CEPR) conducted the study on behalf of the College Board with the goal of updating AP content and examinations. The study results also will be used to recommend changes in teaching high school AP courses so that the proper content focus is emphasized and, more importantly, the crucial attitudes and skills necessary to thrive in a college classroom are systematically developed.

According to the CEPR, best practices courses were identified through a panel of national experts, who analyzed top courses from a wide range of institutions. The panel reviewed the nominated courses and identified the critical components of best practices present in each course. The College Board then convened a commission in physics to develop new AP course descriptions, new AP exam specifications and professional development guidelines for AP teachers. The commission, which is meeting over the current academic year, will utilize the study’s findings as a key resource to fulfill its charge. The final result of the commission’s work will be AP courses that closely reflect the best practices of college courses in physics.

The CEPR noted the significance of the time, energy and effort that Suson gave to the study. His participation included completing a number of extensive questionnaires, along with delivering copies of all his lecture notes and materials developed for the year-long class.

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