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College of Science and Mathematics

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Website Update

Physics Professor Honored by American Physical Society

March 12, 2014


Randy Knight, who was recently elected as a fellow of the American Physical
Society, displays the textbook he wrote.

Election as a fellow of the American Physical Society is one of the highest honors a physicist's professional peers can confer. Only three Cal Poly faculty members have received this accolade, and Randy Knight, elected in 2013, is the third.

Fellows are recognized for exceptional contributions to physics. Knight was elected for his contributions to physics education. His textbooks Physics for Scientists and Engineers and College Physics were the first physics textbooks to take advantage of education research and cognitive psychology about how students learn physics.

In the 1980s, researchers found that traditional instruction often didn't change students' serious misconceptions about the physical world. Most instructors didn't know that their students had these fundamental misunderstandings and were surprised to find out how little learning occurs in a traditional, lecture-based class.

It turns out Cal Poly's Learn by Doing approach has been on the right track all along. "Research also found more effective ways to teach many topics, often ways that ask students to be more actively engaged with the material, and that research-based approach is what I incorporated in my textbooks," Knight said.

Knight is currently working on a new digital textbook for science and engineering majors. More an interactive experience than an e-book, it will give students personalized feedback and guidance based on their responses to activities. 

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