ACADEMIC PROGRAM ASSESSMENT OF STUDENT LEARNING
Phase 2 Report, 2013-14
Submission Date September, 2013
College Arts & Sciences
Department Physics
Program Physics
Degree Granted BS/BA Physics
If multiple programs are included, please list additional programs here (graduate & undergraduate
must be separate):
BA Physics, BS Physics, BS Engineering Physics
Check one: Undergraduate X
Person Completing Report Tom Hearn
Office Phone 646-5076
Title Associate Professor
E-Mail [email protected]
Department Head (if different from person completing report) Stefan Zollner
Office Phone 646-7627
Assessment was implemented:
E-Mail [email protected]
Fall 2006 (year)
Spring ___________ (year)
External Accrediting Agency (if applicable) ABET Engineering Accreditation
Date of last accreditation site visit: Fall 2012
Date of next accreditation site visit: Fall 2018
***Attach copies of any Rubric(s) used, and/or any additional supporting material(s)***
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PROGRAM OVERVIEW
Briefly summarize your assessment implementation and findings from the prior year, or prior years.
How did past assessment activities and/or findings affect your assessment for the current academic
year? If applicable, discuss any past curricular or instructional developments/changes that influenced
this assessment – e.g. you implemented changes based on assessment findings, and this is a reassessment to determine impact of those changes; your previous assessment brought to light
new/additional questions that you sought to addressed through this assessment; your previous
assessment indicated no changes were needed, so you are assessing a different outcome this year; etc.
NMSU Mission: New Mexico State University is the state’s land-grant university, serving the educational
needs of New Mexico’s diverse population through comprehensive programs of education, research,
extension education, and public service.
Academic Program Mission:
The academic mission of Physics at New Mexico State University is to offer a degree that combines highquality science and physics programs to best prepare our graduating students for careers in state-of-theart industry or to move on to advanced study in engineering or physics
Academic Program Goals:
Guiding undergraduate students in physics, engineering physics, and other majors to graduation supports
the top goal of the university: “Graduation is Goal #1".
Academic Program Objectives:
Objective 1: Competitiveness. Graduates are competitive in internationally-recognized academic,
government and industrial environments;
Objective 2: Adaptability. Graduates exhibit success in solving complex technical problems in a broad
range of disciplines subject to quality engineering processes;
Objective 3: Teamwork and Leadership. Graduates have a proven ability to function as part of and/or lead
interdisciplinary teams.
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CURRENT YEAR – REPORT ON ASSESSMENT ACTIVITIES & FINDINGS
Direct Student Learning Outcome:
Students will be able to use the existing scientific understanding and models to solve physics problems in
the subjects of Classical Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Electrodynamics, and Quantum Physics.
Components of the Outcome (Components are the particular pieces that together create success on a given
outcome. For example the key components of a speech could include content, organization, eye contact and
delivery):
Assessment of our student is done as part of the six required 400-level physics classes on the subjects of
Classical Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Electrodynamics, and Modern Physics. In Spring 2012 the Physics
Department began using the Educational Testing Service Physics Major Field Test as a component of our
outcomes assessment.
Describe Evidence Used to Assess Learning (student product) – if applicable and desired, you may attach
student assignment/ instructions for assignment:
Assessment of our students is done as part of the six required 400-level physics classes on the subjects of
Classical Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Electrodynamics, and Modern Physics. Instructors are free to
choose an appropriate measure of higher-level problem-solving ability; however one suggested method
used by many instructors is to include on in-class examinations several questions in the course subject
area taken from the Physics Subject test of the Graduate Record Examination. These questions are
evaluated and reported separately from other examination questions and compared with a target score.
Originally the target was the national average score on the GRE Physics subject test. In the future, the
target will be set by the instructor since these instructor-selected problems do not necessarily reflect the
full GRE examination.
In Spring 2012 the Physics Department began using the Educational Testing Service Physics Major Field
Test as a component of our outcomes assessment. This is a commercial test that allows comparison to
normed data from other physics departments. To date we have conducted two of these tests.
Indirect Student Learning Outcome (Optional):
ASSESSMENT DATA:
 When did the assessment take place?
This report includes courses taught up to the Spring 2013 semesters and the Physics Major Field Test
conducted in Spring of 2013 as part of our Quantum Mechanics course.

How many students participated in the assessment process?
In the Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 semesters, over 100 student-assessments were done. Since some
students may have been enrolled in more than one course, the number of individuals participating is
smaller. Nine senior students took the ETS Physics Major Field Test.

Please report student performance scores
This table contains assessment data obtained from embedded GRE questions for the past 10 years.
Course
Number
Title
Semester
Numerical
Semester
Assessment
Tool
Number of
Students
Results
Goal
Results
/ Goal
451
Classical Mechanics
Spring 2004
2004.1
GRE
16
24%
43%
56%
Spring 2005
2005.1
GRE
9
71%
43%
165%
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455
461
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Modern Physics I
Modern Physics II
Electromagnetism I
Spring 2006
2006.1
GRE
7
75%
43%
174%
Fall 2006
2006.4
GRE
9
65%
43%
151%
Fall 2007
2007.4
GRE
13
65%
43%
151%
Fall 2008
2008.4
Homework
9
79%
79%
100%
Fall 2009
2009.4
Homework
9
76%
81%
94%
Fall 2010
2010.4
GRE
5
60%
65%
92%
Fall 2011
2011.4
GRE
10
65%
69%
94%
Fall 2012
2012.4
GRE
15
31%
65%
47%
Fall 2004
2004.4
GRE
4
50%
43%
116%
Fall 2005
2005.4
GRE
10
46%
43%
107%
Fall 2006
2006.4
no report
Fall 2007
2007.4
no report
Fall 2008
2008.4
no report
Fall 2009
2009.4
GRE
12
63%
65%
92%
Fall 2010
2010.4
GRE
14
55%
49%
112%
Fall 2011
2011.4
GRE
17
75%
73%
97%
Fall 2012
2012.4
GRE
10
78%
75%
104%
Spring 2004
2004.1
GRE
9
55%
43%
128%
Spring 2006
2006.1
GRE
10
69%
43%
160%
Spring 2007
2007.1
GRE
4
83%
43%
192%
Spring 2008
2008.1
GRE
19
74%
65%
114%
Spring 2009
2009.1
GRE
9
74%
35%
212%
Spring 2010
2010.1
GRE
13
52%
34%
153%
Spring 2011
2011.1
GRE
12
43%
71%
165%
Spring 2012
2012.1
GRE
13
75%
82%
109%
Fall 2005
2005.4
GRE
10
51%
43%
119%
Fall 2006
2006.4
GRE
8
45%
43%
103%
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462
480
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Electromagnetism II
Thermodynamics
Fall 2007
2007.4
GRE
14
56%
43%
130%
Fall 2008
2008.4
GRE
6
73%
65%
112%
Fall 2009
2009.4
Homework
9
75%
80%
94%
Fall 2010
2010.4
GRE
12
51%
58%
87%
Fall 2011
2011.4
GRE
16
43%
73%
169%
Fall 2012
2012.4
GRE
17
55%
43%
127%
Spring 2005
2005.1
GRE
12
55%
43%
128%
Spring 2006
2006.1
GRE
9
50%
43%
116%
Spring 2007
2007.1
GRE
10
52%
43%
120%
Spring 2008
2008.1
GRE
6
48%
65%
74%
Spring 2009
2009.1
instructor left
Spring 2010
2010.1
instructor left
Spring 2011
2011.1
GRE
11
43%
46%
106%
Spring 2012
2012.1
GRE
16
43%
54%
125%
Spring 2013
2013.1
GRE
15
49%
43%
113%
Fall 2005
2005.4
GRE
6
42%
43%
98%
Spring 2007
2007.1
GRE
10
84%
43%
195%
Spring 2008
2008.1
GRE
9
72%
43%
167%
Spring 2009
2009.1
Homework
11
65%
80%
81%
Spring 2010
2010.1
GRE
11
64%
54%
119%
Spring 2011
2011.1
not taught
Spring 2012
2012.1
GRE
18
51%
53%
103%
Spring 2013
2013.1
GRE
11
33%
43%
76%
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Results of Educational Testing Service – Physics Major Field Test, Average Scores
Semester
number
of
students
Classical
Mechanics
and
Relativity
Electromagnetism
Optics/Waves and
Thermodynamics
Quantum
mechanics
and Atomic
Physics
Special
Topics
Total Score
(out of 200)
Spring 2012
10
44%
43%
46%
65%
35%
151
(28th
percentile)
(39th percentile)
(73rd percentile)
(97th
percentile)
(36th
percentile)
(49th
percentile)
51%
30%
37%
42%
41%
145
(23rd
percentile)
(17th percentile)
(75th percentile)
(59th
percentile)
(36th
percentile)
(56th
percentile)
Spring 2013
9

What percentage of students obtained the desired level of performance?
Our scores reflect the program, not individual students. Individual student performance is assessed on a
grading scale of A to F. Out of six senior level classes we found acceptable student performance in four of
six classes. The Physics Major Field Test found scores over the 50th percentile for two of five subjects and
the overall score put us in the 56th percentile compared to peer institutions.

Does the percentage of students who obtained the desired level of performance meet the
program’s stated benchmark?
Class scores are highly variable from year to year and were slightly lower this year. The Physics
Major Field Test benchmark is to place NMSU physics in or above the 50th percentile compared to our
peers. We achieved that benchmark.
DATA INTERPRETATION:
 Discuss how the data provides evidence that the desired level of performance on the stated
learning outcome is or is not being achieved by students.
Our students, on average, meet or exceed the national average performance in solving advanced physics
problems such as those appearing on the Physics GRE. The ETS – Physics Major Field Test shows that our
assessment is generally correct and that students perform about average compared to nationwide norms.
Several classes typically perform below expectations based on the GRE scores. Undergraduate mechanics,
Physics 451, unfortunately, is only offered for one semester, compared to the two semester sequence
tested by the GRE. NMSU general-education requirements restrict us from offering a second semester.
Physics 480, Thermodyamics, is a difficult graduate level class. Students perform well in the
Thermodynamics and Quantum Mechanics sections of the Physics Major Field Test but we attribute this
to the fact that students are generally enrolled in these classes the same semester they take the test.

Discuss how the data provides meaningful information/evidence to the program that can be
used in decision-making and structuring of future learning opportunities.
This data is adequate to demonstrate achievement of the goal. When students do not achieve the goal in
a required course or a decline in students’ performance was noted, the cause is ascertained through
discussion among the faculty. In the past this has led to curriculum changes. One concrete curriculum
change made two years ago, as a result of our assessment program, was introduction of the PHYS395
Mathematical Physics course which ran for the first time in fall 2011. This course was created in response
to recognition by several 400-level instructors that students needed a broader mathematical background
than what is provided by the traditional Calculus sequence. This is the first cohort of students who have
taken this course. Its effectiveness is not yet evident.
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ENGAGEMENT:
 When did your faculty have a discussion about the results of your assessment?
This year, the Engineering Physics ABET accreditation was approved by ABET. The ABET response was
distributed to the faculty and discussed at a faculty meeting. The results of this assessment and the data
used in it were also made available to the faculty.

What issues did your faculty discuss in relation to the results of your assessment?
Physics assesses several outcomes as part of its Outcomes Assessment program as well as the more
comprehensive ABET assessment process. This includes the direct outcome described in this report.
Outcomes are assigned to particular courses, with some redundancy, and the assessment results for each
course are reported by the instructors in a post-instruction report. In preparation for a faculty meeting
review, a written summary was produced for each outcome, drawn from the post-instruction information
of several classes. Each summary report described: how the outcome was measured and bench marks set,
numerical results of each measurement, what curriculum improvements were recommended and
implemented by the instructors, and the reviewer’s recommended improvements of the assessment
process. Each program outcome was discussed at the meeting, closed assessment loops were identified,
and recommendations for program changes generated. In past years the faculty meeting was organized at
the course level. Changing to organization at the outcomes level significantly improved the effectiveness
of the meeting.

How and when were students in your program included in the discussion about assessment
results/activities?
Our assessment is part of our Engineering ABET accreditation procedure which is discussed with students
and our ABET Self-Study Guide is posted on the web. Students have full access to this and are aware that
each class has assessment as a critical component. Some components, such as the Physics Major Field
Test are introduced to students as an assessment activity; however, other components, such as
embedded GRE questions are not usually discussed (to preserve the integrity of the testing process).
Assessment results are not communicated directly to the students because some material in the
assessment reports is not suitable for public distribution. These are generally small classes and it is easy to
identify data as reflecting on a particular group of students or a particular instructor. However, since the
assessment questions are part of the in-class examinations students do get feedback about their
individual performance. Students are an identified constituency of the Physics and Engineering Physics
programs, and as such are represented on the Engineering Physics External Advisory Board which receives
reports on our outcomes assessment process.

If applicable, identify and describe engagement of additional stakeholders.
Physics has two external advisory boards – the Physics Advisory Board and the Engineering Physics
Advisory Board. We meet with one of these boards once each year. These boards review the
department, its assessment procedures and results, and meet with students as well as faculty.
IMPACT:
 Did the data you collected answer the question you had about the intended outcome? If not, why?
The faculty was satisfied that the assessment tool provides the desired information. The introduction of
the ETS - Physics Major Field Test confirms this and provides a national norm for comparison.

IF data indicates a need for increased learning on the intended outcome, what steps will be
taken to foster increased learning on the outcome (e.g. curricular or instructional changes)?
The PHYS395 Mathematical Methods course was offered beginning in fall 2011 to improve the students’
mathematical preparation for upper-division physics courses. This course will itself be assessed and also
assessed through its impact on the 400-level courses as part of our continuing Outcomes Assessment
program. Students who first took this course are just beginning their senior year and we will be assessing
the course’s effectiveness in the future.
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
If interventions are implemented, when will you reassess this outcome to determine whether or
not interventions were effective?
These outcomes will be reviewed at our Physics Department Retreat that occurs at the beginning of each
semester. Changes are documented as feedback loops are part of our Engineering Physics ABET
assessment process.

IF data indicates students are achieving the desired performance level on the intended outcome,
is there anything that faculty or students in the program learned about the intended outcome?
Will any changes be made?
When outcomes are meeting the desired performance level there is little reason to change anything.
ASSESSMENT PROCESS:
 How effective was your assessment process?
We are satisfied that the assessment process in place is adequate and provides valuable feedback which
has led to curriculum improvements. We were reviewed by ABET last year and they are also satisfied that
our assessment process is working. Faculty participation in post-instruction reporting is nearly 100%.

How will what you learned this year, affect future assessment plans?
We need for all instructors to use the latest post-instruction reporting form in order to collect data on the
percentage of students attaining the goal rather than class average results. The ETS- Physics Major Field
Test is especially informative and will be repeated in future years.
COMMUNICATION:
 How have your assessment findings been communicated to the students in your program?
Assessment results are not communicated directly to the students. Some material in the assessment
reports is not suitable for public distribution. These are generally small classes and it is easy to identify
data as reflecting on a particular group of students or a particular instructor. However, since the
assessment questions are part of the in-class examinations students do get feedback about their
individual performance. Students are an identified constituency of the Physics and Engineering Physics
programs, and as such are represented on the Engineering Physics External Advisory Board which receives
reports on our outcomes assessment process.

Identify additional audiences for your assessment reporting.
The program constituents are represented through our Physics and Engineering Physics external advisory
boards which meet annually. Membership is drawn from faculty of other physics departments, graduate
schools, industry, national laboratories, our graduates, and our current students. The Boards receive
presentations on various aspects of our program including the Outcomes Assessment process, and their
input has been very valuable in crafting our assessment program. The assessment results for all classes
are kept in a set of Web directories which are available to the department faculty and others. These
directories contain assessment documents at the individual class level, outcomes level, and program
objectives level. The results are reviewed by the faculty and the department outcomes assessment
committee.

Describe how and in what context your assessment Phase Reports or another form of reporting
on your assessment activities are available to your stakeholders/constituents (faculty, students,
staff, parents, professional organizations, the local community, etc.)? If so, how?
Individual assessment reports are made available only to faculty, administration, and the two physics
advisory boards. There is identifying information that should not be made available to individual
students. The ABET Self-Study guide does list a comprehensive overview of our assessment that is
accessible to students on the web. It is revised every six years as part of the ABET reaccreditation.
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
If on the internet, please provide website:
The 2012 ABET Physics Self-Study Report can be found at:
http://engineeringphysics.nmsu.edu/about/ssr.html
Although produced specifically for the Engineering Physics ABET accreditation, it covers most physics
undergraduate courses and all data used for this assessment. It is available without restriction
BEFORE SUBMITTING YOUR REPORT - Please attach copies of any/each rubric that was used, and any
other supporting material(s).
Results for this assessment are tabulated above. Results for ABET assessment are documented in
numerous binders (currently located in the Physics Department Conference room) and also stored online
in the Physics Department Dropbox site. These results are far too voluminous to attach here. Internal
and external Reviewers are welcome to visit the Physics Department to see the material.
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academic program assessment of student learning