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National College Board names prof tops for instruction of university history classes

Two classes taught by an Austin Peay State University history professor have been recognized by a College Board study as being among the top 20 university-level U.S. history courses in the nation.

Taught by Dr. Michele Butts, American History I and American History II were identified as examples of best practices in university teaching in a national study conducted by the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) on behalf of the College Board.
Two classes taught by an Austin Peay State University history professor have been recognized by a College Board study as being among the top 20 university-level U.S. history courses in the nation.

Taught by Dr. Michele Butts, American History I and American History II were identified as examples of “best practices” in university teaching in a national study conducted by the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) on behalf of the College Board.

According to a Sept. 1, 2006, letter to Dr. James Diehr, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, from Dr. David Conley, CEPR director, 133 history courses nationwide were reviewed with only 20including Butts' being designated as demonstrating “best practices” overall. After further review, Butts' course also was designated as “exemplary.”

The study was conducted to identify the best practices in college history teaching. The final 20 are to be used as models in a redesign of the Advanced Placement U.S. history course.

In his letter to Diehr, Conley said, “Your institution can take pride in … Dr. Butts and the contributions that faculty of this caliber make to improving educational practices nationally.”

After being nominated anonymously, Butts was required to complete an online questionnaire about her courses and supply such materials as syllabi, handouts, exams, critical-thinking activities and discussionsan extensive process that took about a month.

After closely studying the questionnaires and materials, a panel of national experts chose the 20 finalists.

Dr. Dewey Browder, history professor and chair of the APSU Department of History and Philosophy, said Butts is one of the most knowledgeable people in the nation when it comes to knowing how to integrate content and method in her classes.

“She is not only an expert in American history, but she is an expert in education, as well,” he said. “She knows what students need to learn and how to facilitate that learning.”

According to Browder, every APSU student who plans to be a secondary social studies teacher must take “Teaching Social Studies in the Secondary Schools,” taught by Butts.

“She is leaving her mark across the state and, indeed, across the nation as her students fan out after graduation,” Browder said.

Browder said Butts' efforts go beyond teaching and evaluating her own students. “For years, she has been a grader of the nationwide Advanced Placement Exams.

“Now her analysis of how to help students learn will become an integral part of a professional educators' nationwide recommendation on how to structure future teaching.” — Dennie B. Burke