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AP GIS&T
Members of the AP GIS&T Writing Committee meet at the AAG’s Meridian Place Office in Washington, D.C. Pictured clockwise from left: Dorothy Cassetta, Alex Northrup, Jolene Keen, Ola Ahlqvist, Michael Solem, Jacquie Housel, Adriana Martinez, Niem Tu Huynh, and Rich Schultz (via Go2Meeting). Not pictured: Candice Luebbering.

The AAG recently hosted a meeting at its Washington, D.C. offices to prepare a proposal for an Advanced Placement course in the field of Geographic Information Science and Technology.

A writing committee has been formed to lead the development of this proposal, which will consist of a course description, a recommended assessment, a plan for teacher professional development, outreach strategies and an initial list of participating universities and high schools. Serving on the AP GIS&T Proposal Writing Committee are Ola Ahlqvist (Ohio State University), Dorothy Cassetta (Carroll High School), Jacquie Housel (Sinclair Community College), Niem Tu Huynh (Concordia University), Jolene Keen (AAG), Candice Luebbering (AAG), Adriana Martinez (Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville), Alex Northrup (Foxcroft School), and Rich Schultz (Southern New Hampshire University). The writing committee is chaired by Michael Solem (AAG).

According to The College Board’s guidelines, the AP GIS&T course description should represent “the standard, commonly offered college course upon which the proposed AP course will be modeled.” This statement must also include a description of the subsequent course typically offered in the field. The AP GIS&T writing committee’s methodology will include analyzing a sample of syllabi for introductory courses anchoring 2-year and 4-year undergraduate GIS majors and certificate programs. This analysis will build on The GeoTech Center’s model “Introduction to Geospatial Technology” course, which itself is a synthesis of content presently taught in undergraduate geospatial technology course offerings.

One early decision made by the writing committee was to recommend the AP GIS&T course as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subject. The rationale for this decision is twofold: First, in recent years The College Board has prioritized STEM content when considering proposals for new AP courses. Secondly, positioning the potential AP GIS&T course as a STEM subject will enable synergies with AP Human Geography, which is designated as a social science under The College Board’s current AP curriculum framework. It is therefore hoped that students who experience AP GIS&T will become interested in taking AP Human Geography, and vice versa. To further strengthen the proposed AP GIS&T course’s alignment with contemporary disciplinary practice and workforce needs, the course description will be correlated with the UCGIS GIS&T Body of Knowledge and the Department of Labor’s Geospatial Technology Competency Model.

A second major component of the forthcoming AP GIS&T course proposal will be a description of assessment practices in the field and how these approaches can be readily implemented in high schools. The writing committee’s strategy will emphasize a blend of standard multiple-choice and short essay assessments along with emerging portfolio and project-based approaches that appear in the AP Studio Art, AP Computer Science Principles and AP Capstone (Research and Seminar) courses. This consideration by the committee is intended to accommodate the need for assessments that are familiar to AP teachers while also supporting project-based assessments common to GIS education that measure students’ applied spatial analysis skills, mapping and reasoning abilities.

A third pillar of the AP GIS&T course proposal will be a determination of current capacity and the future needs of high schools to offer such a course, based on a review of available teacher professional development programs. The committee’s methodology will emphasize the full range of open-source geospatial educational resources available to high schools, in addition to free software available through commercial vendors such as Esri under its ConnectED program.

Among the final steps in the course proposal development process will be arriving at a consensus for the course title and a strategy for providing future opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills in community-based service learning programs, which is a new initiative of The College Board.

In the coming weeks the AAG will be issuing a number of requests on behalf of the writing committee. This outreach campaign will seek assistance and support from a broad community of stakeholders, including academic geography departments, GIS professionals in the private and public sectors, AP and GIS teachers in high schools, and a wide array of federal agencies, scientific associations and professional societies.

The AP GIS&T writing committee’s course development methodology has been vetted by an external advisory board whose members possess wide-ranging professional expertise in GIS&T education. Serving on the AP GIS&T advisory board are Chris Bunin (Albemarle High School), Joshua S. Campbell (Sand Hill Geographic), David DiBiase (Esri), Allison Hunt (University of Louisville / Jefferson County Public Schools), Bob Kolvoord (James Madison University), Ming-Hsiang Tsou (San Diego State University), John Van Hoesen (Green Mountain College), Beth Walton (University of South Florida), and May Yuan (University of Texas – Dallas).

The AP GIS&T course proposal is being funded by a grant from the Geography Education National Implementation Project. Questions may be sent to the project coordinator, Dr. Michael Solem (msolem [at] aag [dot] org).