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New AP Biology - How's It Goin'

We started asking our many AP biology teachers out there - how's it goin'? We are at the midpoint of the first year of the NEW AP biology course and there is some concern that this is going to be a very challenging year for students and teachers.  Overall, favorable comments on using math (we love this from a Common Core perspective) but because the course is new, it does not appear that teachers have the time to really go deep. Once they get used to the new course, the pacing, the needs, the way it actually works with students, things should get better. There is also a need for more practice questions that will simulate the increased text in the question stem - a huge issue for students as it relates to completing the AP bio test. 
We would love to hear what you think so we can develop more supports for NMSI teachers: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PXZJGHB we will publish the results here. 

From Arkansas:  "I like the analysis and the math- kids are getting involved and mastering the math skills and I feel justified spending time on it.  As far as less content, I'm suspicious about that.  I'm still expecting something to show up on the exam that I have been led to believe is"beyond the scope".  I like the freedom to choose the labs, however, I feel the same way about the labs as I do the content.  I still have to review every lab, just in case it is on the test.  My students are mostly sophomores. They have a hard time understanding that the concepts that apply to catalase also apply to peroxidase or amylase.  Obviously, they have nothing to compare the redesign to.  I feel like I am doing a better job and in that way it is more enjoyable and understandable to the students. I am more organized, the tests are shorter and more concise and I feel much more focused than I have in past semesters.  The redesign has also changed my approach to preAP Biology, incorporating more analysis and math."

More from Arkansas: I still feel like I'm covering just as much material (minus going over the different systems) I also feel like I'm just as rushed. Maybe it's just this being a different year. I like some of the new labs, although I find myself reverting back to a lot of the old labs to get the same point across. Maybe it's just because that's what I'm comfortable with.  I plan to use the new photosynthesis lab with the leaf disks, but haven't gotten there yet.  Making the labs more inquiry makes the students think more for themselves. My students would rather regurgitate the information back ....So I can't say they like it better and, honestly, it's hard to say if I feel they are learning more.  I guess the May Exam results will speak to that.

More from Arkansas:  Of course I like depth to breadth.  The labs are fine. I like the inquiry aspect.  I do not know if they are creating deeper learning.  The kids like the course the same.  I hope this helps.

More from AP Teachers:  
  • Are we really getting deeper?  The length of the labs is too much on some so that deeper learning is somewhat left out because we can't really discuss results well before going on to the next topic. 
  • I do like going deeper, it has allowed me to work harder on analysis.  The labs are fine, in fact the kids seem to enjoy them more as they are in control of most of it.  At first the kids complained about going deeper, now they realize this is going to help them in college.  They are talking with their friends and are getting feed back from how it was and they seem to like it better this way as compared to when their friends took it.  I just feel overwhelmed with trying to re learn how to teach the course.  It'll get better though. 
  • I think students have a hard time with depth, in particular, with the AP Biology content, in order for them to make those deeper connections, they really have to have a handle on the content. The material is not that much less, just different.
  • How do they like the labs? Are they creating a deeper learning? The students are enjoying the labs and being able to do their investigations. Not for all students, but for some, as usual, they go through the procedure without a connection as to why and without understanding what they are measuring. They are merely following the procedure like robots. It isn't until the lab is complete and we have the debriefing discussion that those connections are made.
  • Do they feel that students are noticing the difference and liking the new course better? Students mostly are noticing the difference in the assessment changes. I don't feel like I am able to come up with enough assessment questions to properly prepare them for the AP Exam.
A lot going on and AP Chemistry is next - help us understand what you are going through in your class! Here are some resources for your students if you need on AP Biology - http://vimeo.com/channels/apbiology