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Reflection, Uncategorized

Curriculum Blues

A complete rethink by the College Board of how to present the material to teachers*.

This was perhaps the thing that caused most consternation the past 2 years on the CB run EDG. The old AP Physics B curriculum was basically a list of topics, coupled with 40 years of past exam papers. The teacher was able to grab these, head away to his/her own classroom and deliver. This was an arrangement that had stood for many years and it obviously suited many teachers. It was also an arrangement that had obviously suited many publishers and textbook writers. (As an aside, personally I wonder how much the old adage which popped up often, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ really means ‘it works for me so it must work for the whole world.’)

By contrast both AP Physics 1 & 2 courses were presented to us in a single complex large document launching off 7 big ideas and leading to a complex framework and jargon of enduring understandings, essential knowledge, science practices and learning objectives. The journey all of us teachers had to make from document to something we were interacting with our students on a day to day basis was a long one.

The document showed the weaknesses of all documents written by large, diverse and largely faceless committees. Some parts of the document are terse and clipped others long winded and verbose. At all stages it was difficult to see what was included and what was excluded and why. The material of 1 & 2 was woven together and so at all stages it was difficult to separate the courses out to what was needed in this classroom and what was needed in that. We teachers have to organize our material into chunks that are manageable for our students and manageable to assess.

I must pause and emphasize that I think the new course is great and will lead to much deeper level of student understanding. I think working through this material has made me a better Physics teacher. However the extra and in many ways unnecessary hours wasted preparing the course to actually teach it was a killer. If CB had the decency to give us 2 concise summaries one for each course it would have saved us all many hours. I am not talking about the two page lists that are available. But sure they could have prepared something between that and the 242 page single document we received.

Well now I have blown off that little bit of steam I can settle down to teaching what I think is a very good course and much better that AP Physics B but reflection on that will need other blog posts.

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