State of the Classroom:  AP Biology Q1

AP Bio:

        I want to thank everyone who contributed to the course survey for AP Bio.  Your thoughts and opinions are very useful to me in helping to figure out what is working and what could be changed.  Provided below are the responses that were generated.  I have grouped similar items where they occur, and responded to all of them at the same time.  I’ve tried to take care of spelling errors wherever possible, but I may have missed a few.  

        In terms of the areas of difficulty, I see a few patterns.  One is that things that some students dislike, other students very much like.  Which is not surprising, as everyone learns in different ways.  There are also some items that can be dealt with very easily by linking you to resources that already exist.  In those cases, I’ve provided the links below.  For other items, I’ve tried to provide the instructional perspective that I bring to the course.  I dearly hope that in these instances, it doesn’t read like me saying that you are wrong to feel a certain way about a particular aspect of the course, but I’m also certain you are able to understand that teaching involves making choices, and that it is not possible to always provide things that everyone will love all of the time.  Please remember that I am always available to discuss your experience of the course.

        Thanks again for taking the time to fill out the survey.  I can’t say that I’m surprised that you all did such an awesome job.

Table of Contents:

AP Bio:

Stuff People Like:

Areas of Difficulty:

Physical Space:

Learning Strategies

Class Structure

Journals:

Instructor Style:

Stuff People Like:

Areas of Difficulty:

Physical Space:

I agree.  It’s a difficult thing to do, given how the room is currently being used.  Reminder:  I am looking for suggestions on how to reconfigure the room.  To this point, I’ve received none.

Learning Strategies

I would very much like to do this.  I sent out the Reddit study guide, which I thought gave some good ideas.  I don’t really know what else I can do on my end, but please give me suggestions.

There is a shortage of AP Bio Review questions currently, period.  This is due to how new the course is (folks just haven’t had enough experience with the exam to write enough items).  I am trying to give you as many questions as I possibly can, but as you’ll see below, not everyone agrees that they need “more stuff”.  I will assign all AP Insight question that I can.  Additionally, the Get-a-Five website has free questions.  Also, there is this depository of OpenStax aligned questions.  

I’m in the process of marrying two different sets of review sheets.  I don’t have the ability to get them to you any faster than I currently am (at least a week prior to each exam).  But they are a combination of the sheets found in these two folders, so feel free to use these uncombined versions if they are helpful to you

The review sheets in the link at the previous response contains the key vocab that I have been providing on this year’s review sheets.  A master list of all terms is also provided here.  Please enjoy, and let me know if you can’t find them.  

Class Structure

Totally agreed, which is why I never do this.  I would very much like to talk more with you about this perception to see what the disconnect is here.

The AV material in the in-class slideshows is pretty maxed out as far as I can tell, but I’m putting in more over the course of this year.  The prezi’s are an AV feast.

I really don’t mean to sound flippant with what follows, but at the college level, interest is very much self-generated.  I am sorry that you don’t find the work in the packets interesting, but all I can do is find the most interesting things I can and put them in the packets.  

This is very much an instructional choice on my part, as dictated by the AP exam.  The reason the examples come up multiple times is because they can be viewed through multiple lenses.  To take the Rock Pocket Mouse as an example, we have been able to look at that from the perspective of evolution, population genetics, molecular genetics, and cell biology.  At the same time, I think I bring in a lot of examples.  I’ll try to bring in more.  As a reminder, the exam review sheets give you a pile of things that you should have examples for.

This is very much a learning style statement.  And while I won’t suggest that you are wrong to feel this way, I will tell you that the vast majority of research points toward doing things as the much more effective way of learning than when the teacher just tells you about them.  I am happy to give you more resources that you can use to get lectured at.  Try Paul Anderson’s channel for a start.  Or you can watch me on the Get-A-Five site.  But here’s my question to you:  Why should we spend more time lecturing in-class if there is no shortage of extracurricular opportunities to get lectured at?  Also, you might want to touch base with the person up at the top of this section who feels like I lecture too much of the time.

I totally get what you are saying here, but I hope you can see that I can’t really know how much time you, personally, need on a particular subject.  I can only use my expertise as an educator to try to provide the appropriate timing for topics, and then make myself available at extra help.  

If you ever have lingering questions on a PDQ after we discuss content on the day that it is due, please ask those questions when I ask the group if anyone has any questions.  We can take as much time as you need.  Totally fine by me.  

I think you mean less work that doesn’t really help you understand anything.  But I’d caution you about assuming that the work that doesn’t help you doesn’t help anyone else.  I am completely anti-busy work.  All work done in class is targeted to specific standards of the course.  If I didn’t think the work was worth doing, I wouldn’t assign it.  

This is more a function of how college works than it is anything else.  The general formula is “one hour of class equals three hours of extracurricular work”.  I think it’s much closer to 1:2 for this class (if not less).  To help blunt this sentiment, there is no requirement to complete non-summative work outside of class time.  I also hope we can agree that I have never short-sold the tremendous amount of work that is given in this course.

Journals:

I apologize if this is what you took from my comments on your journal.  I am not interested in perfection, nor do I think it exists.  Students who have received comments like the ones expressed above were not following the given instructions for journal entries, or were not submitting them at all.  I have no requirement for journal structure or content outside of the instructions as demonstrated by the variety of sample entries that have been provided in the journaling assignment guidelines.

As discussed in class if you feel like any of this applies in your case, provide me with an alternative that demonstrates that you are considering the work we are doing and how it connects to the larger project of understanding Biology.  I’m totally open to suggestions.  At the point where I am writing this, I have received no suggestions.

Instructor Style:

Sure thing.  Feel free to tell me to slow down or repeat myself.  I won’t be upset.

I would caution whomever wrote the above to speak for himself/herself rather than the whole group.  Similarly, I would expect to continue adapting for the rest of our time together, were I you.  If you’re looking for a course where the class is largely the same from day-to-day, this is not that course.

I’m concerned by the notion that students are sitting in class unsure about the answers to the work they are doing, and are unwilling to ask questions to that effect.  Who is supposed to advocate for your learning if not yourself?  As you transition to College, you need to develop this ability, or you will be lost.  

I am happy to spend as much time as is needed explaining things.  At current, I would say that the “my questions:student questions” ratio during a typical class is somewhere north of 9:1. I would dearly love to see that shift more to the right, but that requires students to ask questions.

Duly noted.  I would also encourage you to work on your note-taking skills for spoken words, as this is going to be the main way that professors convey information to you next year.  You are certainly welcome to record our discussions if that will help you.