Friday, May 4, 2012

Putting the AP Test in Perspective

Chuck Schallhorn sent a great email to the AP Psychology email listserve, and I thought it might be appropriate to post it here too (with some additions of my own).

Chuck was responding to a teacher who was very concerned about her students' scores, because they didn't perform well on an FRQ practice item, and she is judged by her school based on student AP scores.

I liked Chuck's emphasis on what is truly important about all our classes: Student learning. We do this gig because we think that learning psychological knowledge and the skill of "thinking like a psychologist" are useful for people. The AP test is a good one point in time measure, and it's one important measure, but not the SOLE measure of what is important about the learning in our classes. I like this conversation about keeping the scores in perspective.

Here's an excerpt from Chuck's email:

"I see my task as preparing my students to the best of my ability (this includes intellectual and affective modalities).  I struggle to improve every year.  I reflect and beat myself up on the various mistakes and missteps I took during every year.  While I realize that it is pointless to beat myself up, I do so anyway.  I suspect that I've been reinforced (grin).  But I definitely reflect, both during the summer and after each period I teach.

Beyond the class preparation and activities, the work is up to the students.  Beyond what we do in class, the primary preparation is up to the students.  We play a part, but we cannot "control" the outcome.

I use the exams and activities during the year to diagnose strengths and weakness in the kids' knowledge and in my delivery and teaching methods for particular units.  The entire year is a diagnostic.  However, students may do well or not well on the exam itself regardless of my efforts.  I cannot take the test for them.  I use the practice tests in April as diagnostics and help the students figure out which units and ideas they are strong with and which they are not.  This is individual to each student and I hope I've been able to get students to use metacognition and reflection on their efforts.

My advice.  Teach the course the best you can while taking care of yourself to keep your health and sanity.  Challenge your kids during the year to cover all the content and learn how to write FRQs.  Prep the kids the best you can prior to the test.  Wish them well when they take the exam and then let it go.  It is out of your control.  Wait until July for the scores.

After the exam, make sure you debrief the students to find out what the best parts of the course were and what needs improvement.  Make adjustments over the summer and begin again.  Grow as a person, grow as a teacher.  Reflect and reflect some more and change behaviors and attitudes about teaching.  Make plans to improve the following year. "

image source: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

posted by Rob McEntarffer, mostly written by Chuck Schallhorn

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