Still blogging from the 2009 NABT….I just attended an Open Forum run by the Development Committee for Advanced Placement Biology – Franklin Bell (Mercersburg Academy) and Domenic Castignetti (Loyola University), along with Eileen Gregory (Rollins College), the current Chair of the Committee.
Franklin and Domenic gave us some helpful background on how the AP exam items are developed (lots of discussion and collaboration, the entire committee must come to agreement on each one) and they reviewed the 2009 exam results (there were 159,000 students who took the AP Bio exam in 2009). The results are all up on AP Central, but they spent some time going over the four free-response questions from the exam.
Question 1: Experimental design (fish tank), mean = 5.49
Question 2: ATP, mean = 2.92
Question 3: Phylogeny, mean = 5.33
Question 4: Structural and Physiological adaptations, mean = 3.29
There was some discussion about the lower than expected mean on the ATP questions. Some of the teachers in the room suspected that it was due to the fact that this is a topic covered early in the year. That brought out a discussion about the importance of review and teachers offered some of their creative ideas for reviewing. One of my favorites was you have the students close their eyes, open their textbook at randomly and point to something. Write down that word or phrase. Then close the book and do it again. Then they have to come up with a connection between the two things they pointed to.
Some other good suggestions that came out of the forum….assign a unit over the summer and students write journal entries about it or email in summaries to the instructor. One teacher assigns a summer reading book (maybe Sean Carroll’s Into the Jungle or Neil Shubin’s, Your Inner Fish ) and give them a list of questions to answer, via email, over the course of the summer.
Another nice spring suggestion was to assign each student a tree or bush bud, somewhere on the school grounds, to monitor over a couple of weeks. They make daily observations, take measurements, even document with digital photos.