Are AP Physics 1 FRQ's appropriate for First Year Student

  • #1
This post is directed at the college professors and graduate TA's on the forum.
You may or maynot be aware that the College Board recently redesigned the algebra/trig based AP physics course and split it into two - 1 year courses. The first year effectively covering mechanics through waves and the second year covering everything else. Alongside this change is a new emphasis on written explanation and a de-emphasis on math based problem solving and the outright removal of numerical problem solving. This year's exam free response questions have just been released and the questions I have are:
1) How do you think your first year algebra/trig based physics students would perform on these questions?
2) Would you construct a final where this was the representation of a course in Mechanics, in other words is this an appropriate representation of what is to be expected from first year students?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Physics graduate student at the University of Michigan here. I happened to do my undergrad here as well, and I took a quick look at the free response questions.

First of all, if you go to any decent size university the intro physics classes are all humongous. This means no free response, and only multiple choice on exams to make grading easier. The questions on the AP exam don't seem to be a very good representation of intro physics classes - the main thing that stood out to me was the emphasis on "experimental data" and "designing experiments". Don't expect any of that in exams. The flavor of the other problems were about right, although they'd probably be the easier questions on an exam that most people should get correct. Basically, take out the experimental questions and make the rest a little harder and you'd have a good idea of what exams in an intro class are like.

That being said, if you go to a smaller school the professors might actually have the patience to grade free response so my experience is probably not universal.
 
  • #3
The flavor of the other problems were about right, although they'd probably be the easier questions on an exam that most people should get correct. Basically, take out the experimental questions and make the rest a little harder and you'd have a good idea of what exams in an intro class are like.

I should have probably indicated that there are certain things that are not permissible. For instance, for the last question students simply could not use T/μ = v2 they can only use v = λƒ and what is shown on the diagram.
 
  • #4
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I examined the FRQ's you submitted. I think these questions are terrible. For example, give me a question any day. Do not give me instructions to "design an experiment".

I taught freshman physics for about 6 classes over 3 decades. I never say any questions like these. I say traditional prblems such as those in Resnick and Halliday or Serway, etc.

I thought the question regarding what physical principles are violated, (with the abscissa on the graph switched from time to mass) was tricky and bordering on unfair.
 
  • #5
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Do not give me instructions to "design an experiment".

I think its a reasonable question except for the part saying

The student has equipment that would usually be found in a school physics laboratory.

First its a great way to test the students understanding of how to use the scientific method.
Second it allows to test how well the student understands the physics.

It's different enough from standard problems to motivate students as well I would think.
Like "Hey, I can actually perform the experiment of this problem after I've designed it."

In a class environment it would be beneficial to do the experiment. (the following is a very rough idea)
E.g. divide the class in groups and have them prepare a proposition as homework, ask them to hand it in a day or two before the next class.
Use next class to discuss the experiment with the students and if there's enough time perform it.
If there isn't enough time let them explain their set up to the rest and shift the experiment to the next scheduled period.

This takes a lot of time so it might need some willingness of the students to schedule a meeting during a free period/after hours.
But it can be graded for a significant portion of their final grade.
 
  • #6
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1) How do you think your first year algebra/trig based physics students would perform on these questions?
2) Would you construct a final where this was the representation of a course in Mechanics, in other words is this an appropriate representation of what is to be expected from first year students?
The FRQs don't seem unreasonable to me, but a course needs to be designed to prepare students properly for the exam. The typical course that focuses mainly on problem solving probably wouldn't be adequate preparation for most students. These students learn how to calculate how long a projectile remains in the air, but most don't really get a good understanding of basic physical concepts.

Grading exams for a intro physics course can be quite discouraging at times. Perhaps the situation has improved since I last had to do that, but based on what I've heard, I doubt it. A lot of it has to do with professors teaching courses the way they do because "that's how it's always been done!" and many students don't realize the level of understanding that's expected of them in college.
 
  • #7
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One problem with "design an experiment" is that it is open-ended. If a student wants a stopwatch, and a meter stick to measure the velocity of the falling superball, is that worse than using just a meter stick and dropping it from a selected height and calculating the speed of impact(s). If the student requests a high-speed camera to measure the heights along a meter stick, is that valid. It seems different graders can grade the student solutions more arbitrarily than questions with clearly computable answers/
Does one give full credit for any combination of equipment that could conceivably give the correct critical experiment, or only full credit for the "most inexpensive" combination of equipment. Years ago, I taught a class that used spark timers for timing, later we used photocells. Is one better than the other.

In theory, I see some value in these questions, but these are not the questions that will prepare them for college physics and engineering classes. They will not be designing experiments for many years. When they go to college, the equipment in the introductory labs, and procedures will be given to them, like it or not.

On the other hand, if this physics is the last physics they will ever take, maybe this is OK, if as Vela points out, the students are given adequate preparation.
 
  • #8
Andy Resnick
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This post is directed at the college professors and graduate TA's on the forum.

From my perspective (physics faculty), there are some things about the FRQs that I like and some things I don't. There seems to be tension between intentionally not providing sufficient information for 'plug-n-chug' approaches (to motivate problem-solving skills), and (perhaps intentional) confusing wording of the problem to be solved, leaving open the possibility that a student doesn't understand the question.

For example. see question 3. The velocity of the cart must be time-dependent even though the time-averaged velocity is stated to be constant, but it is not clear what the averaging time is, or what it should be. Similarly, question 2c leaves the student able to fantasize about whatever complication they could think of, because they are allowed to contemplate violation of physical laws.

That said, I agree with the overall approach of the exam, and I try to write similar questions for my intro physics exams (algebra based and calculus based). My guess, based on how students do on my exams, is that the students generally will do poorly on this, precisely because these types of questions are targeted at students' typical weaknesses- the inability to know what to ignore or how to estimate, for example. Or a general inability to perform what is known as 'ratio reasoning'. But yes, these types of questions (open ended, not multiple choice) are what I expect my students to be able to handle.
 
  • #9
Physics graduate student at the University of Michigan here
First and foremost, go blue!

Ok, so just to add in a student's perspective, I only have one criticism; these are way too open ended. I can infer a lot of different things from one set of instructions. For example, the student performing the experiment has materials ordinarily found in a physics classroom. I honestly have no idea what this means. I can see a high-end physics classroom having some very state-of-the-art equipment while some classrooms may not have any sophisticated measurement tools. Also, for 3 (b) and (c), we were given an experimental fact with no reasoning, and then we are asked to say if this fact still holds when a variable changes. I can see a reason why the answer would be greater than for both, but I can also see somebody saying "we were given a piece of experimental fact, so that fact holds."

Also, problem 3 is a bit easy for a recommendation of 25 minutes (except for those things on (b) and (c)).
 
  • #10
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Also, problem 3 is a bit easy for a recommendation of 25 minutes (except for those things on (b) and (c)).

Careful with that, in general the average students need double the time you think they might need. (at least)
Its one of the hardest parts of designing a test or getting an appropriate timing for problems. (on the practical side that is)
 
  • #11
Careful with that, in general the average students need double the time you think they might need. (at least)
Its one of the hardest parts of designing a test or getting an appropriate timing for problems. (on the practical side that is)

I think another thing to consider is that this is a course that is generally targeted to bio, pre-med and liberal arts majors. This is not a course that is targeted toward engineering and physics majors.
 
  • #12
I think another thing to consider is that this is a course that is generally targeted to bio, pre-med and liberal arts majors. This is not a course that is targeted toward engineering and physics majors.
Very true. I would say, in that case, it is reasonably timed. Someone who is interested in physics or engineering as a career should, I would think, be able to answer that question in about half of the recommended time.
 
  • #13
Very true. I would say, in that case, it is reasonably timed. Someone who is interested in physics or engineering as a career should, I would think, be able to answer that question in about half of the recommended time.

You would think that. But I have students that intend on majoring in physics at University of Chicago, Cornell, University of Penn who said that it took them the entire time to answer these questions mostly because of the completeness required in answering them in written form. In general the way I trained the students is if possible, to answer the question mathematically first, and then translate the mathematics into language because students tend to give incomplete answers when answering questions verbally. This is one of the reasons why the average scores nationally was so low for the 2015 Frq's. Try to answer the questions and then score yourself according to the scoring guidelines, I think you will be a bit surprised and those were easier questions than the 2016 FRQ's.
Not to mention questions that are a bit tricky, like 2016 3di: if you answered yes, because v avg is a linear function of Mass, it is not clear that you will get any credit for it, because the actual answer is No - because v avg has a definite non-zero intercept therefore is not a proportion which is what the equation indicates.

Questions 1aii and 5b on the 2016 FRQ's are also a bit tricky.
 
  • #14
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1) How do you think your first year algebra/trig based physics students would perform on these questions?
2) Would you construct a final where this was the representation of a course in Mechanics, in other words is this an appropriate representation of what is to be expected from first year students?

I am a high school AP Physics teacher and i think the intention of these questions are way off based. You make the assumption that university professors know the best way to instruct their students. Research has shown us quite the opposite.
 
  • #15
vela
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I am a high school AP Physics teacher and i think the intention of these questions are way off based.
Why?
 
  • #16
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Research has shown us quite the opposite.

Can you provide references?
I read one study that looked at the usefulness of demonstrations for a HS physics course, Why may students fail to learn from demonstrations? A social practice perspective on learning in physics.

It all depends on the training the teachers received. I've had amazing teachers in college and terrible ones. Same in high school.
In high school the teachers had to be at least working towards a certificate. In college it can happen that they have very little requirements (over here at least).
What was noticeable was that bad teachers in college were often really bad. One of the reasons could be that they were forced to teach another that they underestimate the amount of work involved.
 
  • #17
I am a high school AP Physics teacher and i think the intention of these questions are way off based. You make the assumption that university professors know the best way to instruct their students. Research has shown us quite the opposite.

I question the validity of the education research and intentions of the education researchers that you extol. I have nothing to gain monetarily or in furthering my career by asking these questions, can the same thing be said of those that publish the "research"?
 
  • #18
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Can you provide references?

I would say the reflections of Eric Mazur are the best at this. He would ask his students the traditional numerical problems and then ask them to explain the physics. He found a huge discrepancy in that students were not understanding the basic physics principles, but were able to solve for the right number.

I question the validity of the education research and intentions of the education researchers that you extol. I have nothing to gain monetarily or in furthering my career by asking these questions, can the same thing be said of those that publish the "research"?

Well, yes. Physics Education Research as a field generally started because professors wanted more students to understand physics. As a teacher, i want my students to better understand physics. Is this poor motivation? Absolutely not!

What you are asking is if the AP course better prepares them for the course in college. But, what does the course in college prepare them for? Look at the majority of these intro. physics classes, and you need very little physics to pass. If you can recognize what symbols mean(v means velocity!), and can do algebra and maybe some calculus, you will end up with some of the highest grades. Perhaps a professor will ask you to memorize a certain fact, but that's the gist of the physics on these tests.

The old adage is "physics is just math." But this wrong line of thinking leads to low enrollment, definitely low enjoyment, in physics courses.
 
  • #19
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What you are asking is if the AP course better prepares them for the course in college. But, what does the course in college prepare them for? Look at the majority of these intro. physics classes, and you need very little physics to pass. If you can recognize what symbols mean(v means velocity!), and can do algebra and maybe some calculus, you will end up with some of the highest grades. Perhaps a professor will ask you to memorize a certain fact, but that's the gist of the physics on these tests.

I see what you meant now, I think.
How I understand Mazurs and by extension McDermotts work, it tells us that physics education has to change.
To do this the tests have to introduce more conceptual questions.

A shock for me were the misconceptions regarding position-velocity-acceleration.
As an example, some students think that when a car overtakes another car on the highway, they must have the same velocity at the moment they are side by side.
The problem with conceptual tests is designing them, you need to be very comfortable with the subject to design a good conceptual question.

The AP questions are reasonably good in this fashion which probably hints at why it is perceived to be hard, education is often stuck in "the old ways".
 
  • #20
I would say the reflections of Eric Mazur are the best at this. He would ask his students the traditional numerical problems and then ask them to explain the physics. He found a huge discrepancy in that students were not understanding the basic physics principles, but were able to solve for the right number.

Is this before or after he started selling his product on the lecture circuit? Now don't get me wrong, Mazur did have a positive effect on the way I teach, I incorporate polling into my lessons. At the same time, I don't teach Harvard undergraduates, I teach at a suburban high school. My students are not going to devour the textbook before coming to class so that they can discuss and teach themselves the nuances physical theory in class. If he were to implement his teaching methodology wholesale in my classroom, my students would learn very little and he would not have a job at the end of the year. At the same time I think you are creating a strawman argument with regards to a supposed dichotomy between traditional numerical problems and what is being asked of students in some of the FRQ's that exist on the AP 1 exam. There is a lot in between, and outside of that whole framework of questioning in terms of physics.

Physics Education Research as a field generally started because professors wanted more students to understand physics. Is this poor motivation? Absolutely not!

Well that certainly sounds noble. I have heard that people become doctors because they genuinely want to help people. I have also heard individuals become politicians because they want 'to serve the people'. I have even heard that "the College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity". The reality of academia is quite different. I think Gregori Perleman summed it up pretty well when reflecting on the careerism in academia that spurred the blatant attempt to steal credit for his discovery he said, “I can’t say I’m outraged. Other people do worse. Of course, there are many mathematicians who are more or less honest. But almost all of them are conformists. They are more or less honest, but they tolerate those who are not honest.” In fact, books have been written on the subject. It is important to realize that this is not a criticism of the people involved, people have to eek out a living. It really is a direct result of the political economy of academia and if the system was different this probably would not happen.

What you are asking is if the AP course better prepares them for the course in college. Look at the majority of these intro. physics classes, and you need very little physics to pass. If you can recognize what symbols mean(v means velocity!), and can do algebra and maybe some calculus, you will end up with some of the highest grades.

No this is not what I am asking them. What I have asked is whether professors would give these type of questions to college first year physics students that have no plans on being scientists or engineers given their relative difficulty, especially FRQ 3. The reason I am asking this question is that if it is inappropriate for college first year physics students than it is definitely inappropriate for high school first year physics students. I have direct evidence that at least one of the professors that "works very closely" with a professor who was on the Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee for the AP Physics Redesign will not give questions remotely as difficult to their engineering students. Rather, they give those students precisely the types of questions that you decry and also happen to be orders of magnitude easier. It is completely unethical. Just like it is unethical for someone to take part in a committee to radically redesign a national curriculum whose release coincides with the release of their https://www.amazon.com/dp/0321715357/?tag=pfamazon01-20 which so happens to match that radically redesigned curriculum. Just like it is unethical for current and former graduate students to blatantly organize an effort (from March 15, 2015 - March 22, 2015) to boost the rating of this very same textbook when it was getting panned by the public who actually had to use it.

The old adage is "physics is just math." But this wrong line of thinking leads to low enrollment, definitely low enjoyment, in physics courses.

I disagree, good physics is precisely like good mathematics. What you are describing is not a good mathematics, but rather just algebraic churning. That said, this is probably the level of physics that is politically acceptable for teaching to the majority of high school level first year physics students who are not planning on going into physics or engineering. That said, I am not of the opinion that the College Board needs to transform the questions to this type. Rather that they need to redact their suggestion that high schools convert their first year honors course into an AP Physics 1 Course and return to the longstanding policy of advising it as a second year physics course. Thus if students decide to take it as a first year course, they and their parents know what they are getting into. Otherwise, many teachers will continue to lose their jobs through no fault of their own but rather because they are being asked to square the circle, and will be told by their bosses that the College Board advised them that it can be done.
 
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  • #21
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The best way to test is by asking tricky conceptual questions on the material covered in class that could be reasoned out. My instructor for the second semester of introduction physics ( E n M), called the test quizzes. We had these quizzes once a week or every two weeks. They consisted of half conceptual questions and 2 maybe 3 good problems with multiple parts. These questions required you to fully understand the material and students always learned something by taking the "quiz." It was not a regurgitation of homework problems, like so many test are.

Here is a homework problem from our homework set. We typically had 5 problems and an extra credit.

5. Consider the circuit shown in Figure 5. Suppose the switch has been closed for a long time, so that the capacitor has become fully charged.

  1. a) With the switch closed, what is the steady

    state current through the 12.0 kΩ resistor?

  2. b) With the switch closed, what is the steady state current through the 8.00 kΩ resistor?

  3. c) With the switch closed, what is the steady state current through the 6.00 kΩ resistor?

  4. d) With the switch closed, what is the charge
12.00 V

8.00 kΩ

12.0 kΩ

30.0 μF

6.00 kΩ

https://www.physicsforums.com/file:///page2image7448 [Broken]
on the capacitor?

  1. e) The switch is opened at t = 0. Write an equation for the current in 12.0 kΩ resistor as a function

    of time.

  2. f) After the switch is opened, how long does it take for the charge on the capacitor to fall to 1/3 of
its initial value?

The "quiz" used the general ideas presented in the homework set, however, we were supposed to expand on the concepts.
 
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  • #22
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If anyone is interested, I can email them the problems.
 
  • #23
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That said, this is probably the level of physics that is politically acceptable for teaching to the majority of high school level first year physics students who are not planning on going into physics or engineering.

Professors also care about being paid. Research pays, and teaching is just a requirement. Most intro. to physics classes inadequately prepare their students for their careers. So, can we avoid relying on what professors think prepares them for their class?

On this topic, what does this class, as you describe, prepare non-physics/engineering students for? Certainly not for their careers. And certainly not for understanding how the world works.
 
  • #24
Professors also care about being paid. Research pays, and teaching is just a requirement. Most intro. to physics classes inadequately prepare their students for their careers. So, can we avoid relying on what professors think prepares them for their class?

The reason why professors of physics are a good source to ask is because they also have an idea of what is politically acceptable. Research professors are rarely the ones teaching the Intro courses for non-physics majors, that usually is relegated to adjuncts and phd students. It is a great idea to ask them because they are subjected to similar political pressures that high school teachers are regarding rigor, namely they have to deal with the tyranny of course evaluations. If these questions are inappropriate for college students taking physics for the first time then they are definitely inappropriate for high school students taking it for the first time.

On this topic, what does this class, as you describe, prepare non-physics/engineering students for? Certainly not for their careers. And certainly not for understanding how the world works.

That class prepares them for a second year of physics because it acquaints students with some of the problem solving mechanics and introduces them to some of the basic ideas. This is not the type of course that should receive college credit, but it is the course that the overwhelming majority of high school students should first take. Only a tiny minority of high school students are qualified to sit for an exam as difficult as the AP Physics 1 tests. When the College Board changed their policy and encouraged this being a first year course for high school students, they opened Pandora's box and high school teachers around the country have been paying the price for it.
 
  • #25
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The reason why professors of physics are a good source to ask is because they also have an idea of what is politically acceptable.

Politically acceptable? Is this another way of saying "no change"? Change can be for the better.

That class prepares them for a second year of physics because it acquaints students with some of the problem solving mechanics and introduces them to some of the basic ideas.

So, it prepares them for more classes? Is that what college should prepare us for? More college? You are probably right that college does indeed prepare us for more college. But it should prepare us for a career.
 
  • #26
Politically acceptable? Is this another way of saying "no change"? Change can be for the better.

I do not know where you teach but I teach in a school where it is nearly impossible to fail 1 honor student, a teacher is more likely to not get rehired than a single honors student is to fail a class. In 2014, 60% of students who took AP Physics B passed with a 3 or higher. In 2015, 63% of students who took AP Physics 1 failed receiving a score of a 1 or 2. To call this a change for the better is analogous to calling the Great Leap Forward a change for the better.


So, it prepares them for more classes?

Yes. The high school class that is appropriate for the overwhelming majority of high school students is a high school level physics class. The purpose of that class is to prepare them for college level physics class. Why is this so hard to imagine? Why not just teach students quantum mechanics as a first year course for high school students?

Is that what college should prepare us for? More college?

Yes.

You are probably right that college does indeed prepare us for more college. But it should prepare us for a career.

Contrary to popular opinion college was never designed for preparing people for careers. Furthermore you vastly overestimate the degree of rigor involved in most corporate work. I spent 10 years in finance working doing various levels of statistical analysis and quantitative modeling. Without question the course that proved most valuable for me was my 9th grade BASIC programming class. In fact I remember convincing my coworker when I worked in Risk Management that you could train monkeys to do 90% of our jobs, and the other 10% could be given to a smart high school graduate. Bear in mind, this is pretty high level white collar work, I did not need a physics degree and I doubt that it made any major contribution.
 
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  • #27
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I do not know where you teach but I teach in a school where it is nearly impossible to fail 1 honor student, a teacher is more likely to not get rehired than a single honors student is to fail a class. In 2014, 60% of students who took AP Physics B passed with a 3 or higher. In 2015, 63% of students who took AP Physics 1 failed receiving a score of a 1 or 2. To call this a change for the better is analogous to calling the Great Leap Forward a change for the better.

Then why continue teaching the old method?

Why is this so hard to imagine?

Because it is a scary thought. College should prepare you for the real world. If this is not its goal, then the real world needs to rely less on college.

Contrary to popular opinion college was never designed for preparing people for careers.

Back when colleges were only designed for white males? Your statement is outright incorrect. College is designed to prepare people for careers. That is why you have programs like medical school, education school, and what not. Its original intent was to breed the upper class. But that is far from its only role today.

We have two choices. Prepare our students for the real world in high school, or stop requiring it.
 
  • #28
We have two choices. Prepare our students for the real world in high school, or stop requiring it.
Let's talk about the real world for a second. What percent of students can you fail and still keep your job or position as an AP Physics Teacher? Can you fail over 60% of your high school's best students for two years in a row? If the answer is yes, then all the power to you man, you have the best damn teaching job in the world. If the answer is no, then I am done having to explain why this situation of teaching this course with this AP exam to first year high school physics students is untenable.
 
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  • #29
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<snip>College should prepare you for the real world. <snip> We have two choices. Prepare our students for the real world in high school, or stop requiring it.

I'm not saying I agree or disagree with these claims. I am asking what do you mean by 'prepare for the real world'. Proficiency in a set of job skills? Life skills? Something else? And, does being 'prepared' imply that at some point one has successfully reached some sort of intellectual/emotional plateau beyond which progress is no longer necessary?
 
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  • #30
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What percent of students can you fail and still keep your job or position as an AP Physics Teacher? Can you fail over 60% of your high school's best students for two years in a row?

College Board let everyone know that algebra-based AP Physics was changing. Not only did they change what content was expected to be learned, they also changed the skills that were required to succeed. I am genuinely curious on how you changed your courses when this change happened.

I'm not saying I agree or disagree with these claims. I am asking what do you mean by 'prepare for the real world'. Proficiency in a set of job skills? Life skills? Something else? And, does being 'prepared' imply that at some point one has successfully reached some sort of intellectual/emotional plateau beyond which progress is no longer necessary?

Well, i don't have a complete list of skills that students should have after leaving college, but here goes:
  • Students should learn to take responsibility for their work. The best way to accomplish this is to have students actually create things. They do this in art classes, but they rarely accomplish this in their core classes.
  • Students should be critical of the accomplishments of mankind. We first ask they have a degree (and rather high one at that) before they are allowed to make judgements on what is known.
  • Students should be asking the right questions. Rarely we require anything but providing the 'right' answer.
  • Students should be able to communicate to those around them. We do a great job at this.
  • Students need to be building things with their hands. My high school of 2000 kids has 2 or 3 technical education classes. These classes are a dying breed, at least in my area.
  • Students should be able to troubleshoot a problem, when one occurs. How can they do this if we only present these manufactured problems?
Most classes i have been in, or observed, or even taught, have revolved around teaching students 'facts' (and i use that term loosely) and to follow directions. This is distressing.

No, being prepared for the real world does not imply one has reached an intellectual plateau. I believe that having a bona fide desire to learn is when you have reached erudition.
 
  • #31
College Board let everyone know that algebra-based AP Physics was changing. Not only did they change what content was expected to be learned, they also changed the skills that were required to succeed. I am genuinely curious on how you changed your courses when this change happened.

I have been asked this question before. To give you an idea here is a list:
1) Polling of Concept Questions
2) TIPERS
3) Writing Prompts of concepts
4) Restructuring FRQ's
5) Constructed a database of all Released AP 1 MC questions in Examview that is indexed to topic
6) Constructed a database of all AP B and AP C MC questions in Examview that correlate to AP 1 questions
7) Parsed out all relevant AP B and AP C questions that correlate to AP 1 FRQ's and modified them to include a greater writing porton
8) All exams are timed with AP 1 questions or modified past AP B/C questions
9) Inquiry based Labs
10) Experimental Design Labs
12) Reading Questions to go along with reading
13) Everything in the class is derived from first principles. Including all potential energy functions, all major theorems and I work extensively on derivations in student work.
14) Used the Mechanics Baseline Test and FCI as a check for comprehensive student understanding

90% of my students last year passed the AP 1 exam. More than half of whom scored either a 4 or 5. But, I also teach in one of the wealthiest districts in the country. I am not particularly worried about how my students do, they have all of the resources at their disposal. That said, I had a substantial proportion of my students also take the AP Physics C Mechanics exam and they did better on the AP C Mechanics exam than the AP 1 exam. Furthermore, I have had students score 25 out of 26 on the Mechanics Baseline Test, score 5's on AP C Mechanics exam and score a 4 on last year's AP 1 exam. These are not good signs. The people I am advocating on behalf of are the many students who are getting screwed.
 
  • #32
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<snip>Well, i don't have a complete list of skills that students should have after leaving college, but here goes:
  • Students should learn to take responsibility for their work. The best way to accomplish this is to have students actually create things. They do this in art classes, but they rarely accomplish this in their core classes.
  • Students should be critical of the accomplishments of mankind. We first ask they have a degree (and rather high one at that) before they are allowed to make judgements on what is known.
  • Students should be asking the right questions. Rarely we require anything but providing the 'right' answer.
  • Students should be able to communicate to those around them. We do a great job at this.
  • Students need to be building things with their hands. My high school of 2000 kids has 2 or 3 technical education classes. These classes are a dying breed, at least in my area.
  • Students should be able to troubleshoot a problem, when one occurs. How can they do this if we only present these manufactured problems?
<snip>

This same list can be applied (nearly verbatim) to elementary school kids. If the primary schools are not teaching these skills, why do you assign responsibility to the colleges?

A broader comment is that the skills you list do not require earning a college degree- repair techs need to troubleshoot all the time, for example. And it seems to me that there is an inverse relationship between level of formal education and ability to criticize the accomplishments of mankind. Uninformed people seem to make the loudest judgements.....

So let me ask again- what exactly do you think earning a baccalaureate degree should entail? What (ideally) is the unique value of that credential?
 
  • #33
atyy
Science Advisor
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I like the questions :) I think they are pretty similar to what I got in high school (following the A-level syllabus 20+ years ago).
 
  • #34
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Why is this algebra based physics.? Where did the students need to manipulate equations to solve a physics problem.? I think the students I taught over the years would be put off by these questions. They would probably be looking for places to solve equations for answers. I do not think this test is good at assessing how well the students completed algebra bases physics as it has been taught in the colleges that I taught at or have been associated with.

This looks like a "qualitative" physics test for students in a final course which will not be preparation for subsequent college courses.

In particular, the equation sheet does not list an equation relating the tension of the wave to the frequency, speed or wavelength. Maybe the college board should give everyone credit for that one. I find other questions do not have well defined answers to them. Seems like these are open ended.
 
  • #35
In particular, the equation sheet does not list an equation relating the tension of the wave to the frequency, speed or wavelength. Maybe the college board should give everyone credit for that one.

If students used that equation they would probably get no credit from it. They are supposed to look at the diagram and see that the wavelength of the standing wave decreases as you go down the string, but the frequency of oscillation stays constant. Therefore the speed of the wave decreases.
 
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