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

  • #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
Andy Resnick
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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
Andy Resnick
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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
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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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  • #36
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The people I am advocating on behalf of are the many students who are getting screwed.

Let's say i was asked to teach AP Physics 2. Let's say, while teaching AP Physics 2, i use the AP Physics 1 curriculum. Most of my students fail. Should i really be blaming the AP tests for my failure to change my curriculum? Certainly not. Most of the teachers in my area choose to keep their curriculum roughly the same. You clearly updated your curriculum, and it has benefited your students. Why can't others do the same? Debating whether or not the AP tests prepare you for college is a separate issue.

Why is this algebra based physics.? Where did the students need to manipulate equations to solve a physics problem?

Do you teach algebra-based physics, or physics-based algebra?

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?

I do not. I believe all education should be responsible for these sets of skills.

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.....

Depends on how you define criticize. Voicing a complaint that isn't thought out is not what i was going for. Using a skill that is applicable to the real world? I was indeed going for that.

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?

Can you find a specific set of skills that both physics majors and fine arts majors should have, that does not also apply to high schoolers? Seems like you are asking me an impossible question.
 
  • #37
Andy Resnick
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<snip>
Can you find a specific set of skills that both physics majors and fine arts majors should have, that does not also apply to high schoolers? Seems like you are asking me an impossible question.

I'm asking you to think a little more deeply about the purpose and function of formal education. I can list 'skills' that I expect college graduates to have over and above high school students, but my deeper point is that 'acquisition of skills' is a peripheral function of education, not the core function.

Consider the phrase 'have a set of skills', or 'acquire a skill set'. The underlying meaning does not correspond to reality- a skill cannot be 'owned' in the same way someone may own a spoon. Rather, the educational process (and it is an ongoing process, not a transaction) is one of ongoing refining and distilling. One becomes increasingly proficient in a decreasing scope of activity.

I expect college graduates to be able to interpret and explain a discipline-specific piece of work much more deeply than a high schooler. I expect a college graduate to be more aware of the scope of their own ignorance than a high schooler. I expect a college graduate can express their own ideas and opinions more clearly, with more supporting context, than a high schooler. I do not expect a college graduate to be able to fix my car any better than a high schooler (unless the college is a vocational-technical school).
 
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  • #38
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I'm asking you to think a little more deeply about the purpose and function of formal education. I can list 'skills' that I expect college graduates to have over and above high school students, but my deeper point is that 'acquisition of skills' is a peripheral function of education, not the core function.

Fair enough. I am at the beginning of my career; i love discussing its purpose with those who are more experienced than i. I do plan on continuing my graduate studies to improve how physics is taught in high school.

I expect college graduates to be able to interpret and explain a discipline-specific piece of work much more deeply than a high schooler.

Is college prep a sufficient goal of high school? Historical reasons alone are not enough to justify the current structure of high school.

I expect a college graduate to be more aware of the scope of their own ignorance than a high schooler. I expect a college graduate can express their own ideas and opinions more clearly, with more supporting context, than a high schooler. I do not expect a college graduate to be able to fix my car any better than a high schooler (unless the college is a vocational-technical school).

I definitely agree with these well-written sets of goals. I do not believe physics classes in my school succeed at these goals.
 
  • #39
You clearly updated your curriculum, and it has benefited your students. Why can't others do the same?

I am not so sure that it has benefited my average students. My absolute best students, yes. But my average students simply do not appreciate nor should they appreciate all of this depth. It is completely wasted.

I am at the beginning of my career; i love discussing its purpose with those who are more experienced than i. I do plan on continuing my graduate studies to improve how physics is taught in high school.

Well I have an important piece of advice, education is wasted on the young. The average teenager will not devote themselves to your class or any class for that matter. They will copy their homework, cram for exams, fudge data or do just about anything to maximize the amount of time dedicated to their social lives and minimize the amount of work they have to do. There is a reason why physics that used to be taught to teenagers was a mile wide and an inch deep. If you try to spend more time to explore the subject in greater depth all that ends up happening is that your average students learn less material in the course because they are not going to bother learning the material until the night before the exam anyhow. They cram and they dump. Furthermore, the real tragedy is that your best students would have learned the material at a greater depth anyway, all that happened was that they end up learning less material. So the net result is a wash at best, at worst it is a net loss.
 
  • #40
Andy Resnick
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Is college prep a sufficient goal of high school?

Of course not- the goal of high school is not go to college. *A* goal for some, and while I'm intrigued by the European (German?) model for K-12 that places students on various 'tracks', I'm not sure it can work here.

I definitely agree with these well-written sets of goals. I do not believe physics classes in my school succeed at these goals.
Don't worry too much, most college courses don't either :) I'm on an NSF-funded project that, among other things, brings K-16 (!) STEM teachers together to generate new ideas for the classroom and it seems to be working well: 'STEM teacher education' is a hot topic now. If you are able, try approaching a local university (probably start with the education college) and see if they have any existing outreach efforts. There's more university support for high school teachers than you may expect.

Glad to hear you are 'all in' for teaching! (sorry for the plug, but I'm on my way to a parade... :))
 
  • #41
Andy Resnick
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<snip>Well I have an important piece of advice, education is wasted on the young. The average teenager will not devote themselves to your class or any class for that matter. They will copy their homework, cram for exams, fudge data or do just about anything to maximize the amount of time dedicated to their social lives and minimize the amount of work they have to do. There is a reason why physics that used to be taught to teenagers was a mile wide and an inch deep. If you try to spend more time to explore the subject in greater depth all that ends up happening is that your average students learn less material in the course because they are not going to bother learning the material until the night before the exam anyhow. They cram and they dump. Furthermore, the real tragedy is that your best students would have learned the material at a greater depth anyway, all that happened was that they end up learning less material. So the net result is a wash at best, at worst it is a net loss.

All teachers rant like this from time to time. Just remember it's not really the 'average', you are talking about below-average students that suck up above-average amounts of your time and attention.
 
  • #42
All teachers rant like this from time to time. Just remember it's not really the 'average', you are talking about below-average students that suck up above-average amounts of your time and attention.

Not really. Most of these kids that I mention don't take much of my time or attention at all. They can not be bothered to, it would interfere with what matters most in our society, socializing and athletics. It is not a rant either, it is a reality and not necessarily a bad one. I remember being young and having much of the same passions. I thought of myself as having a passion for academics, but looking back it was hardly true. Whether these are average students is also questionable. I see these traits as typical of my average honors and AP students, the characteristics of lower level students tend to be worse. If these traits do not describe your students then consider yourself lucky.
 
  • #44
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Not really. Most of these kids that I mention don't take much of my time or attention at all. They can not be bothered to, it would interfere with what matters most in our society, socializing and athletics. It is not a rant either, it is a reality and not necessarily a bad one. I remember being young and having much of the same passions. I thought of myself as having a passion for academics, but looking back it was hardly true. Whether these are average students is also questionable. I see these traits as typical of my average honors and AP students, the characteristics of lower level students tend to be worse. If these traits do not describe your students then consider yourself lucky.

I guess I'm lucky, then.

Really surprised with your experiences, Andy, considering what Diaz Lilahk says is very true and normal. Most high school students simply don't care about physics or math, and it makes sense. There are so many other subjects to be interested in. A majority of people will not enter a field that has anything to do with calculus, and it doesn't really make sense to have to spend years in high school learning a subject that one hates and has no interest in.
 
  • #45
Most high school students simply don't care about physics or math, and it makes sense. There are so many other subjects to be interested in.

It's true but I also feel like that is the minority of students. The majority of students I find to be not particularly interested in any of the academic subjects. They are passionate about things outside of their classes. It could be playing an instrument, playing in a rock band, playing lacrosse, football, soccer. Some are passionate about sports that they don't play. Or they like "business" which is just code for socializing in a club like FBLA. To really see this in action just go to the school's football games and then attend an academic competition, I can assure everyone that they are very different experiences.
 
  • #46
Andy Resnick
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Really surprised with your experiences, Andy, considering what Diaz Lilahk says is very true and normal. Most high school students simply don't care about physics or math, and it makes sense. There are so many other subjects to be interested in. A majority of people will not enter a field that has anything to do with calculus, and it doesn't really make sense to have to spend years in high school learning a subject that one hates and has no interest in.

I'm not a high school teacher, I'm a university professor.
 

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