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Shari Hunt — Advanced Placement Annual Conference 2011

August 1, 2011

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Advanced Placement Conference 2011 hosted by the College Board.   This conference hosted many speakers and workshops for teachers of Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high schools.  I met many AP science teachers from across the country and was inspired by several of the speakers.

The first workshop I attended was the introduction of the AP Biology Course for new AP Biology teachers.  Presented by Isidore Julien, Outreach Coordinator from Purdue University, Mr. Julien discussed the main framework of this course as well as introduced the AP Biology course redesign, which will occur for the 2012- 2013 school year.

Since this course is a college level course taught in the high school, our discussion included many ideas to maintain rigor yet provide scaffolding to students who may have some difficulty (especially in the amount or level of reading) without compromising the course.  Workshop attendees shared ideas to provide scaffolding at the AP level.  For example, discussion of the various textbooks available (some designed with easier layout/reading).

Mr. Julien also introduced the course redesign to be rolled out next year (2012-2013).  The idea behind the redesign is to emphasize scientific inquiry and student directed while moving away from the lecture, demonstration approach, and “cook book labs”.   Workshop attendees discussed how to rework the twelve specific required labs for AP Biology and make them more student driven and student inquiry.

This workshop included an in-depth discussion of student equity and access to AP courses.   In the spirit of the College Board

Another workshop, “From ‘1 through 55’ to Integrated and Inquiry” discussed taking a more integrated approach based on the 5E Model.  Rather than work through the textbook or typical “units” in order, Beth Peterson and Kate Silber from Highland Park High School in Illinois discussed integrating curriculum across units while incorporating an inquiry based learning models.  For example, covering animal digestion after the topic of biochemistry and enzymes.   In most biology textbooks, digestion occurs much later in the book.  This helps the student to make connections and encourages active learning.   Peterson and Silber discussed their practice of integration with the 5E Learning Model: Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, and Evaluation.  For AP Biology, we discussed the ways to introduce the inquiry labs throughout the year from a confirmation inquiry  level  (students are provided more guidance to the questions and the solutions) to a more open level inquiry (students generate the entire laboratory as well as solutions).

Levels of Inquiry




1 – Confirmation Inquiry Provided by teacher Provided by teacher Provided by teacher
2 – Structured Inquiry Provided by teacher Provided by teacher Student Generated
3 – Guided Inquiry Provided by teacher Student Generated Student Generated
4 – Open Inquiry Student Generated Student Generated Student Generated

Two other workshops focused on two specific labs in the AP Biology curriculum, Dissolved Oxygen and Respiration.  Since these labs are sometimes more difficult to make completely open inquiry based for students, we discussed ways to accomplish this task.  Using probeware and some inquiry worded questions, each attendee was able to redesign the labs from “cook book” or recipe approach to student driven questions and inquiry.   The goal is to have the students design the lab from start to finish.  Allowing students to drive the inquiry and even make “safe” mistakes will, no doubt, increase the rigor and motivation.

Overall, the conference was beneficial to network with other AP Biology teachers and highly motivating. The conference’s repeated theme, inquiry, was supported by inspiring ideas to encourage the students to inquire about science and think critically.  With the new AP Biology course redesign coming next year (2012-2103), there was ample opportunity to review how to make AP Biology less memorization of facts and more problem solving and inquiry based.    I look forward to using many of the ideas presented in my classroom.

Thank you for allowing me to attend.                                                                      -Shari Hunt

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