Quite a number of people have asked me about the issue of completing the content of the AP course now that the AP Chemistry exam has been moved forward by eight days in the 2011 AP exam calendar. The question usually starts by someone asking, “What can I leave out?” The answer that I always give is, “Nothing”! What do I mean by that? Well, if you were teaching the course as a preparation for the AP exam you should only be delivering the essential stuff ANYWAY! Your content should really already have been pared down to the bare minimum, and be completely focused. Since I teach AP chemistry to sophomores in one year, we already deliver a pretty efficient model, but even I am looking for more areas to trim the fat. Here’s what I suggest as areas that can be examined for potential time saving.
- Drop the significant figure, rounding and scientific notation nonsense from the beginning of the course. Kids in an AP chemistry class should be able to do this in their sleep, and if there really are some serious problems here then these students’ have no business being in such a class. I haven’t taught this as part of my AP class in years.
- As long as you are fulfilling your professional obligation in terms of doing what you said you would do in your audit, I strongly suggest paring labs to a minimum. Whilst lab work is clearly an important part of the course, it can be argued that it gives the least “bang for the buck” in terms of time consumed versus concepts taught.
- Net Ionic Equations. Given the horrible demise of this section of the exam in recent years, I am beginning to wonder if my comprehensive treatment of complex REDOX reactions in acid and base, and some esoteric discussions about disproportionation, esterification, organic addition, transition metals and other interesting but more challenging reactions, is going to continue. It simply seems no longer necessary, and whilst it could be argued that these areas were already at the periphery, there was a time when I would not have been able to sleep at night if I had not taught them – the contemporary AP exam seems to suggest I will sleep easier with a “dumbed-down” NIE treatment.
- Assign more homework BUT grade it. If you want the kids to do more on their own, show that you value that work by collecting it and grading it for accuracy.
- Even if you ARE already down to the bare minimum in terms of content, do one less example problem in some less important topics.
- Be both critical and flexible of yourself and your teaching, EVEN IF YOU ALREADY HAVE A GREAT MODEL THAT HAS BEEN INCREDIBLY SUCCESSFUL. Potentially, this is the most important piece of advice that one can give an experienced practitioner.
As ever, it will be May before we know it and organization and a schedule that you stick to with a bloody-minded, unswerving determination will be an essential, central part of whatever you decide to deliver.