Upon opening the AP score report for this year’s AP Calculus AB cohort earlier this week, I knew the new recipe I created for teaching the course this past school year was a keeper. I did not feel the same last year. In fact, I do not believe I even blogged about my students’ scores after I received last year’s score report, as disappointment with the results held me back. At the same time, the disappointment drove me to seek out a new approach to teaching the course.
To help understand my satisfaction with the new recipe, let’s first look at data for the past three year’s for which I taught the course along with the year preceding my arrival as a baseline.
The yellow highlighted cells show the significant improvement in this past year’s cohort compared to earlier ones, as well as the difference between the this cohort’s pass rate and the national average pass rate. Secretly, I had hoped for a 100% pass rate. However, I was very happy to compute the 82% rate, which exceeded my minimum expected rate of 60%; I shared each of these with my fellow AP math teacher (Calculus BC and Statistics) before summer break. I cannot recall if there was a friendly wager riding on the results though. My memory likely will kick in as the new academic year commences this fall, where my friend may owe me a cold beverage.
So, what exactly is the recipe I used this past year? In general, it consisted of a “flipped classroom” model where students completed their homework assignment before attending class, or receiving any guidance from me; some might classify the approach as incorporating a blended learning model where students integrated use of online technology with traditional in classroom instruction. There is a fair amount of debate over what makes up blended learning, so I chose not to include it as an ingredient in my description of the initial recipe.
Every week students visited my website to view assignments for an upcoming week as shown below.
Each of the links above connected students to a detailed tutorial hosted on Sophia.org containing assignment instructions; links to videos; supplemental, embedded videos and slide presentations; a reading assignment; specific homework exercises; a Google form to enter select exercise solutions; another Google form for students to rate themselves on the assignment based on a provided rubric; and on occasion, a brief one to three question multiple choice online assessment with step-by-step solutions provided after they submitted their answers.
Select images of some of the material available to a student on my Sophia site follow.
Initial Review of Recipe’s Success
While the “flipped classroom” approach is challenging for many students, both in terms of access and acceptance, I believe it is a superior method for challenging topics such as calculus where up to half of students routinely fail or drop the course. My first experience with the flipped classroom model occurred my freshman, err plebe, year at West Point where students read the textbook and completed homework before the next class period during which students presented their work among their classmates and the “P,” or professor. The major difference between then and now, aside from 30+ years, consists of the expanse of the Internet and all the video and textual resources available to students to include step by step solutions to most textbook exercises!
With the Internet at their fingertips, my students watched one or more instructional videos on the to-be-learned calculus topic before reading the textbook, or completing the assigned homework exercises. Other supplemental resources were available to students such as videos from college instructors or detailed slide presentations showing step by step solutions that followed along with examples from the textbook.
Many improvements, enhancements, and other changes will follow this first use of the recipe. However, I am confident that its basic ingredient set satisfies the needs of student, teacher, parent, and administrator. I look forward to working with a new cohort of students this coming year, where tweaks to the basic recipe will hopefully yield even greater results.