9-12, AP Computer Science A, Uncategorized

Update #2: Individualized Learning in AP CSA and CSII

I’m headed into year three of individualized learning! Check out the original post and update #1.

What’s changed?

  • I’ve eliminated the formal pre-test. My students, though they have programmed in Python in the past, do not tend to have deep existing knowledge to do well on the pretest. Instead, they seemed to find it demoralizing which is not how I want to start a unit. I try to gather this knowledge more informally through “preview” activities. These might include a class program, analyzing, or code tracing. This is certainly something I would revisit if a student came in with more advanced skills.
  • Based on student feedback, the start of class has returned to a more traditional approach with some direct instruction on new content, reviewing assigned activities, or demonstrating a concept with code. I have a feeling that this is more a product of the specific and technical nature of an AP test, and I would love to see how it is different in another type of class.

What do we like?

  • I’m loving the variety of ways in which students are demonstrating their knowledge. Plus, after teaching the course a few times (plus being remote and hybrid), I have a number of different examples, hands-on activities, and collaborative exercises at the ready. This has been super helpful as it becomes evident that we need more practice with a certain topic.
  • Students have really responded to the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. Though it takes lots of reminders, by the end of the year I can see that they’ve learned how to manage their time throughout the week to get their assignments in on Sunday. (Side note: I don’t have a late penalty and they can revise their homework until correct for full credit.)

What am I still working on?

  • It has been challenging to get students to recognize what they really don’t understand. Perhaps it is the culture of our school, but everyone seems afraid to “miss something” and tries to do everything I offer in the class period.
  • As we review for the AP test each year, it becomes evident which topics we didn’t spend enough time on. As a result, I’m constantly updating my problem sets and examples to reflect “popular” AP questions.