A.P. classes see success with project-based experiment
- Frustrated government teachers in Washington state's Bellevue School District teamed up with researchers at the University of Washington six years ago to begin an experiment on reconfiguring A.P. classrooms.
- In order to address concerns that the courses moved so quickly that they only encouraged rote memorization, and to find out if hands-on exercises would improve a rising failure rate among minority A.P. students, traditional lectures and occasional projects were abandoned in favor of a curriculum that places role play and simulation front and center.
- Results so far show that projects planned and executed well provide enough depth and breadth for students to pass the A.P. exams, and often perform better than students at the experiment's "control" schools, where lectures still dominate the curriculum.
While rewarding, employing a curriculum shift such as this can also be tough. If not adequately planned or rigorous enough, project-based learning can quickly become a waste of time for students and teachers alike. The idea isn't a new one, though — as pointed out in the Seattle Times, John Dewey, an education reformer from the 1890s, once promoted "learning by doing." The experiment has been funded with $6 million from sources including the George Lucas Educational Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, and it is currently underway in Washington, California, and Iowa.
If the model continues making subjects like A.P. U.S. government and politics, A.P. environmental science, and, soon, A.P. physics all the more accessible for struggling students — 88% of students in two high-poverty schools involved passed in 2013, compared to 24% in the same types of schools nationally — it may soon become A.P.'s standard.
- The Seattle Times Less lecturing, more doing: New approach for A.P. classes
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