Saturday, April 18, 2009

AP Physics B Redesign, part 1

Trouble looms on the horizon.

I attended a session at the 2008 AAPT Summer Meeting in Edmonton regarding the upcoming redesign of the College Board's AP Physics B program. The proposed changes will make Physics B a two-course program. Too many schools teach the current Physics B as a first-year course, despite the College Board's admonition that Physics B is intended to be a second-year course. For this and other reasons, the plan is to split the course into two courses: AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2.

As someone who moved his school away from AP Physics B as a first-year course, I applaud such an initiative.

The redesign is still in progress, and the College Board has not yet announced the course outlines for AP Physics 1 or AP Physics 2. Implementation of the redesign will not occur before 2013. But one proposal has been unveiled for teacher review and comment.

The proposed AP Physics 1 course would include
Linear motion in 1- and 2-dimensions
Gravitational, electrostatic, and contact forces
Gravitational fields
Newton's laws
Energy conservation
Fluid statics
Mechanical energy
Energy transfers as work and heat
Linear momentum conservation
Charge conservation and simple circuits
Mechanical waves
Thermodynamics


A few topics of interest in the AP Physics 2 course include
Electric and magnetic fields and forces
Electromagnetic induction
Interference and diffraction
Reflection and refraction

As proposed, AP Physics 1 will not be practicable in California. Too many of California's 9-12 Physics content standards are left out. AP Physics 1 is intended as first course. A first course in California physics must include a robust treatment of electricity and magnetism and waves (including wave optics).

I hope changes are made to the course outline before implementation. California's implementation of NCLB has all but banned Physics First from public instruction in California. I hope the College Board's implementation of the AP redesign doesn't likewise banish AP Physics from The Golden State.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dean

Thanks for you postings, they are always informative and thoughtful. However, I don't agree with your comment that the revised AP Physics Year 1 and the California State Standards are at odds with each other. The only CA State Physics Objective that seems to be missing from AP is electromagnetism. Other than that the two systems seem to be very compatible.

Chris Balmy
Burlingame High School

Dean Baird said...

Hi Chris,
California needs its physics students to know about electric and magnetic fields and forces. And electromagnetic induction. And about the electromagnetic spectrum and the wave nature of light.

These are fairly big chunks of curriculum.

E&M is very unfamiliar to students, so additional time--with hands-on labs / demos / visualizations--is called for. And you're not going to blast through refraction, interference, diffraction, and polarization in a week, either.

I suppose the California physics teacher would teach fluids after the California Standards Test and before the AP test.

Miguel said...

Inductance and capacitance are more difficult ideas that don't lend themselves to hands on labs very well. However, mass and elasticity do. More time should be spent on Newtonian mechanics, heat and fluids. A better uderstanding of mass, elasticity, conservation of energy, and the concepts of pressure,flow rate, and thermodynamics would benefit students. Then the 2nd year could be spent on electricity, magnetism, and electromagnetic waves and circuits. Why introduce students to electricity when they haven't fully mastered mechanics?

I'm from Texas, but I still think Physics B like C should be seperated as to not include electricity.

Dean Baird said...

Hey Miguel, thanks for the comment!

I don't think high school students are prepared to master much of anything. And I don't think they really need to. They're high school students!

Once upon a time, chemistry was a prerequisite for physics. "Why teach kids physics if they haven't mastered chemistry?"

I don't agree. Nor do I think that mastery of mechanics is an obvious or natural filter for the study of electricity or magnetism. I know of many teachers who preferred starting the year with geometric optics. Good teachers; successful teachers!

In Paris, you might find a standard kilogram and a standard meter, but you will not a standard high school physics scope and sequence.

I guess I'm not looking to put barriers between students and the study of the broad range of physics topics.

I'd rather have them know why the sky is blue and how rainbows work than empower them with the ability to calculate Hohmann transfer orbits or spend a month covering kinematics.

But that's yet another reason why Baskin-Robbins makes 31 flavors.

Luis Ateca-Torres, M.S. Physics said...

I am not agree on change the 1 year AP Physics B in 2 years courses (physics 1 and Physics 2)

My concern is: Designing AP courses of this new form is great for students who want to delve into the world of physics, but not for those who are wishing to meet a requirement to advance to college level courses. Many students think in fewer years to finish bachelor because they are well aware that the desired career takes years, not because they like physics. An example of this is the medicine, engineering, and other doctoral degrees. For this reason they seek to take AP courses for college credit without having to enter college yet.

Pretending that a one year university course the student take it in two is not feasible or marketable. Students will prefer to take the physics honor course and concentrate on other matters or take other AP courses. This because the college board would be forcing students to take three years of physics, ie, physics of honor, AP Physics - 1 and 2. A physicist love the proposal, but this does not convince the students. We must be aware and remind us to get enrolled in physics has always been an uphill struggle. In many schools AP physics courses is a dream because it does not have registration.

Luis Ateca-Torres, M.S. Physics said...

I am not agree on change the 1 year AP Physics B in 2 years courses (physics 1 and Physics 2)

My concern is: Designing AP courses of this new form is great for students who want to delve into the world of physics, but not for those who are wishing to meet a requirement to advance to college level courses. Many students think in fewer years to finish bachelor because they are well aware that the desired career takes years, not because they like physics. An example of this is the medicine, engineering, and other doctoral degrees. For this reason they seek to take AP courses for college credit without having to enter college yet.

Pretending that a one year university course the student take it in two is not feasible or marketable. Students will prefer to take the physics honor course and concentrate on other matters or take other AP courses. This because the college board would be forcing students to take three years of physics, ie, physics of honor, AP Physics - 1 and 2. A physicist love the proposal, but this does not convince the students. We must be aware and remind us to get enrolled in physics has always been an uphill struggle. In many schools AP physics courses is a dream because it does not have registration.