As our world changes and technology becomes more and more entwined in everything we do, a utopian image sometimes materializes in the mind: robots everywhere, self-driving cars, delivery drones, and 25-or-so students in neat rows, learning without a live human in front of them.
But is that realistic or beneficial to students? In the wake of the pandemic and the surge in online learning, where do we go from here and how can high school leaders move students successfully toward college and career with the skills they will need to thrive?
Let’s consider the AP classroom and the rigors associated with AP courses. Should these students – who are clearly motivated, high achievers by the fact that they registered for an AP class – be given the autonomy to learn with online tools and expected to gain a balanced education? Or is a blended learning approach in the best interest of these high schoolers? We’ll find out why one teacher says their role is “invaluable” as it relates to student success.
In-Person Learning and the Value of the Teacher
Regardless of what has changed since the spring of 2020, in-person learning remains vitally important. From guidance, motivation, and helping students see other viewpoints, to more advanced reasons like simplifying the complex and making abstract concepts accessible, it’s undeniable that teachers guide their students to the salient points within a lesson. They expose them to ideas and topics that they might otherwise not have encountered. Teachers can expand on interests, help students see what is possible, and push their students to improve.
We spoke to an experienced educator in the Pacific Northwest who has taught various high school courses, including AP European History. When asked why a blended learning approach is best for students, Quinn McAndrews discussed the value of the specific training AP teachers receive and how it helps them guide their students to achieve their best.
“All students have strengths and weaknesses in how they learn, so offering the material in more than one modality helps more students reach their potential,” said McAndrews, who has taught AP courses in more than one district. “Teachers are specifically trained on how these AP tests work. Without their insider knowledge, students would be left strategizing alone and would not have the most current information or best resources at their fingertips.”
McAndrews also stressed the relationships he’s built with his students, and how he has been able to encourage them to shoot for the stars. “The personal aspect of having a teacher believe in you and want the best for you cannot be understated,” he said. “Teachers are invaluable in regard to student success, especially in AP classes, at a time when students are exploring, planning, and dreaming of who they can be.”
The Facts: Why AP Courses Help Students Succeed
According to the College Board/AP Central, taking AP courses can help students:
1. Build skills and confidence
They dig deeper into subjects that interest them and learn to tap their creativity and their problem-solving skills to address course challenges
2. Get into college
Students who take AP courses send a signal to colleges that they’re serious about their education and that they’re willing to challenge themselves with rigorous coursework.
3. Succeed in college
Research shows that students who receive a score of 2 on their AP Exams are ready for college work.
4. Save time and money in college
Most colleges and universities nationwide offer college credit, advanced placement, or both for qualifying AP Exam scores.
A Blended Learning Approach Is Best for All Students
While the pandemic may have strengthened our reliance on, and knowledge of, online programs, it is clear the best instruction still comes from a combination of good online tools and in-person teaching. Experienced AP instructors know where to find the best online learning tools since they’ve done the research and have already vetted cloud-based resources before students come to class. Ideally, online learning for AP courses includes programs that:
- Allow teachers to create assignments for individual students, groups, or the entire class
- Include College Board-level questions, in-depth answer explanations, and detailed reporting
- Feature content that can be easily integrated into lessons and empowers students with knowledge and confidence throughout their learning experience.
High-Quality Learning Tools Are Key
At UWorld, we are committed to helping educators do what they do best: make a difference in the lives of their students by helping each student reach his or her full potential.
For districts, schools, and educators looking to enhance AP classes and boost student scores, UWorld offers an innovative AP resource that helps students master the concepts needed for AP course and exam success. Discover how we can help your AP program today.
We’re Still Humans
Even with the best resources at a student’s disposal, the need for experienced teachers remains. For most of us, human contact is necessary for learning because we are social animals and learning is naturally a social event. Students need every aspect of what good teachers do—work that usually goes unmentioned or unnoticed—the leadership, mentoring, and guidance that encourages students and enhances their learning. This happens every day in the classroom, and the combination of the right tools with the right teacher will always be a winning combination.