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Redesign of the AP Biology Course, Examination, and Teacher Professional Development Experience


The College Board is launching a major initiative aimed at dramatically improving the quality of learning and teaching in Advanced Placement (AP) science courses. This work is being undertaken in response to a recent report on advanced studies from the National Research Council (NRC, 2002) that recommends specific changes in advanced study in the sciences.

Phase I of this long-term initiative includes the establishment of an ongoing dialogue with scientists and educators across the nation in order to inform the process by which the College Board will redesign the course, exam and teacher professional development experiences for its AP Biology course. The information acquired from Phase I will lead to Phase II of the program: the development, field-testing and evaluation of new AP Biology curricular materials, assessments and teacher professional development experiences. Work during Phase I will also inform the process by which the College Board redesigns its AP Chemistry, AP Physics and AP Environmental Science courses.

Intellectual Merit
Repeated calls that the content of science education focus on big ideas and be pared down to essential learnings have been prominent in recent years. This is no easy task, however, given that the available body of important scientific knowledge does not remain stable but rather unceasingly grows and diversifies at a breathtaking rate. This work builds on recent studies and analyses by the National Research Council, draws on the College Board network of AP science teachers and university faculty, and is underpinned by the latest research on the principles of learning with the aim of increasing learning with understanding in AP science courses.

Broader Impact
The project is led by the College Board, a not-for-profit membership association of more than 4,300 schools, colleges and universities, and education associations. The College Board sponsors and administers the AP Program. The experiences gained from this initial phase of work can serve as a model for the re-design of all AP science courses, and for the enhancement of any advanced level courses in the sciences, including those offered in both high school and at the university level. The College Board will quickly disseminate the results of this effort through its network of more than 15,000 AP science teachers.


1) Learning with understanding is facilitated when new and existing knowledge is structured around the major concepts and principles of the discipline;

2) Learners use what they already know to construct new understandings;

3) Learning is facilitated through the use of metacognitive strategies that identify, monitor, and regulate cognitive processes;

4) Learners have different strategies, approaches, patterns of abilities, and learning styles that are a function of the interaction between their heredity and their prior experiences;

5) Learners' motivation to learn and sense of self affects what is learned, how much is learned, and how much effort will be put into the learning process;

6) The practices and activities in which people engage while learning shape what is learned;

7) Learning is enhanced through socially supported interactions.