Junior Kali Wells attends AP U.S. History on Zoom from the gym during the hybrid schedule. (Photo by Arikta Trivedi)

AP Classes lose discussions, adapt to shortened time

Due to the constant switching between the hybrid and remote schedules this school year, teachers have had significantly less time with their students, leading them to make adjustments in their curriculum, such as cutting out content, using online resources, and dealing with the loss of discussion time. 

The time constraints have been a concern for advanced placement (AP) teachers because they have to cover a certain amount of information in a limited time to prepare students for their AP exams in  May. 

Last year, classes met for 4 hours and 20 minutes every week with the regular schedule. This year, the remote schedule only allows classes to meet for 1 hour and 40 minutes a week. The hybrid schedule allows 4 hours and 10 minutes on a full five day week. But there’s only been one full five-day week during the hybrid schedule. So, generally, classes have only met for 3 hours and 20 minutes in the hybrid schedule.

In addition to the new time constraints, teachers have had to keep adjusting their course plans as the school switches between the two schedules.

Last year, due to COVID-19, the exams were held online and were shorter than usual. But this year, the College Board has announced that exams will be in the usual format and will be held in person if possible. The exams will run from May 3-7 and from May 10-14.

Teachers still have to prepare their students for the full exams while being in the hybrid schedule. 

“As a teacher, I think I’m spending less time going over content like “terms” during our class time since we only meet twice a week most of the time,” AP U.S. History teacher Chris Kuipers said. “But I’m not necessarily rushing through any topics any more than past years because there’s so much to learn that even in normal years, we go pretty fast.”

AP Biology teacher Kellie Whited said that since she’s taught the class for many years, it’s easy for her to stay on schedule.

“I know where I need to be in the curriculum at certain points in the year in order to get through everything by the AP exam,” she said. “I’ve been keeping a close eye on my pacing to make sure that we’re staying on schedule.”

History and biology are both topics that have chapters and units, specific information that will be on the exam, but English isn’t as structured by the College Board.

“The content of the course can be almost anything so long as the essential skills are covered,” said Jason Hinojosa, who teaches AP English Literature and Composition. “We are on schedule, but that’s because there isn’t really a ‘schedule’ at all. That’s in terms of the College Board. In terms of our own schedule and the precedent set in previous years, we are basically keeping up.”

The same also goes for AP Spanish. Teacher Patricia Portillo said a lot of the skills students are tested on — such as listening, speaking, writing and reading — are skills students have been practicing for years in their Spanish classes.

Senior Erin Wilson attends AP Biology during the hybrid schedule. (Photo by Arikta Trivedi)

“I’m lucky in the sense that we don’t start this class from zero and there’s not really an endless amount of material they have to memorize, but rather improve their skills,” Portillo said.  

However, Portillo said the class is a little behind schedule because they haven’t had as much time to practice vocabulary and grammar together in class.

Before time constraints were a factor, both Hinojosa and Kuipers made changes to their classes that also ended up helping with the loss of class time.

Usually, the AP English class reads a Shakespeare play which changes in accordance with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s plan every year. 

“We dropped the play to make room for other texts that better fit the curriculum themes and because I felt that students had usually read enough Shakespeare by senior year,” Hinojosa said. “Having one less text to cover did make it much easier to cover the remaining books.”

Kuipers decided to use a new, more direct textbook, which saves some time. He has also cut back on the optional readings, primary sources and the amount of class time spent lecturing. 

One change all teachers have had to make is how they adapt their classes to Zoom. 

Whited has had to find a new way to do labs.

“We’re using an online lab program called Pivot to perform some of the more hands-on AP labs,” she said. “It’s not ideal and certainly not as exciting as doing the lab in person, but it gets the job done. I am hopeful that we won’t have to use it as much in the second semester when our concepts move away from those that require the use of ‘traditional’ labs similar to those in a chemistry class.”

Similarly, Hinojosa has moved discussions to an online format by using a CavNet discussions board much more frequently than before.

Kuipers and Portillo now rely on more online resources to get information to their students. 

Kuipers places more importance on online videos from places like AP Classroom and Khan Academy.

Rather than using a textbook, like in the past, Portillo now relies more on Duolingo and VOCES, an online site with practice activities, to teach students the cultural information needed for the exam.

Freshman Orlando Ponce Blas does an activity in AP Spanish along with students on Zoom. (Photo by Arikta Trivedi)

There are some aspects of the AP classes that just don’t work as well in this new format and with the new time constraints.

Hinojosa, Portillo and Kuipers said discussions have been the hardest part of their curriculum to adapt.

“It’s been challenging to reproduce the relaxed flow of an in-person conversation,” Hinojosa said. “CavNet discussions and Zoom conversations just aren’t the same.”

Kuipers said that in his class he has to focus more on the content and skill that will be on the exam with the limited time they have together.

“We lose some of the more philosophical, interesting discussions about things that go beyond the AP exam,” he said. 

“I also miss just random, fun discussions. When you meet every day, there’s more room to be sidetracked whereas now as a teacher I feel more pressure to utilize every minute of our time.”

Adapting their curriculum to fit this new way of learning also takes a lot more time and effort.

Whited said she has to work harder to adapt lessons and labs to the changing schedules. She also has to put in more work to stay on top of the needs of her students.

“Being remote brings many distractions, and I’m sure my students are having to work very hard to stay on track whether they’re on the hybrid schedule or completely remote,” she said.

AP Biology student and senior Meghan Kaschner said that she’s had to spend time outside of class to make sure she fully understands each topic.

“I think AP Biology has had to shift as far as what’s possible to accomplish, particularly during the weeks when we only had two classes,” Kaschner said.

“In that way, the workload increased because I was researching some of the topics on my own to supplement the text, but I think Dr. Whited has done a great job of making sure we’re still on track.”

Since it’s also been an adjustment for students, the teachers recommend that students, above all, communicate with them.

“I have many students that I have yet to see in person, and I lose out on those valuable conversations that help me gauge their understanding of concepts between tests,” Whited said. “I sincerely appreciate every single email from students because it really helps me to know if my pace is manageable and what I can do to help them better understand the concept.”

-By Arikta Trivedi

Originally published in the Feb. 2 edition of the Octagon.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email