Standards for AP Physics 2

I floated this idea on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and have decided to give it a try. Historically, I’ve grouped my assessment standards into unit-centric categories. In an attempt to emphasize the big ideas and science practices more strongly, I’m going to group standards by the Big Ideas defined by the College Board for AP Physics 2. My assessment standards are the Enduring Understanding defined for each Big Idea. The Essential Knowledge items and Learning Objectives are too fine grained for my style of standards-based assessment and reporting, especially for an AP class where I want students to focus on the combination of multiple concepts.

There will be multiple assessments (labs and exam questions) for each standard. A given assessment will focus on a subset of learning objectives for that standard. As a result, there will be multiple scores for each standard in the grade book. I hope this will give students more insight into their strengths and areas for improvement as they progress throughout the course. I’ll still have reassessments.

The weights for each Big Idea category will not be the same, but I’m going to do more planning before assigning them. I also need to see how these standards are split between the fall and spring semesters.

If you think I’m courting disaster with this plan, please let me know. If you adopt a similar approach for your AP Physics class, please remember I’ve never tried this before!

  • 1: Objects and systems have properties such as mass and charge. Systems may have internal structure.
    • 1.A: The internal structure of a system determines many properties of the system.
    • 1.B: Electric charge is a property of an object or system that affects its interactions with other objects or systems containing charge.
    • 1.C: Objects and systems have properties of inertial mass and gravitational mass that are experimentally verified to be the same and that satisfy conservation principles.
    • 1.D: Classical mechanics cannot describe all properties of objects.
    • 1.E: Materials have many macroscopic properties that result from the arrangement and interactions of the atoms and molecules that make up the material.
  • 2: Fields existing in space can be used to explain interactions.
    • 2.A: A field associates a value of some physical quantity with every point in space. Field models are useful for describing interactions that occur at a distance (long-range forces) as well as a variety of other physical phenomena.
    • 2.C: An electric field is caused by an object with electric charge.
    • 2.D: A magnetic field is caused by a magnet or a moving electrically charged object. Magnetic fields observed in nature always seem to be produced either by moving charged objects or by magnetic dipoles or combinations of dipoles and never by single poles.
    • 2.E: Physicists often construct a map of isolines connecting points of equal value for some quantity related to a field and use these maps to help visualize the field.
  • 3: The interactions of an object with other objects can be described by forces.
    • 3.A: All forces share certain common characteristics when considered by observers in inertial reference frames.
    • 3.B: Classically, the acceleration of an object interacting with other objects can be predicted by using Newton’s Second Law.
    • 3.C: At the macroscopic level, forces can be categorized as either long-range (action-at-a-distance) forces or contact forces.
    • 3.G: Certain types of forces are considered fundamental.
  • 4: Interactions between systems can result in changes in those systems.
    • 4.C: Interactions with other objects or systems can change the total energy of a system.
    • 4.E: The electric and magnetic properties of a system can change in response to the presence of, or changes in, other objects or systems.
  • 5: Changes that occur as a result of interactions are constrained by conservation laws.
    • 5.B: The energy of a system is conserved.
    • 5.C: The electric charge of a system is conserved.
    • 5.D: The linear momentum of a system is conserved.
    • 5.F: Classically, the mass of a system is conserved.
  • 6: Waves can transfer energy and momentum from one location to another without the permanent transfer of mass and serve as a mathematical model for the description of other phenomena.
    • 6.A: A wave is a traveling disturbance that transfers energy and momentum.
    • 6.B: A periodic wave is one that repeats as a function of both time and position and can be described by its amplitude, frequency, wavelength, speed, and energy.
    • 6.C: Only waves exhibit interference and diffraction.
    • 6.E: The direction of propagation of a wave such as light may be changed when the wave encounters an interface between two media.
    • 6.F: Electromagnetic radiation can be modeled as waves or as fundamental particles.
    • 6.G: All matter can be modeled as waves or as particles.
  • 7: The mathematics of probability can be used to describe the behavior of complex systems and to interpret the behavior of quantum mechanical systems.
    • 7.A: The properties of an ideal gas can be explained in terms of a small number of macroscopic variables including temperature and pressure.
    • 7.B: The tendency of isolated systems to move toward states with higher disorder is described by probability.
    • 7.C: At the quantum scale, matter is described by a wave function, which leads to a probabilistic description of the microscopic world.

2 thoughts on “Standards for AP Physics 2

  1. Doug Smith (@bcphysics)

    Hi Geoff,

    I’ve been thinking about your post for a while. I may be misunderstanding your implementation, but here are my thoughts. I think that, in general, using standards that are based or framed as essential questions or enduring understandings is problematic. EU and ES encompass many different ideas and I think necessarily have ill-defined or variable solutions, answers and considerations. This is great for driving inquiry, stimulating thought and for defining learning objectives, but they are themselves not the learning objectives. This in turn can be trouble for SBG, depending on how your SBG system works. For me, I like SBG because it is formative. If a student hasn’t mastered a specific standard, they should be very clear on what topic they need to work on to improve. This formative assessment can be lost if we stop at the ES/EU level. For example, take 3.G. If a student has not yet mastered that objective, what topic do they need to work on? Did they understand gravity and electromagnetism, but hold misconceptions about air resistance? Or friction? Or did they have a misunderstanding about gravity? Or? This of course isn’t the end of the world. A student can analyze their objectives, go through their feedback on quizzes, assignments, projects, etc, and come up with their own plan for improving. That kind of thing would be fantastic. I also think it may be very difficult for some students (although presumably you’re getting students that are already close to university level, since they are taking a university level course).

    Anyways, this was just some food for thought!

  2. geoff Post author

    Doug, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I think you understand my plan, and I share your concerns about organizing a SBG system around enduring understandings. I agree that they are definitely not the learning objectives.

    One aspect that I didn’t share which may help mitigate the risk, is that I will still share the specific AP Physics 2 learning objectives associated with each assessment. So, while the reporting and scoring will be on a less granular level, students will see the more concrete connection between enduring understandings and learning objectives. These learning objectives appear to be fairly specific and probably won’t be visited more than once (other than a reassessment) throughout the year. Hopefully, on that timescale, students will be clear on what they need to address before a reassessment.

    Many years ago, my colleague and I defined very granular standards for our SBG system (over 75, I think). It was unmanageable and students focused too much on these detailed standards and lost sight of the big picture. More recently, at least in AP Physics B, I’ve had two standards per unit. One focused on conceptual understanding and problem solving for the entire unit and one focused on lab work for the entire unit. This worked well for both me and the students.

    The changes with this new idea is that the standards are more granular (there are 30) and will be assessed multiple times throughout the year. So, instead of a single score per standard, students will have multiple scores per standard. I hope that this helps students focus on the connections are big ideas in less of a unit and content-centric manner.

    I will certainly share how it goes and what mid-course corrections I make!


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