Strategies and Skills

Teacher Voice: Margaret Davidson, AP* Psychology, Berkner High School, Richardson, TX

Early each semester with my AP* students I wonder what types of Pre-AP* experiences they have had to prepare them for the rigors and academic challenges that they will face in my class. Often my students have taken many "honors" and Pre-AP courses that have given them an indication of the expectations of a college-level class. However, some students enter without any real experience in challenging classes and no real inkling of what will come. Some students wished they had been bettered prepared for the course in which they were enrolled. Carole Buchanan, an educator with great experience and numerous AP students, asked the question of her students: "What do you wish you had learned before enrolling in AP classes?"

As I discussed the issue of student preparedness with my colleagues, I found that teachers are of the opinion that some students do not have the skills needed to move them to higher levels of learning. I posed a simple question to a number of AP teachers in the North Texas area: "What do you wish your students had learned prior to enrolling in your AP class?" The results of this informal survey might surprise you. Teachers and students essentially had the same goals: student success in challenging, higher-level academic courses. Take a look at teacher responses and student comments below.

It is my hope that the skills matrix with some of the best practices in the Pre-AP/AP classroom will assist teachers in providing for their students the very finest learning experience to prepare students for academic challenges at all levels of learning.

What students said. . .

  • "I wish I’d learned how to better interpret what I read in textbooks."
  • "I wish they could have prepared us more by teaching us to read all the way through a chapter and not just look for the answers on a worksheet."
  • "I don’t know how to organize and study."
  • "I need to learn to take my own notes instead of teachers giving us reading notes to fill in."
  • "I wish I could have learned more about culture and the people instead of just facts."
  • "Require more detailed knowledge, not just the general idea."
  • "Reviews should not give us all the questions on a test. I needed room to discover how to study better."
  • "I’ve never had to write essays for history. I was not prepared for AP History essays."
  • "I don’t know how to write a thesis."
  • "Teach us how to write a history essay."
  • "I needed to learn how to take harder tests so that going from Pre-AP to AP wasn’t such a huge leap."
  • "I needed to learn to read longer assignments and discuss what they meant."
  • "Give us harder work; challenge us more; make us learn to study."
  • "More focus on critical thinking and comparison."
  • "Make the students think."
  • "I wish we had spent more time actually learning."

What teachers wished that students had learned . . .

  • to be avid readers with understanding of main ideas.
  • to take notes effectively from a high level of reading.
  • to understand essential terms and concepts from the discipline of Social Studies.
  • to develop study habits that go beyond memorization to deeper understanding of concepts.
  • to develop writing skills appropriate for AP measures.
  • to use a variety of primary and secondary research sources.
  • to develop good analytical skills.
  • to be responsible for personal academic success.
  • to learn that tutoring is for everyone!
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