Using the AP Biology Learning Objectives to Design Assessments

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Using the AP Biology Learning Objectives to Design Assessments

 

Importance of the Learning Objectives

Embedded in the new AP Biology Curriculum Framework are 149 student Learning Objectives.  The objectives are “action” statements indicating tasks students should be able to complete.  The Learning Objectives were created by merging the AP Biology Science Practices with the statements of Essential Knowledge. The new AP Biology Learning Objectives are of great use to teachers, as they offer concrete, measurable indicators for assessing student comprehension of the new curriculum.  As I’ve previously reported, the new AP Biology Exam questions will be modeled after these Learning Objectives. The figure below illustrates the anatomy of an AP Biology Learning Objective.

 

 

AP Biology Learning Objective Formula

AP Biology Learning Objective Formula

 

Finding Trends within the Performance Statements

Each Learning Objective is targeted toward a specific biology concept.  Each Learning Objective also contains an “action” statement that describes the method in which the student will demonstrate comprehension of the content.  In this analysis, I refer to these descriptions as performance statements.   I have found it worthwhile to extract performance statements from the 149 Learning Objectives and analyze the frequency at which they occur.

My research has produced a lexicon of performance statements found within the Learning Objectives. I have also calculated frequencies as to how often these statements appear.  I detail the steps of my method in the following section.

Method for Refining the AP Biology Learning Objectives

  1. removed all numbers and punctuation
  2. removed generalized lead in phrases (e.g. “the student is able to”)
  3. sorted statements alphabetically
  4. isolated performance statements (e.g. “create a representation,” “evaluate evidence”)
  5. identified statements describing similar outcomes
  6. merged similar statements into broader statements

Using the process detailed above, I was able to refine the 149 Learning Objectives into 13 unique performance statements.  The final 13 performance statements retain the language of the original Learning Objectives.  A frequency table was created to indicate the total number of Learning Objectives represented by each performance statement.

Significance of the Research

The purpose of this analysis is to aid AP Biology teachers as they create performance measures for the new AP Biology course.  The 13 condensed performance statements can serve as stems to create new formative and summative assessment items aligned to the new AP Biology Curriculum.

As we design instruction for the new AP Biology course, it will be important to understand and emulate the language of the AP Biology Curriculum Framework.  These practices will encourage students to use the language of science and prepare them for the wording of the AP Biology exam.

Results

There are two tables listed below that provide data from my analysis.  Table 1 was produced after my initial refinement of the Learning Objectives.  In this refinement, performance statements that contained identical or nearly identical wording were combined.

The data in Table 2 was created by identifying and merging statements with similar themes.  This process involved omitting certain non-specific, general text (e.g. prepositions, adverbs, and articles).  However, it is important to note that essential verbs and phrases (e.g. analyze data, evaluate evidence) were kept intact in order to properly represent the language of the original Learning Objectives.  The frequency for each of the final 13 performance statements is listed as a percent of the total 149 original Learning Objectives.

Conclusion

The data in Table 2 reveal an emphasis on certain science skills and practices.  The use of representations and models as a tool for describing and utilizing scientific data and concepts received the most emphasis.  It will be important, in my opinion, to ensure that students have a robust understanding of the meaning of representations and models and routinely use them to discuss science concepts.

The second most emphasized science skill is the use of evidence to support scientific claims.  Students are also expected to be able to use data to evaluate the validity of evidence.  It will be important for students to practice drawing conclusions from data while being able to justify their predictions with appropriate evidence.

The practice of making connections between concepts within and between scientific disciplines is also highly represented in the Learning Objectives.  This is congruent with language used in the AP Biology Framework that encourages connecting concepts across the four AP Biology Big Ideas.

Other practices represented at a lower frequency include making predictions, describing content, using math, designing plans, posing scientific questions, and comparing and contrasting.

Table 1

Performance Statement

Freq
analyze data

6

apply mathematical (methods) (routines)

4

compare and contrast processes

1

connect concepts

3

connect differences

1

connect

1

connect how

1

connect scientific evidence

1

construct a representation that connects

1

construct an explanation based on scientific theories

1

construct an explanation of how

2

construct an explanation of the

1

construct an explanation using visual representations or narratives

1

construct and/or justify mathematical models diagrams or simulations that represent

1

construct explanations based on evidence

1

construct explanations based on scientific evidence

2

construct explanations of

3

construct models

1

construct scientific explanations

1

convert a data set from a table of numbers

1

create a

1

create a representation that describes

1

create a visual representation

1

create a visual representation to describe how

3

create a visual representation to illustrate

1

create representations and models to describe

1

create representations or models to describe

1

create representations that depict how

1

describe a model that expresses key elements

2

describe a model that represents

1

describe a scientific hypothesis

1

describe basic

1

describe how

4

describe representations and models

2

describe representations

1

describe

1

describe specific examples

1

describe the connection between

2

describe the events that occur

1

describe the reasons

1

describe the role

1

design a plan for collecting data

3

design a plan to answer scientific questions

1

evaluate data that show the effects

1

evaluate data-based evidence

1

evaluate evidence provided by data (sets)

4

evaluate given data sets

1

evaluate scientific hypotheses

1

evaluate scientific questions

2

evaluate the accuracy and legitimacy of data

1

explain deviations

1

explain how

7

explain the connection between

2

generate scientific questions

1

justify a (scientific) claim

3

justify data from mathematical models

1

justify scientific claims with evidence

3

justify

1

justify the (scientific) claim

2

justify the selection of (the kind of) data

6

make (a) prediction(s) about

5

make scientific claims and predictions about

1

pose (scientific) questions

3

predict consequences

1

predict how (a) change(s)

3

predict the effects of a change

4

refine evidence based on data

1

refine representations and models

2

refine representations to illustrate

1

refine scientific models

1

represent graphically

1

represent the connection between

1

use a graph or diagram to analyze

1

use calculated surface

1

use data

3

use evidence to justify a claim

1

use representations and (models) to (predict) (analyze) (describe) (pose questions)

12

use theories and models to make scientific claims

1

use visual representations to analyze

1

Upon reviewing the data from Table 1, a further refinement was conducted.  The final analysis yielded 13 statements representing a range of verbs and performance indicators appearing in the Learning Objectives of the AP Biology Framework. 

Table 2

Performance Statements Frq
construct, create, describe, refine, or use representations or models to predict, analyze, describe, explain, connect, or pose questions

39

use evidence to make, construct, or justify a scientific claim, explanation or prediction

28

describe, explain, or represent connections between concepts

12

describe or explain how

12

evaluate or refine evidence, scientific questions, or hypothesis based on data

12

use or analyze data to predict or explain

11

predict consequences or effects

8

describe a process, theory, or example

7

justify the selection of data

7

apply math

4

design a plan

4

generate or pose scientific questions

4

compare and contrast

1

AP Biology Learning Objective Performance Statements Frequency Graph

 

I have also created several handy graphics to illustrates the most commonly occuring science practice concepts and the “action” verbs used to support them. (more to come!)

Representations and Models

 

Verbs used to support the use of representations and models.

Verbs used to support the use of representations and models.

Scientific Claims

Verbs to support a scientific claim.

Verbs to support a scientific claim.

 

 

The Big Ideas, Enduring Understanding, Essential Knowledge statements and Learning Objectives are part of the AP Biology Course and Exam Description. Copyright © 2012. The College Board.  The remainder of the page is copyright 2012 © Jeremy Conn. www.ClearBiology.com

6 Comments

  1. Jeremy – great stuff … I love following your blog. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • I’m really glad to hear you’ve enjoyed my blog! It’s great to connect with fellow science teachers from around the country. Internationally too!

      Reply
      • Jeremy, I LOVED your work. i was reading the science practices and imagining what YOU HAVE ALREADY DONE. Great job!

        Reply
        • I appreciate the encouragement! Good luck with the new curriculum.

          Reply
  2. You just made my life and my classroom interaction soooo much easier! I am going to laminate your images and use them as tools during lecture. Thank you for doing all hard work!

    Reply
    • Hey Laura, That’s great! Thanks for the encouraging feedback.

      Reply

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