The Advanced Placement (AP) program has been in operation for many years and offers high school students the ability to take courses for college credit. The College Board, the organization that administers AP programs as well as the SAT standardized test, announced recently that anatomy & physiology (A&P) will be offered through the AP program starting in the Fall of 2024.
Here are three details HAPS members should know about the AP program and the AP A&P course they will offer:
- Advanced Placement courses are taught by high school teachers who are offered extensive professional development opportunities, such as summer workshops, to learn the curriculum and instructional requirements for the different AP courses. The driving force behind all AP courses is the final, 3-hour, exam; for the entire duration of the course, the teachers teach to this exam. Exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 3 is considered passing and scores of 4 or 5 indicate mastery and superior understanding.
- Colleges and universities can accept or decline AP credits. Some schools accept credits only if students score a 4 or 5 on the exams. Other schools do not accept AP credits unless the student takes and passes the next level of course content at their institution. If the credits are accepted, then the student can opt out of that college class.
- The new AP A&P course might fulfill one or both semesters of a two-semester college sequence. One of many possibilities is that if a student scores a 5 on the AP exam, they will get credit for both semesters, a score of 4 will earn credit for one of the two semesters, and a 3 means a student will have to take both semesters of A&P. In almost all cases, credit decisions are made by college administrators.
My hope is that HAPS members can play a role in the development of this new program. Reports from my network of high school teachers is that the now mature AP Biology program had difficult early years because the exam focused on memorization over conceptual learning. However, those same teachers now report that the AP Biology is indeed a rigorous course and provides students with a high-quality learning experience.
A few possible roles for HAPS in the new AP A&P course include:
- helping instructors with day-to-day teaching and learning issues
- identifying course learning goals and objectives
- assisting with the development of the final exam
- helping colleges navigate the politics of accepting or rejecting AP A&P credits
Many experienced A&P instructors and administrators will view this new AP A&P program with skepticism, “Can a college-level anatomy and physiology course be taught in a high school?” That is indeed a valid question. My 15 years of experience working in a college/high school partnership strongly suggests yes (Jensen, Mattheis, and Loyle, 2013). Let’s give the teachers and students the best possible opportunities for success. The HAPS organization can indeed be a significant participant in the launch of this new A&P program.
Jensen, M., Mattheis, A., & Loyle, A. (2013). Offering an Anatomy and Physiology Course Through a High School-University Partnership: The Minnesota Model. Advances in Physiology Education, 37: 157-164
Dr. Murray Jensen is a Professor of Biology Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.