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News and Notes

Diving Deeper: Expanding Advanced Placement

Guest Contributor: Jill Henry, Director of Instruction

In the past few years, WLHS has added three Advanced Placement (AP) courses — AP Statistics, AP Language and Composition, and AP Computer Science Principles. This year, following a decade of student success in AP U.S. Government and Politics, the social studies department expanded its offerings to include a second AP class: AP Psychology.

AP Psychology is the equivalent of a one-semester introductory college psychology course. Open to students in grades 10-12, AP Psychology introduces students to the systematic and scientific study of human behavior and mental processes. While considering the psychologists and studies that have shaped the field, students explore and apply psychological theories, key concepts, and phenomena associated with such topics as the biological bases of behavior, sensation and perception, learning and cognition, motivation, developmental psychology, testing and individual differences, treatment of abnormal behavior, and social psychology. Throughout the course, students employ psychological research methods, including ethical considerations, as they use the scientific method, evaluate claims and evidence, and effectively communicate ideas.

In the first semester, AP Psychology teacher, Anna Rickard, has been impressed by the student engagement she is witnessing in the classroom. “Students are doing a great job thinking deeply about the topics and asking thoughtful questions. It’s definitely a college-level course, and students are stepping up to the challenge.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for fun as students enjoy working collaboratively or participating in demonstrations. In just the first semester, students have used test strips to see if they were supertasters, created brain hats (see pictures), analyzed optical illusions, and even had the chance to sample dried, flavored crickets as part of critical look at research methods. According to Ms. Rickard: “Human behavior is pretty fascinating, but the opportunity to engage personally with the material by being our own guinea pigs really helps to make the information more accessible to students.”

Additionally, the concepts that students learn in AP Psychology are applicable in the classroom and beyond. Ms. Rickard reports: “This class is very practical for students. For example, in the Cognition Unit, students learned that personal, semantic encoding of information is the best way to remember it long term.” Improving your memory is useful throughout life and seems especially useful for students leading up to final exams!

Whitmore Lake High School is pleased to be able to be able to help our students become college ready by offering six different AP courses across four different academic disciplines. AP Psychology, like all AP courses, allows students to experience college-level coursework and earn college credit while still in high school. AP Exams are given each year in May. This year, the AP testing window is May 6-17. Once in college, students who earned a qualifying score on an AP Exam are typically eligible to receive credit, placement into advanced courses, or both.

You can learn more about the College Board’s AP Program here; details specifically about the AP Psychology course can be found here.

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