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The Advanced Experiment: Why I Flipped my AP Classroom

This is my ninth year teaching Advanced Placement Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, and despite a 90% pass rate, I decided it was time to try something new.  I absolutely love teaching in the advanced placement classroom. It’s fulfilling, it’s intense, and it offers a unique chance to facilitate and participate in collegiate discussions with my students.  But for the last several years, I’ve felt time catching up to me, and the pressure to “cover everything” wore me down. It meant that the precious time that I spent talking and interacting with my students was being sacrificed for the greater good of “preparing for the exam”.

Look at these knuckleheads!

What changed? Declining enrollment and the opening of a new high school within our district meant that the student population dramatically shifted.  Students were beginning to choose between AP courses instead of taking a full schedule, and as a result, my favorite class to teach began thinning out.
So my colleague who teaches AP Government came up with a plan to salvage our classes.  He suggested we combine our classes to allow students to take both AP Economics and AP Government, allowing us to keep more students in our classrooms and saving students from having to make the decision to sacrifice classes to make their schedules work.  The price we would pay would be to cut the courses we offered from four to two. Instead of teaching both AP Micro and AP Macro, I would offer only AP Macro, and he would cut AP Comparative Government and offer only AP American Government.  Then we would switch students at the semester.

Giving up AP Microeconomics was tough. It was a subject I loved, but I had to look to the greater good of the kids I taught and what I could do for them. Allowing them to take both APs instead of choosing between the two would mean more students in my desks, and a great opportunity to change the way I taught. At first, it was a struggle to balance between preparing the kids for the AP exam, conducting the memorable and meaningful activities and simulations that they loved, and using real world application.  Time became my foe, and I had to give up more and more of it in order to make the course work.  My pass rates have always been my concern (and I will admit, they still are) because, ultimately, they tell me how many of my students carry their knowledge of the field with them into their collegiate careers. But I was concerned that the course was losing its fun, and I wanted reverse that. How could I squeeze every second of the time with my students, while still preparing them adequately, and yet provide them with the lessons that they loved and remembered in years beyond?

And so, I made the call. I was going to partially flip my AP Macroeconomics classroom! A few years earlier, my colleague Mark and I had flipped our American History classrooms and found it to be a huge success. Our brand, “You Will Love History”, had boosted student scores, generated moreopportunities for one-on-one engagement with our students,

Filming video lectures allows me to introduce the subject matter to my students in fun and unique ways.

and gave our kids the opportunity to interact directly with historical documents. Students became the center of learning in the classroom, and they became better students of history.  Using a similar model,  I purchased a green screen and studio lights, and I began recording video lectures that would help flip my AP curriculum.  I also designed multi-faceted activities that would align with my lectures videos and give my students the support and practice they needed to comprehend the material.  I posted my videos to my YouTube channel “YouWill Love Economics”, and it gained subscribers from all over the world.  I was pleasantly surprised with the swift response.

My students have seized the opportunity to engage with each other and the material. They’ve become the center of learning.

As I complete my first month of the flipped AP Macroeconomics classroom, I can take a breath and assess. So far, so great! I’m in the middle of my second unit now, and my students are overwhelmingly positive eabout the flip. They truly value the time it has afforded us todiscuss and debate the subject matter. I’ve found that it’stransformed my classroom from an environment where most of the day is allocated toward direct instruction to an environment where student-teacher interaction, peer review, and think-pair-share has become the primary source of engagement and learning.  I’m making good time (in fact, I think I’ve saved a few days) and we even ran a simulation last week. I’ll post something about that activity on the blog in the coming days. And I know they’re “getting it” because my Unit 1 Exam scores were up 5-10% from the last couple of years. I must admit, it’s a solid start.

As the experiment continues, I’ll continue to share my thoughts and experiences with you.  In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your opinions about the advanced placement classroom, the flipped-mastery model, my YouTube channel and teaching materials, or any other experiences in education.  I am also glad to answer any questions you might have.

Until next time!

My flipped AP classroom at work.