Is Teaching AP Studio Art Really Worth It?

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As I sit here looking at my students’ scores on their AP Portfolios, I know it’s a good time reflect on my first year of teaching AP Studio Art. Each of my seniors was able to create a portfolio with 24 works, and I feel very fortunate that they all were able to receive the scores needed to earn them college credit for the class. It’s quite an accomplishment to create a portfolio of 24 artworks, and the students who can do that should be proud.  The drive it takes to tackle the requirements of AP Studio Art is a lesson in itself, and a great primer for the demands of studio work at the postsecondary level.
 

My question, though: does that credit they (might) earn make up for everything they have missed?

 
People who have been teaching AP for a while will likely answer with a resounding “yes”, but after my first year of teaching, the shift in focus was a shock to my system. The constant focus on production pushed a lot of my auxiliary teaching even further to the periphery of my curriculum.

The biggest thing my AP class was lacking was time to study Art History. I have always loved teaching Art History, and though it is still involved in most of our lessons, we just don’t have the time to teach Art History for Art History’s sake. I think my students are missing out. When we lose that teaching, we also lose Socratic Seminars, which are a great vehicle for higher order thinking, discussions, and growth.

In addition, my students don’t have the time to put into work that they might have liked. There’s simply not time to work on a single project for 5 or 6 weeks. My students, therefore, don’t gain the experience and knowledge that comes with diving into a project in that kind of depth.

We could still do everything we wanted to–my students are definitely not missing out on any projects–but not every idea or concept receives the attention and exploration it deserves.

The AP Portfolio is quite an accomplishment, but I am afraid that it looms over the year as our only accomplishment. I don’t know that my teaching is better or worse, but it was undoubtedly different. I will continue to teach AP Studio Art, and I hope my students will continue to be successful, but I’m afraid they are missing out on what could be a more well-rounded year of art education.
 
 

AP Studio Art teachers: Do you feel like the focus on the AP Portfolio keeps you from teaching everything you would like?

Are there any experiences your students are missing?

 
 
 

Timothy Bogatz

Learning Team

Tim is a high school teacher from Omaha, NE. His teaching and writing focus on the development of creativity, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills.

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