Are APUSH Students Affected by the Different Teaching Styles?

By: Morgan Mansfield/Sophomore Writer

One of the Advanced Placement courses offered at Blue Ridge is the United States History (APUSH) course.  APUSH is a two-year course that begins in a student’s freshman year and continues through  his or her sophomore year; at the end of the student’s sophomore year, they have the choice to take the final APUSH test that counts for college credit if scored a three or higher on a one to five grading scale.  This course is taught by a different teacher each of the two years; Mr. Greg Bitner teaches the first half of the course and Ms. Katie Brown teaches the second half.  Many students find that it would be more beneficial if the course were to be taught by the same teacher for both years, while other students do not mind the change.

Sixteen out of the eighteen current APUSH students that are taking the second half this year would prefer the course to be taught by the same teacher.  Sophomore, KayLeen Conklin, thought that she would be able to learn more efficiently if she did not have to learn from two completely different teaching styles.  Other students agreed with Conklin’s view on the different APUSH teachers.

“I feel if you had the same teacher during both years, you could achieve much more.  The different teaching styles made me feel as if I won’t be able to remember what I learned last year,” said Sarah Marble, a sophomore APUSH student.

However, not all of the current APUSH students believe that it would be easier to have the same teacher.  Giavonna Fiore, sophomore, is one of those students.  She is able to adapt easily to the different styles of teaching, so the change doesn’t affect her.  Some students, like Tori Auckland, really like that it is a different teacher each year.

“I like when things are switched up.  Some people don’t like the way some teachers teach, so having another teacher gives everyone a chance to learn in a way that works for them,” said Auckland, sophomore APUSH student.

Former APUSH students also had their opinions on the different teachers and their styles.  Some students, such as senior, Garrett Mansfield, did not feel that having the same teacher both years would have improved his score on the final APUSH test due to his own lack of studying the material, and not the different teaching styles.  Other previous APUSH students think they would have done much better on the APUSH test if they had the same teacher both years.  Daniel Tierney, junior, thought it would have improved his score on the test if he had the same teacher both years because the teaching styles are so different even with their tests and quizzes.

The first year teacher, Bitner, teaches the APUSH course in lectures.  All of the assignments given are outside-of-class assignments such as chapter reading guides, where they read the chapter and answer right-there questions from a packet, and analyzing primary source documents.  Primary source documents are used by both Bitner and Brown, one of the few similarities between the two.  His teaching style in the classroom consists of note-taking from a PowerPoint where he gives, what he feels to be, the most important information from the chapter.

“I go over the information once, and then I leave it up to the student to study and learn the information,” said Bitner.

The second year teacher, Brown, has a more hands-on teaching style.  For homework, she usually gives a document for the students to talk-to-the-text, or she assigns a certain section from the textbook for the students to take their own notes in the way that works best for them.  In class, the students work together in groups, sometimes as a whole class, collaborate and discuss the information that was read and analyzed the night before.  She also tries to prepare the students by giving types of questions and essays that are similar to what will be on the final APUSH test.

“It’s like I always say, practice like you play,” said Brown.

The difference between the teaching styles of Bitner and Brown have resulted in negative outcomes for many, while the effect on others is quite slim.  Should the two-year course be taught by the same teacher?  Or maybe the two-year course shouldn’t be a two-year course at all, being taught all in the same year.  The Principal of Curriculum, Mr. Matthew Nebzydoski, explained why the two-year course is taught by different teachers, and why it’s even a two-year course in the first place.

Nebzydoski explained that it is good for the students to have a different perspective of the history of America.  The two teachers work well together in knowing and loving one part of history more than the other.  There is also an Instructional Design Report given after the APUSH test that tells what areas the students did well on and which areas they could use improvement. Nebzydoski described the course as “a constant work in progress” meaning that the two teachers learn and work well together  behind the scenes to help improve the test scores each year.

“When we learn from a variety of teaching styles, it prepares us differently.  Different expertise and different teaching styles would appeal to a larger number of students,” said Nebzydoski.

He also explained why it is a two-year course in the first place.  There is too much information to be covered and learned all in one school year, but just because it is all taught in one year, it doesn’t mean that the students cannot do well on the test.  It is up to the individual students to have a good test performance.

“I think Garrett hit the nail right on the head.  There is a lot of information covered in the two years and the teachers can only do so much.  It is up to the individual students to prepare for the test,”  said Nebzydoski.

The results of the APUSH test are not completely dependent on the teachers and their different styles, but on how well the students themselves prepare for the test.

Morgan Mansfield is a second year journalism student, taking on her junior year of high school.  She spends most of her free time singing, playing, or writing music.  Fascinated by the human mind, Morgan plans to obtain a degree in Clinical Psychology and become a therapist to help people work through their troubles.