Regan Clark Foust
Carolyn M. Callahan
Using qualitative methods, the researchers explored student perceptions of the social and emotional advantages and disadvantages of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) program participation, differences between the AP and IB programs in those perceptions, and whether or not students report experiencing a “forced-choice dilemma” between academic success and social acceptance. The results suggested AP and IB students perceived experiencing both positive and negative social/emotional consequences of their participation in these programs. The benefits AP and IB students attributed to their participation in AP and IB versus general education courses were a better class atmosphere, a special bond among participants, and pride and self-confidence derived from completing the more challenging work, but they lamented the perception of unflattering stereotypes assigned to AP and IB students, the socially limiting workload, and the stress and fatigue. Student perceptions of the social/emotional consequences of AP and IB participation also differed by program. IB students were more likely than AP students to complain about the rigidity of their program because of the reported limitations it placed on class choice, extracurricular activities, and interactions with non-participants; cite differences between themselves and non-participants; perceive a negative stereotype associated with the program; and report experiencing great exhaustion they attributed to the workload. Finally, AP and IB students did not consider academic success a choice and felt that they could maintain both a social life and their academic success; however, “having it all,” both social and academic success, required them to sacrifice something. For many students, that something was sleep.
Students’ Perceptions of the Social/Emotional Implications of Participation in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs
Regan Clark Foust
Carolyn M. Callahan
- Better equip students to handle the rigor and challenge currently required in advanced courses (especially IB). Advanced students interviewed in this study, and especially students in IB, reported routinely sacrificing sleep to finish their homework and experiencing stress and other psychological consequences as a result of their participation. Therefore, we must either reevaluate the amount of work assigned to these students or better prepare them for the demands of these rigorous programs by providing workshops, seminars, or classes that focus on stress reduction and healthy coping skills, and confronting these students with appropriately challenging curriculum before they are 17.
- Increase flexibility of grouping in advanced courses (especially for IB) while maintaining the positive characteristics of these courses that these students loved. The more time students spent in classes with only other advanced students, (a) the more compliments they had about their program-mates and classes, but b) the more complaints they reported about the socially and sleep-limiting workload and interacting with the “other” students at their schools. While taking care to maintain the major positives that students associated with their participation in these ability-grouped settings, schools must mollify the negatives by encouraging advanced students to work and take classes with students with diverse talents and opinions, thereby nurturing a sense of school- in addition to program-community.
- Help teachers (a) better respond to the needs and nature of individual students and b) establish learning environments in which all students will thrive through differentiation. Training teachers in differentiation (i.e., Teaching them how to better attend to the academic and affective needs of individual students by providing appropriately challenging curriculum in a respectful and supportive environment) will help teachers be more effective, regardless of their students’ levels of ability. In addition, differentiation should make general education classrooms feel more similar to advanced courses in challenge, instruction and atmosphere. Thus, differentiating instruction in all classrooms should perpetuate the maintain characteristics advanced students used to describe their AP and IB classrooms, reduce the negative characteristics they used to describe their mixed-ability classes, and improve the challenge, instruction, and atmosphere in classrooms school-wide.