An Intro to the New AP Computer Science Principles Course

While many students fear that their high school and even college education may fail to get them a job upon graduation, those with a background in computer science seldom have reason to worry. The tech industry continues to grow and change, and there’s no signs of stopping. It should come as no surprise, then, that schools will begin offering an AP Computer Science Principles course in the fall of 2016.

The course, which will emphasize creative ways to solve problems in the larger world, is meant to prepare students for both college and employment situations. Rightfully so – skills in computer science are required or are strongly beneficial for nearly every field of employment. Computer science skills have become essential for students entering the workforce. With this in mind, here is an intro to the new AP Computer Science Principles course.

AP Computer Science Principles development

The AP Computer Science Principles course has been in development since 2008 and has been the collaborative effort of more than 50 high school and higher education teachers. The course is meant to be interactive, current, and relevant.

AP Computer Science Principles content

Instead of simply reviewing a programming language, the course will cover technology and programming as a solution for computer issues. It will focus on computers and their interaction with and to society – not revolving around computers entirely, but examining the ways computing has influenced other fields.

In addition to computer science, the course will build communication and collaboration skills, emphasize problem solving as individuals and as groups, and examine technology in the world. The class will focus on seven big ideas entrenched in the principles of STEM education: creativity, abstraction, data and information, algorithms, programming, the Internet, and global impact.

AP Computer Science Principles framework

This class is meant to mimic a first semester introduction to college computing course. The course teaches the computational thinking practices necessary for developing the knowledge and skills to analyze data and communicate. Because the course focuses around seven big ideas, each uses questions and concepts to connect every idea to the next. These questions tend to be large-scale questions that rely on information learned in previous sections.

As with many AP courses, the Computer Science Principles course features thorough learning objectives that provide students with clear goals for the course and the AP exam to follow. Next to each learning objective (which are numbered so that their relationship to big ideas and enduring understandings is clear), students will find essential knowledge statements, which will help students perform well on the AP exam and in every section of the course.

This course will be creative, iterative, and exploratory, which makes it very useful for a variety of learners.

AP Computer Science Principles test

The AP test for this course will consist of two parts. First, the AP exam and then the through-course AP assessment. The AP exam will be administered as a multiple choice test filled out with paper and pencil. Students will be required to demonstrate their understanding of course learning objectives.

In the through-course assessment, students will complete two performance tasks involving programming. They’ll look at student learning in a more comprehensive way than can be achieved on a timed test. Students will perform their knowledge in a real world way.

Overall, the course looks to provide valuable job skills to students interested in technology.