• AP Psychology

    Mr. McNamara

    Great Valley High School

    2019 2020



    Course Philosophy and Rationale: In order to be successful in AP Psychology, students need to complete the reading assignments in a thorough and timely manner.  It is critical that students come to class prepared to discuss the readings and ask any questions that they may have.  Also, the ability to correctly define and apply vocabulary terms plays a major role in the AP exam.  Students can expect to take a Unit 1 assessment within the first week of school.


                                        AP Psychology Course Syllabus


    Course Objective: The purpose of the AP Psychology course is to introduce students to the systematic and scientific study of animal and human behavior and the mental processes that make humans unique in the animal kingdom and between each other.  Students are exposed to the psychological facts, principles, and phenomena associated with each of the major subfields within psychology.

    Resources for Teaching AP Psychology

    1.      Textbook: Myers' Psychology for AP (Second Edition @ 2014, 2011 New York: BFW Worth Publishing).

    2.      Supplemental: There are a number of short articles and readings drawn from various sources, books, newspapers, magazines (TIME, Newsweek, US News & World Report, Psychology Today, Scientific American Mind, and others), and journals that must be read and interacted with by the students. 

    3.      Video/ Laser Disc Presentations: materials from West Publishing, PBS, The Brain Video Series, Discovering Psychology (from the Annenberg Collection), The Mind Video Series, TED Ed/Ted Talks/Ted Radio Hour and NPR’s Radio Lab podcasts will be used during class.

    4.      PsychSim 4 and 5 activities will be employed as supplements and reinforcement.

    5.      Active Psych and Digital Media Archive Presentations may be employed where appropriate.

    Grading Policy:  The course is a weighted course and the student’s grades are calculated by averaging the student’s Quarterly Grades (20% each), Mid Term Exam (10%), and Final Exam (10%).  Quarterly grades are calculated also as a mathematical average of assignments completed over the range of the quarter.  Summative Assessments (unit or chapter tests) account for 60%, Formative Assessments (yardage marker assessments such as quizzes, check-ins, steps in a larger project) are 40%.  Classroom/homework assignments (article reading and questions, vocabulary, chapter notes) are not graded but should be undertaken with the understanding that they constitute the student's prep work for Formative and Summative assessmentss. They should therefore be completed with an eye towards being successful and competent learners who are well prepared for the AP Psychology Exam in May which can earn students college credit if they achieve a high level grade there.


    Assessments: Unit Tests, Chapter Tests, Quizzes, Midterm Exam, Final Exam, Poster Project(s),

    Article Analysis and Quizzes, Short Papers (1-2 pages), Class Presentations, and Research Papers (3 pages+).


    Teacher observations: I’ve been teaching this course and Psychology classes for 20+ years.  The topics, the areas we touch on, the scope of the subject matter, the direct connection that we make with the material – it’s a lot of very interesting (some may say “engaging”) material. And students have to understand it; in-depth. We also have to move quickly since the AP Psychology Exam offered by College Board takes place in early May; a full 6 to 8 weeks prior to the end of school. Also, the students have to keep up with Mr. Mac who is completely scattered (mentally) and who will be thinking of connections and concepts that are upcoming well prior to when students see those connections. So, it is IMPERATIVE that students do the readings timely.  Mr. Mac can be funny and sometimes entertaining and for some students that will be distracting.  Entertainment is not a substitute for education. Education is an interactive process as is learning. The information will be conveyed in a conversational manner that does not always convey the background knowledge that 30+ years of learning about Psychology has given Mr. Mac. In order to understand it at more than just a superficial level; in order to retain it, hold it in your minds, be able to work with it, explore it, analyze it, and evaluate it - students have to do their part.  As a wise old APUS teacher used to say “If you don’t read the pages, you WILL NOT pass the course.” It’s that simple.  Do your part. Parents, if your child says “I have nothing to do for AP Psych”; they are misinforming you and deluding themselves.  There is always something to read, view, review, or prepare for. One of the early pieces we’ll read is entitled “Learning: What Works, What Doesn’t” and one of the big takeaways from that is that the best method of studying involves “distributed practice”. Distributed practice means working with the material over time. Reading, re-reading, creating questions, taking practice tests or quizzes, looking for the anchoring concepts are all strategies that students employ so that the learning takes root and is held fast in the mind and can be manipulated so that it can be applied to real and as of now, still hypothetical situations.  This means there needs to be a serious investment of time on the part of the student.  Also true, Mr. Mac will not cover all elements from assigned textbook readings.  If the material has been assigned it can always will appear on quizzes, tests, and exams.  If Mr. Mac doesn’t cover it in class, students are encouraged to ask questions. Do not say that a test or quiz item wasn’t covered in class if it had previously been assigned for reading and you had questions but didn’t ask them. If students have questions about concepts or material that they come across, Mr. Mac will do his best to explain or dissect them so that the student feels comfortable but that means the student has to be a reflective self-motivated learner who can identify what they do not understand prior to coming to class so that they can ask Mr. Mac clarifying questions. Again, that kind of learning requires an investment of time. It also makes the classes a lot more enjoyable.  As I said Mr. Mac can be entertaining but it works a whole lot better when smart kids ask smart questions. Then, everybody benefits because if you have a question; statistically speaking 5 to 7 kids in the room have the same question. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions.  It’s one of the ways we all learn.