As with the rest of my curriculum, I’ve gone through the College Board’s Course and Exam Description for AP Biology and extracted the following learning objectives, Enduring Understandings, and pieces of essential knowledge. This is what I’m using to inform the development of my on-line tutorials about the immune system, and the instruction I’m delivering to my own students at BHS. I’d love to know what you think.

Immune System-related learning objectives

Source: Course and Exam Description

  1. LO 2.29:The student can create representations and models to describe immune responses.  (EK: 2D4)
  2. LO 2.30:The student can create representations or models to describe nonspecific immune defenses in plants and animals.  (EK: 2D4)
  3. LO 2.43 The student is able to connect the concept of cell communication to the functioning of the immune system. [See SP 7.2]

Immune System Essential Knowledge and Enduring Understandings

Source: This has been taken verbatim from the Course and Exam Description

2.D.4: Plants and animals have a variety of chemical defenses against infections that affect dynamic homeostasis.

  1. Plants, invertebrates and vertebrates have multiple, nonspecific immune responses.

Students should be able to demonstrate understanding of the above concept by using an illustrative example such as:

  1. Invertebrate immune systems have nonspecific response mechanisms and may possess pathogen-specific defense responses.
  2. Plant defenses against pathogens include molecular recognition systems with systemic responses; infection triggers chemical responses that destroy infected and adjacent cells, thus localizing the effects.
  3. Vertebrate immune systems have nonspecific defense mechanisms against pathogens.
  4. Mammals use specific immune responses triggered by natural or artificial agents that disrupt dynamic homeostasis.

Evidence of student learning is a demonstrated understanding of each of the following:

  1. The mammalian immune system includes two types of specific responses: cell mediated and humoral.
  2. In the cell-mediated response, cytotoxic T cells, a type of lymphocytic white blood cell, “target” intracellular pathogens when antigens are displayed on the outside of the cells.
  3. In the humoral response, B cells, a type of lymphocytic white blood cell, produce antibodies against speci c antigens.
  4. Antigens are recognized by antibodies to the antigen.
  5. Antibodies are proteins produced by B cells, and each antibody is specific to a particular antigen.
  6. A second exposure to an antigen results in a more rapid and enhanced immune response.


Immune System Related Topics also show up in

  • 3.D.2 Immune cells interact by cell-cell contact, antigen-presenting cells, helper T-cells and killer T-cells. [See also 2.D.4]
  • 4.C.1.a. The importance of variation in the ability of antibodies to recognize antigen
  • 4.C.1.a. The importance of variation in MCH proteins

What I Focus on In Teaching and Learning

  1. Non-specific/innate responses (2.D.4.a) in vertebrates only, with a passing reference to the existence of these systems in plants and invertebrates. This includes
    1. Barrier Defenses (Skin, Mucus Membranes)
    2. Non-Specific Responses
      1. Inflammatory Responses
      2. Phagocytic Cells
      3. Natural Killer Cells
      4. Complement
      5. Fever
  2. Specific/acquired immunity (2.D.4.b)
    1. How Recognition Works: antibodies and antigens
    2. Humoral Response
    3. Cell mediated response
  3. Development of immunological memory (2.D.4.b)
  4. Related Issues
    1. Vaccines
    2. Autoimmunity (but only if I have time).

I cover most of this in my two immune system songs.

Link back to Module 29, The Immune System, Main Menu