AP Seminar and Research is a two-year program that teaches students to become critical and independent thinkers, writers, and speakers. It’s about learning transferable skills that inform and enhance their academic lives no matter what subject area they are studying.
This course sequence prepares students for academic life after high school, for sure. Those who have older brothers and sisters in college recognize how prepared they will be for what lies ahead. They’ve learned to tackle challenges, to think in ways that will help them achieve success at school, at work, and in life. Once they’ve mastered the rigor of this sequence, they’re confident researchers, thinkers, writers, and speakers.
Cynthia Pryor (FHS) and Sharon Krasny (KRHS) teach the two-year course sequence. When visiting their classes, it is evident that students are being uniquely challenged.
We first spoke to Eireann Maybach and Ashelyn Kyne, two of Cynthia Pryor’s AP Research students at Fauquier High. Watch below as the girls talk about the skills they’ve honed through the courses:
Sharon Krasny’s students would agree with Ashelyn and Eireann. When asked about the ways that they’ve grown through this course, the Kettle Run students cited:
- researching to find credible information
- using evidence to support claims
- writing and presentation
- time management
- public speaking and communication
Students often comment that this class is unlike any class they’ve ever taken. It’s true. Public education has become about transmitting content, often at the expense of facilitating skills development. Colleges have grown weary of students who can only repeat what they’ve learned; they want students who can think logically and critically about the subjects they are exploring. That’s what AP Capstone teaches them to do!
View the slideshow below from our visit to Ms. Pryor’s and Ms. Krasny’s classes.
About AP Seminar and Research
In the first year, AP Seminar, students learn to study topics through many lenses and from multiple points of view. They learn how to ask essential questions and how to examine topics critically and with a discerning eye. They become adept at building and deconstructing arguments. They learn to work–together and independently–to create a viable and sustained argument that they can communicate and defend. Students hone their ability to gather and evaluate credible data, then analyze and synthesize their findings to share them with others. In essence, they are learning to be scholars in the truest sense of the word.
These aren’t just academic skills; they’re life skills. Students learn to backward plan, to create timelines and deadlines, to discern credible from questionable sources, to communicate effectively with others.
Their success in the first year is measured by three performance tasks: a group research project, an independent research project, and a written exam. At the heart of everything they do is questioning, gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing information. These are high-level thinking skills. Best of all, the course gives students the opportunity to choose the topics they want to study. That latitude is a great incentive for learning!
The second year of the program takes these building blocks to the next level. Students self-select a topic that they are passionate about, and they use the research skills they have learned to write and defend a 5000-word paper. The entire year is devoted to the planning, researching, writing, presentation and defense of their findings. It’s inspiring to watch them take an idea and run with it. Their goal in AP Research is to uncover a problem–a gap in their research–they want to test and evaluate. These are incredibly challenging skills!
I call them my Capstone warriors. These are students who CHOOSE rigor. I tell them all the time how much I admire them for taking academic risks . . . for choosing THIS as an elective. It says a great deal about their character. ~ Cynthia Pryor