Two new Advanced Placement (AP) classes, AP Seminar and AP Research, are being offered for the 2017-2018 school year as part of the AP Capstone program.
“These classes are driven toward inquiry-based education,” Advanced Academics Programs coordinator and English teacher Nikki Lehman said. “This is exactly what [students are] going to be doing at the collegiate level.”
Currently, the only FCPS schools that offer these courses are Oakton and Lake Braddock. However, six more schools will adopt the program next year, including Chantilly.
“It’s more [of what] education is moving toward: student choice [and] student-driven ideas,” Lehman said. “It’s pulling the teacher out of it and just letting kids do what they want in order to learn.”
Classes are generally centered around researching topics, discussing projects, writing essays and preparing for the AP exam.
AP Seminar’s final AP score combines results from a team project focused on a problem or issue, an individual research essay analyzing a document and an end-of-course exam focusing on the analytical and writing skills learned during the year.
AP Research’s score involves an academic paper and an oral defense, similar to a thesis in a collegiate setting.
“This class really prepares for you the real world because you are forced to work with people you might have never worked [with] or talked to,” Oakton junior Ishika Jain, who is currently enrolled in AP Seminar, said. “It also gives you a head start in developing some of the most important real world skills that one will be using every day in college and the workforce.”
The courses are focused on the skills and learning techniques used generally in academics, rather than any single content area.
“It culminates with hopefully stimulating enthusiasm around learning and probing in different areas where they then want to go in-depth,” Director of Student Services Robyn Lady said.
Because the courses serve as good preparation for college-level academics, the program may appeal to students who want to prepare for that level of study.
“The potential for the in-depth research is great in terms of what kids can get out of it,” Lady said. “Admissions offices would like to see that you’ve been doing [this high level of study] for a substantial amount of time during your high school career.”
AP Seminar, the first course of the AP Capstone program, targets rising sophomores and juniors.
“Specifically, the type of student who might be drawn to this course would be someone who is interested in research and inquiry,” Lehman said. “As well [as] anyone who also loves to learn about new things, figure out [problems] and learn to write more effectively.”
Overall, the program requires significant dedication due to the amount of work necessary for the projects and essays. However, the student-directed nature provides a meaningful academic experience.
“Everyone should take this class,” Jain said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”