Teaching AP Capstone: A Rewarding Experience for Teachers and Students
Teaching AP Capstone: A Rewarding Experience for Teachers and StudentsJeanie Griffin, Language Arts Teacher, West Shore Junior/Senior High School
This is my first year teaching AP Capstone™. So far it has proven to be an exceptionally rewarding experience for both me and my students, many of whom are blossoming as a direct result of the Capstone curriculum.
To highlight just one example: At the beginning of the year, I had a high-achieving student named Gary* who was very grade conscious; his fear of being wrong and losing his 4.0 GPA prevented him from making insightful arguments or analyzing class materials with depth. Concerned that he might not earn a high grade on team assignments, he became wary of relying on fellow classmates who might cause his grade to suffer. Needless to say, Gary was extremely frustrated.
However, as a direct result of examining the broad range of issues we’re studying in AP Seminar, such as space exploration and environmental concerns, Gary has broadened his horizons and started to appreciate the true value of education. He’s now able to understand issues in the world on multiple levels. He has applied information and skills learned in new ways and attempted to find answers to societal problems.
Gary and his team’s Task 1 assignment addresses the issue of crime, specifically the effects of reentry on offenders as they transition back into society once their jail or prison terms have been completed. Because he comes from a very conservative, middle-class background, Gary might not have been exposed to this kind of topic had he not taken AP Capstone. Now, not only is he thinking about it, but through extensive research, he is gaining new awareness about how crime affects society on multiple levels. In addition, Gary is learning to rely on his team members for support and guidance and to appreciate the broader perspectives and different points of view that can be surfaced and explored when several team members research and write on a common topic.
Gary hasn’t mentioned grades in months; he’s now more focused on how and why an idea or issue he has noticed in the news is important and what can be done to resolve the problem.
*Names have been changed.
West Shore Jr./Sr. High School is a secondary school in Melbourne, Fla., serving grades 7–12 as part of the Brevard (Fla.) Public Schools System. Last year Newsweek recognized West Shore as one of America’s Top High Schools. All 145 members of the class of 2014 committed to attend a college or university after graduation, with 84 percent committing to attend a four-year institution, and 16 percent committing to attend a two-year institution. In addition, five students received National Merit Commended Recognition, and eight students advanced as National Merit Finalists during the 2013-14 school year.