AP Capstone: What If We Taught High School Students How to Do Real Research?

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Mike Hobolth is the Associate Principal at Lapeer Community Schools, Zemmer Campus and has been an MASSP member since 2002

About four years ago, I noticed a national media piece about a partnership between the College Board, the owner/operator of the Advanced Placement Program, and Cambridge University; the partnership was piloting a new AP diploma program, a two-year apprenticeship supporting students in planning, proposing, implementing and publishing an original research project. AP Capstone was gaining attention from many universities across the country.

As an adjunct professor who had taught a fair amount of research skills to graduate students, this really caught my eye. It seemed like a powerful idea. For high school students to graduate with a bonafide research experience prior to college would not only make them attractive to highly-selective universities in their admissions processes, it would also give them an powerful and successful experience in an area that colleges find both valuable and difficult to communicate to undergraduate students.

Our high school was accepted into the program in its first year. I recruited a teacher for the first course, AP Seminar, who was all in from the moment I told him about it. He attended College Board training in the summer, planned his work for a month prior to school and got his kids safely into the areas of inquiry, presentation and reading that research planning requires. Our first cohort entered the second-year course, AP Research; they designed studies, constructed their proposals, clarified their ethical requirements and collected and analyzed their data. They concluded their apprenticeship by writing a five-chapter thesis on their research and defending their work in a public forum.

This program has produced outstanding qualities in our kids; the skills and the confidence that they have demonstrated have been made this a great success. It has mattered not only in their research and investigations, but in their approach to all of their classes. Other Michigan high schools have come on board, with more on the way. This is a great opportunity for high schools and their students; check it out and see what you think.