Campus Briefs Curriculum News

AP Capstone program offers unique curricula

By Hayden Welty ‘19
THE ROUNDUP

Mr. Mike Welty ’83 worked with Assistant Principal for Academic Affairs Mr. Seamus Walsh last summer to help expand the College Board’s “AP Capstone” program to Brophy.

Mr. Welty has taught physics and math for decades. When he applied to read the AP tests for physics, he received an invitation from the College Board to read the AP tests for a new course that they designed: AP Capstone.

At first, he said he had never heard of the program because, at the time he was notified, AP Capstone had only been taught for a year in a limited capacity.  

“I came back energized about the possibility of bringing it to Brophy,” Mr. Welty said. “Reading those responses…, it convinced me that it would be a course that would be really beneficial for Brophy students.”

AP Capstone is a research-based class that incorporates elements of fact-based writing and collaborative teamwork, equipping students with the skills of independent research and allowing them to cultivate their abilities on large projects.

“I think it serves the needs of what a lot of students have in terms of rounding out their college portfolio,” Mr. Welty said. “It’s a course that fits really well in the curriculum for any student that really wants to take college by the horns.”

Mr. Welty said he worked with Mr. Walsh to get the program approved by College Board.

In order to get approved, Mr. Walsh said he needed to fill out an application, where he had to explain why the program was a good fit for Brophy and articulate the school’s hopes.

“I’m sure it’s going to be an evolutionary thing here in that if you were to come back four years from now I bet it will be much different than it is this year, in large part because it is so much more open ended than an average AP course like AP U.S. History, which is content driven, AP Chemistry, which is content driven, AP European History, which is content driven,” Mr. Walsh said. “… It’s really more about matching student interest with the skills of collaboration, research, project product, essay development, those types of things.”

Mr. Welty echoed the sentiment that that the course doesn’t have a traditional curriculum.

“The College Board gives the teacher of the class great latitude to really teach whatever they’re interested in,” Mr. Welty said.

“This [AP Capstone] is an elective, which specifically targets critical thinking and your ability to do research and write,” he said. “And I know broadly in our curriculum we teach those subjects… , but no course is so specifically focused on them that they produce masters in those areas.”

One of the students in the course, Jack Eden ’19, said the course has made him more engaged in politics, and he also says that course has taught him a lot more about current events and global issues.

He said the course has helped him improve his skills of formulating arguments and writing papers.

“What he’s relayed back to us has really helped,” Eden said. “… He’s there guiding us each step of the way and that’s really helpful.”

Mr. Welty said he made the main topic of his AP Capstone course about the election.

“Needless to say, the world has provided us with plenty to talk about over a wide range of issues, from morals and ethics, to the way politics is conducted, to bias in the media, to what the origin documents for U.S. democracy say versus how things look today,” Mr. Welty said. “It’s been a very eye opening experience not just for me but for the guys too.”

“In some ways I regret it because it’s been so contentious, but in other ways, I really feel glad that I selected it as a central issue because it’s been really informative and deeply emotion far more so than I thought,” he said.

The class itself is composed of three major evaluations, which compose a student’s score on the AP test: Performance Test 1, Performance Test 2, and the actual AP test itself, according to Mr. Welty.

Performance Test 1 is completed in a group context during the year where students select a major global or local issue. They form a thesis and then split up the research.

Each student writes a 1200-word paper with a bibliography and a well-constructed argument that is thoroughly researched. After combining these papers, they construct a 10-minute presentation to present before the teacher.

Performance Task 2 is the same thing, except it’s completed alone, is a total of 60 pages and is informed by a document passage.

Finally, in the AP test, students answer two large essay questions over two hours.

Mr. Welty said this evaluation system is unique because it’s the first AP course where group work is scored as part of the AP score.

“[Teachers are] all ready to fold and not make group work authentic because we feel like we have a responsibility for fairness,” Mr. Welty said. “But if you start with the idea that fairness means every group is going to be evaluated with the same rubric and if they can’t find ways to work it out, then that is a reflection on their ability to execute the assignment.”

The full AP Capstone course actually consists of two years of classes, which are divided up into two individual courses: AP Seminar, which takes place during the first year, and AP Research, which takes place during the second year.

Currently, the AP Capstone program at Brophy consists of one AP Seminar class.

Mr. Welty said that all 10 kids in the class plan to enroll in an AP Research course next year.

Mr. Welty said that students in his AP Seminar class mostly engage in reading and writing projects. He said that the students also utilize the discussion board on Canvas a lot as a place to post opinions and provide feedback.