New AP Seminar class focuses on research, collaboration

    AP Seminar's "QUEST" curriculum, outlining the skills it teaches students. Credit: CollegeBoard

    AP Seminar’s “QUEST” curriculum, outlining the skills it teaches students. Credit: CollegeBoard

    Advanced Placement Seminar, the newest College Board class, is making its debut at Palo Alto High School this year and aims to teach students how to conduct college-level research and collaborate effectively.

    According to the Paly course catalog, AP Seminar students research and evaluate information relating to themes such as technology or cultural migration, and draw their own conclusions. 

    Lucinda Filppu, the AP Seminar teacher at Paly, says the main reason the College Board created this course was that college freshmen were struggling with in-depth research. The Board hopes to solve this problem by instilling thorough research skills in students at the high school level. 

    “The colleges came to the College Board apparently, and said students do not know how to research well,” Filppu said. “They do cursory research, they skim over, so it teaches you the deep research skills you’re going to need for college.” 

    Filppu said she believes that students who take this course will have an edge on their peers.

    “Oh, they’re going to be ahead of other kids. Big-time,” Filppu said. “They also will understand how to write research papers, which is what you do in college. Not an English essay, not an AP essay, a deep research paper.” 

    However, AP Seminar is the opposite of an “easy AP,” according to junior Annie Tsui.

    “There’s a ton of reading involved with it, there’s a ton of comprehension and analysis you need to do with it, I think I actually have a busier homework load with this class than with the majority of my classes,” Tsui said.

    Filppu said that she recommends that students taking this course have strong reading and writing skills, as well as a willingness to pursue their own interests and collaborate with others. 

    “A student needs to be a good reader, they should be a strong reader…there’s a fair amount of research and independence in this class,” said Filppu. “A student who enjoys collaboration, who enjoys the social aspect of learning, would enjoy this class.”

    AP Seminar is also part of the College Board’s new AP Capstone program.

    AP Capstone is a diploma program that awards an advanced diploma to students who complete certain requirements by the end of their high school career. Advanced diplomas signify to colleges that the student put in extra effort during high school other than fulfilling the basic requirements for graduation.

    “This AP seminar is the first of 2 APs students can take,” said Filppu. “The next one is called AP Research, Mrs. Chute is going to be teaching it next year, and that is an even deeper research class.”

    Students who take AP Seminar, AP Research, and any 4 other AP classes during their high school career receive an AP Capstone advanced diploma.

    “Honestly, the reason I wanted to teach this, this is the most exciting AP I’ve seen,” said Filppu. “I haven’t been that into APs, and I still think College Board has got a bit of a thing going here.”

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