The first week of school, Mr. John Leistler – who is teaching AP Capstone – explained the course to us; AP Capstone prepares us to be expert college students before graduating high school. Though it focuses on what we learn in other classes – analyzing, reading, and writing – there is no ‘content’, per say. It’s a class about thinking.
We’ve done numerous projects in class but what I learned from the most was the Group Research Project that we’ve been working on the past few weeks.
In small groups, we had to tackle problems of our choice and find solutions. The assignment has four parts: an individual research paper, a group research paper, a group multimedia presentation, and an individual reflection. After having finished the first two, I sat down and tried to think of how I grew and learned. These are the four things that I came up with:
1. Stop doing research
The worst thing you could possibly do on a research project is research – and research, and research, and research. I had to learn the
hard way that limiting yourself is the most important part about researching. Without a limit, we tend to bury ourselves in information that distracts us from our main research question. With too much research, we can forget the argument, and end up with too much irrelevant information.
2. Say it in 37 words
The best way to escape this trap and return to your argument is to say it in 37 words. Mr. Leistler taught us this neat trick: whenever unsure about what you’re trying to say, simply try phrasing it in 37, 23, 8 – or any arbitrary number of words. The objective here is clarity and brevity – and there’s no better way of understanding your argument than by breaking it down.
3. Don’t be nice
Working in a group is hard, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The best way to maintain a productive team is not by being nice, but being honest. This does not warrant hurtful language, but instead encourages team members to use constructive criticism. Our group? We were brutal to each other, but in the end, we got the work done, and we’re still friends.