AP Seminar:

What Does It Mean to Be Human?

Course Overview


What does it mean to be human? Students in AP Seminar will explore this perennial question by looking at a wide range of perspectives that bridge the sciences and humanities. Throughout the year, we will read and analyze essays, scientific studies, and classic works of literature and philosophy; listen to and view speeches and broadcasts; and experience artistic works and performances. Although specific topics change from year to year, investigating what it means to be human in the 21st century encourages us to ask a core set of enduring questions:


  • What characterizes basic human nature?

  • What, if anything, separates human beings from plants, animals, and machines?

  • What should be emphasized about the mental lives of human beings?

  • Why do human beings create art, fall in love, go to war, and engage in other behaviors?


In developing their own answers to these questions, students will learn to synthesize information from multiple sources, articulate their own perspectives in research-based written essays, and design and deliver oral and visual presentations, both individually and as part of a team.


Course Calendar


About the AP Exam


Unlike most AP courses, a student’s final score for AP Seminar is determined by work completed throughout the year. Students are assessed on two performance tasks completed in the spring semester and one end-of-course exam in May. Portions of the two performance tasks—the multimedia presentations and oral defense—are scored by the teacher and validated by the College Board.

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 1.27.51 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 1.27.57 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 1.28.04 PM.png

Course Policies


(1) Absences and Late Work. 

You are responsible for completing all assigned work for this course. If you are absent, consult the course’s online calendar and/or get in touch with a friend to see what you must make-up. Make-ups for exams given in class are only granted for excused absences. Please note that if you fail to show up for the make-up exam, you will not be able to re-schedule and you will not receive credit.


(2) Late Work.

Academic grades in this course are determined by a student’s mastery of course learning targets. Students who submit work after the posted deadline will not receive a lesser score on that assignment; timeliness will be reflected in the student’s Work Habits grade instead. To prevent students from falling behind and feeling overwhelmed, however, late work should be submitted within three days after the posted deadline. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

(3) Re-assessment and Resubmission.

You will have multiple opportunities during the semester to show mastery, so it is important to not give up! Students who have not scored a 3 or 4 on an assessment are encouraged to retake/resubmit for a higher score. To retake or resubmit an assessment, you must schedule a retake or make a resubmission within two weeks of the work being returned to you. No retakes will be allowed during Finals Week. A student may only retake or resubmit an assessment if they complete the Assessment Retake/Resubmission Form available on Schoology. This form requires students to (a) meet with their teacher, (b) complete a reflection about the assessment and (c) complete additional review/practice.

(4) Peer and Teacher Feedback.

I will provide numerous opportunities for you to receive feedback over the course of the semester. Due to time constraints, however, I will not give substantial feedback on late or revised work. You are welcome to see me during office hours to discuss your performance on these assessments. In addition, please note that due to rules established by the College Board, I am not able to give you any feedback on the Performance Tasks administered in the spring semester. According to the AP Seminar Course Description (2016), teachers cannot “write, revise, amend, or correct student work,” nor can they “give specific, directive feedback to individual groups” (p.38). During this time, I will provide opportunities that allow for peer feedback.


(5) Cheating and Plagiarism.

Learning is a shared activity, and during class discussions I encourage you to record each other’s ideas and use them in your writing. That said, I do not tolerate academic dishonesty. Any student caught cheating or found guilty of plagiarism will receive a fail for the assignment with no possibility for make-up, as well as a drop in their final grade. The College Board has also established the following policy on plagiarism and fabrication or falsification of information, to which all students in AP Capstone must adhere:


AP Capstone Policy on Plagiarism: “A student who fails to acknowledge the source or author of any and all information or evidence taken from the work of someone else through citation, attribution or reference in the body of the work, or through a bibliographic entry, will receive a score of 0 on that particular component of the AP Seminar and/or AP Research Performance Task. In AP Seminar, a team of students that fails to properly acknowledge sources or authors on the Team Multimedia Presentation will receive a group score of 0 for that component of the Team Project and Presentation.”


AP Capstone Policy on Fabrication or Falsification of Information: A student who incorporates falsified or fabricated information (e.g. evidence, data, sources, and/or authors) will receive a score of 0 on that particular component of the AP Seminar and/or AP Research Performance Task. In AP Seminar, a team of students that incorporates falsified or fabricated information in the Team Multimedia Presentation will receive a group score of 0 for that component of the Team Project and Presentation. 

(7) Work Habits and Cooperation.

Work habits grades are based on consistently coming to class prepared and on time, as well as consistently submitting assessments by the due date. Cooperation grades are based on your conduct in class. Violations of the policies and procedures outlined in this syllabus, as will any display of extremely rude or disrespectful behavior, will result in lowered work habits and corporation grades. Please note: I will not write letters of recommendation for any student who has earned a U in cooperation in one of my classes.


(8) Communication.

There are numerous ways to get in touch with me. You can always ask me a question before or after class; you can call the school office, or leave a note in my box in the main office; and you can reach me electronically via email, Schoology, or the Grant High School website. Please note that while I always respond to emails, I rarely check them after 7pm, so please allow for up to 36 hours for a response, especially on weekends. Emails inquiring about specific grades are never answered; schedule a meeting or see me during office hours to discuss your performance on a specific assignment.

About Mastery Grading


The AP Capstone program aims to empower students by helping them develop the skills and habits of mind needed to conduct independent research and inquiry. In keeping with this philosophy, this course takes a Mastery Learning approach to grading. This means that students are evaluated based on the learning targets associated with this course, rather than on a point system.

Rubrics will be provided with each assessment so students can easily see which concepts and skills they can use proficiently (or with mastery), and which require more practice and instruction. These rubrics are based on a 4-point mastery scale.

In a Mastery Learning classroom, a student’s final grade is determined by the extent to which they master the standards, and not by calculating the average score on assignments. Only summative assessments like essays, presentations, and projects will count towards the student’s final grade. Classwork and homework are meant to provide opportunities for students to practice the skills needed to succeed on the summative assessments; consequently, they do not count towards a student’s final grade. The following chart explains how a student’s final grade will be determined:

A = The student is exceeding expectations in some learning targets and is meeting the rest.

B = The student is meeting expectations in most learning targets, with no overall score of 0 or 1.

C = The student is developing in most learning targets, with no overall score of 0 or 1.

D = The student demonstrates at least beginning ability in all learning targets (no overall score of 0).

F = The student has not yet demonstrated at least beginning ability in all learning targets.

Learning Targets for AP Seminar

  1. Understand and Analyze Context: I can understand the complexity of a problem of issue and connect arguments to the broader context in which they are situated.

  2. Understand and Analyze Perspective: I can compare and interpret multiple diverse perspectives on an issue to understand its complexity.

  3. Understand and Analyze Argument: I can identify the main ideas in arguments, analyze the reasoning, and evaluate the validity of the conclusions.

  4. Evaluate Sources and Evidence: I can evaluate the credibility and relevance of sources and the evidence they present.

  5. Establish Argument: I can develop a well-reasoned argument clearly connecting the thesis, claims, and evidence.

  6. Select and Use Evidence: I can strategically choose evidence to effectively support claims.

  7. Engage Audience: I can choose and employ effective written and oral communication techniques, considering audience, context, and purpose.

  8. Apply Conventions: I can choose and consistently apply an appropriate citation style and effective conventions of writing.

  9. Collaborate: I can work constructively with others to accomplish a team goal or task.

  10. Reflect: I can articulate challenges, successes, and moments of insight that occur throughout the inquiry process.