Our multi-year research process to improve, innovate, and adapt our educational program for twenty-first century learners revealed that to be a world leader in education, we would have to rethink our most challenging classes for high school students. The specific recommendation that emerged was to introduce Advanced Topic (AT) courses to cultivate exceptional thinkers by supplementing and balancing our extensive Advanced Placement (AP) offerings. AT courses are intended to help our students be prepared for the future by giving them learning opportunities relevant to our changing world and aligned to our desired student learning outcomes (DSLOs).
Our research revealed that, while Advanced Placement (AP) courses are rigorous, some of them focus primarily on the acquisition of content knowledge at the expense of important, transferable skills and concepts. Furthermore, the AP program does not allow us to offer advanced courses of special interest to our students, such as tropical ecology, entrepreneurship, kinesiology, or Chinese history taught in Chinese. We found that similar concerns are causing many excellent American high schools to develop their own college-level courses, and that college admissions officers are generally supportive of these efforts and enthusiastic about students’ honors-level accomplishments beyond the traditional AP structure.
By retaining those AP courses that fit our educational priorities and complementing them with AT courses designed specifically for our place and time, we offer students more rewarding options and opportunities to challenge themselves in their studies, prepare themselves for their futures, and distinguish themselves in the college application process.
“I am proud to endorse the new Advanced Topic (AT) course in Kinesiology at Singapore American School. The course embodies the ideals that educators strive for when developing advanced academic programming through school-university partnerships and is designed to provide SAS high school students with introductory college-level preparation in kinesiology. . . The course content, instructional approaches, and applied learning tasks move well beyond the book learning and seatwork of typical, and even many advanced, high school classes. I believe AT Kinesiology will serve as a model for course development and delivery in other subjects, and in other schools, helping to set the trend for 21st century secondary education.”
Dr. Collin A. Webster (Associate Professor and Chair, University of South Carolina)