The Greek word for thesis means “something put forth,” and Challenge IV students certainly have something to put forth. The Senior Thesis is a work that they write over the course of a semester with the guidance of their parent, tutor, and chosen mentors. Students pick any topic that interests them, from any academic area, and incorporate ideas that they find significant and relevant. They develop a thesis statement that is persuasive, and prove their claim in a sizable paper that they present and defend before a panel in lieu of final exams. The Senior Thesis is truly a culmination of a student’s entire school experience in which they offer up the fruits of their labors in CC.
As ominous as a paper of this size may sound, this project need not be intimidating. As students work through the process of writing their paper, they have rich conversations with their advisors each step of the way. Students are essentially working through the writing process like the younger Challenges do with the Lost Tools of Writing, but on a larger scale appropriate for seniors in high school.
The project spans the entire second semester of Challenge IV and begins with Inventio. Students choose a topic and ask good questions using the Five Common Topics to develop a claim, or thesis, to be proven. At this point, an ANI chart will be helpful to build arguments and to both select and sort supporting evidence. Next comes Dispositio, where they solidify their vision and reinforce the direction of their paper, organizing their information and creating an outline. They allow their ideas to flow onto the pages in the Elocutio as they write their first draft and refine it. Numerous reviews by the student and advisors examine the flow of ideas, the argumentation, and both the style and mechanics of the paper. Finally, students write an abstract—a short, clear summary of the thesis and main ideas included in the paper. Through Memoria, they memorize their abstract and prepare for Pronuntiato, the oral presentation and defense of their work.
The benefits of writing a senior thesis are many, and in the end students will have produced a rhetorical artifact that represents the skills and abilities they have obtained. They will have demonstrated true ownership of their education through coordinating with an advisor, planning a long-term project through to the end, and publicly defending their position.
Presenting their thesis before a panel allows students to incorporate all three modes of persuasion: Logos (truth), Ethos (goodness), and Pathos (beauty). They present a public defense of what they believe, while demonstrating all of the classical skills of learning. Throughout their Challenge years, these students encountered and discussed big ideas. The Senior Thesis is a beautiful capstone to their journey with CC.
Kathy would like to thank Kate Deddens for the instruction and arrangement provided through her director equipping webinars on CC’s Learning Pathway.