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Bean, Janet, Christina Beaudoin, Tania von der Heidt, David I Lewis, and Carol Van Zile-Tamsen. 2023. "Frames Definitions and Drivers: A Multidimensional Study of Institutionally Required Undergraduate Capstones." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 27-40. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
This chapter examines the language colleges and universities use to represent required undergraduate capstone experiences. How do institutions frame capstones, and what do these frames tell us about the goals of culminating experiences and the drivers of institutional change?
In “Making the Case for Capstones and Signature Work,” Nancy Budwig and Amy Jessen-Marshall lay out various theoretical frameworks for culminating experiences, from workplace preparation to effective citizenship to student learning. But how do institutions make use of these frames in practice? More specifically, how do institutions that are fully committed to capstones—those that require them of all undergraduate students—represent this high-impact experience?
To answer these questions, the chapter authors conducted a systematic review of 481 colleges and universities in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Based on their public-facing documents (e.g., programs of study, course catalogs, and undergraduate bulletins), fifty-five of these institutions require a capstone for all baccalaureate degrees, representing 4% of UK, 5% of Australian, and 15% of US institutions.
For these 55 institutions, the authors analyzed descriptions of required capstones to identify prominent themes—integration, communication, critical thinking, connection to future goals, application, etc. These themes provide insight into how institutions define capstones, what they hope students learn from them, and the complex forces that motivate institutions to embrace this labor-intensive practice.
Bell , Sandra, Frederick T. Evers, Shannon Murray, and Margaret Anne Smith. 2023. "Adapting A Capstone: Projects and Portfolios Across Four Courses and Three Institutions." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 113-124. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
This chapter tells the story of how a capstone course for fourth-year students was adopted and adapted into four courses across three institutions and various disciplines, with plans now to bring it to a fourth university. Each course leader highlights adaptations made based on discipline and institution, and offers lessons learned about encouraging enrollment, bringing colleagues on board, connecting to the broader community, and making sure each course outlives its initial champions.
Founded on the work of the Senior Year Experience work at National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, the courses varied in their readings and focus but all had as their goals the integration of students’ degree learning and an intentional transition from university to the rest of life. An Action Project and Skills Portfolio are major components of the course and were adapted to fit the discipline of English Literature and expanded as a capstone requirement for the Applied Communication, Leadership, and Culture program. It was further adapted to the University of New Brunswick Saint John context, where faculty highlights aspects of reflection and transitioning, included an ePortfolio, and invited a range of alumni to talk about their learning and employment experiences.
With each iteration, instructors have shifted the readings and focus depending on the discipline but have adhered to the connection between that discipline and the world beyond campus walls. The Skills Portfolio has been adapted to changes in job search expectations, moving from mainly paper to mainly online portfolios. But two basic principles persist: students look back at their degrees by using the tools those degrees have taught them; and they look forward to their post-degree lives with an adaptable portfolio that helps them articulate their skills, knowledge, and attributes.
Des, Butler , Sandra Coe, Rachael Field, Judith McNamara, Sally Kift, and Catherine Brown. 2017. "Embodying life-long learning." Transition and capstone experiences, Oxford Review of Education 43 (2): 194-208.
Butler, Des, Sandra Coe, Rachael Field, Judith McNamara, Sally Kift, and Catherine Brown. 2017. "Embodying Life-Long Learning: Transition and Capstone Experiences." Oxford Review of Education 43 (2): 194-208. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2016.1270199.
This case study describes the first of six principles, which informed the development of a capstone design for Australian legal education, and according to the authors, should inform the development of any capstone. The authors focus on Transition–the first of their selected principles–as a theoretical framework for the pedagogical design they develop. They extend Kift’s Transition Pedagogy, an adaptation of Schlossberg that focuses on first year students, to inform final year practices—viewing final year students as students in transition, too. The authors identify three areas in which the incorporation of transition pedagogy can enhance a capstone experience and help students manage uncertainty, complexity, and change; develop a professional identity; and career plan. While the case study doesn’t cover the implementation of the capstone design, the study can offer a useful model for capstone development. Additionally, the transition framework does a helpful job of linking student development theory (and Schlossberg’s theory of transition) with pedagogy and ends with qualitative data from students as evidence of the necessity of the framework.
Collier, Peter J. 2000. "The effects of completing a capstone course on student identity." Sociology of Education 73 (4): 285-299.
Collier, Peter J. 2000. "The Effects of Completing a Capstone Course on Student Identity." Sociology of Education 73 (4): 285-299. https://doi.org/10.2307/2673235.
Collier’s article studies the effect of participation in a capstone experience on undergraduate students’ identification as a college student. He proposes that the increased identification with this role by capstone students over time indicate capstones’ effectiveness in socialization. Using different identity theories around role identities and role-identity acquisition as theoretical frameworks, Collier developed a longitudinal study of 26 senior capstone students (multidisciplinary and across the university) of one year’s capstone at a university, with a nonequivalent control group (n=26). Using pre- and post-measurements, Collier found that the nature of the capstone as a grounded and experiential course contributed to its transformative impact on students. Students connecting with the community in a capstone context were pushed to work more collaboratively, and this social aspect of their learning and work helped them to associate more strongly with the role of a college student. The development of identity as a student is a potential strength of capstones. However, Collier fails to discuss why developing a student identity–especially in the senior year–is a worthwhile or positive practice, nor does he discuss how that student identity intersects with other social identities a student may hold. Collier does offer several practical implications for curriculum and specifically capstone development.
Dunlap, Joanna C. 2005. "Problem-Based Learning and Self-Efficacy: How a Capstone Course Prepares Students for a Profession." Educational Technology Research and Development 53 (1): 65-83. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf02504858.
Dunlap employed a mixed methods approach to study the self-efficacy of 31 students in a required undergraduate capstone course. She analyzed guided journal submissions and triangulated those responses with student responses to a survey tool called the General Perceived Self-Efficacy Scale, a 10-item scale that “assesses optimistic self-beliefs to cope with a variety of difficult demands in life” (73). Her findings—that students’ participation in a problem-based learning environment impacts students’ sense of capability, especially looking forward to career prospects and their sense of professional identity—offer data to support why capstones serve as a powerful facilitator of transition for students. While her findings are most specific to problem-based learning, a related high impact practice, their basis in a capstone context may help support the development of positively impactful capstone experiences.
Dunlap, Joanna C, and . 2005. " Problem-based learning and self-efficacy: How a capstone course prepares students for a profession." Educational Technology Research & Development 53 (1): 65-85.
Eady, Michelle J, and Simon Bedford. 2023. "Peer Reviewing to Support Quality Assurance of Capstone Experiences: A view from Australia." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 191-203. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
This chapter describes a quality assurance system of collaborative sharing across multiple institutions in Australia and explores, through participant reflections, how such practice can help promote staff confidence and improve facilitation of capstone tasks in the tertiary setting resulting in benefits that derive from a multi-institution approach. A project team consisting of peers from similar disciplines across several institutions in Australia worked together on the project funded by the Australian Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT). Their work verified student attainment standards in the revised national Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) (2015) using capstone tasks in coursework at their given institutions. The External Referencing of Standards (ERoS) project was a collaboration between four universities each located in different States: University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Victoria, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Queensland and Curtin University in Western Australia. This chapter describes the ERoS project, the objectives, and outputs so that other institutions can adapt and employ similar models to ensure quality assessment in their capstone tasks and beyond.
Gresham , Morgan, Caroline Boswell, Olivia S Anderson, Matthew J Laye, and Dawn Smith-Sherwood. 2023. "Understanding Faculty Needs in Capstone Experiences." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 167-178. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
This chapter shares results from a mixed-method, multi-institutional study gauging the type of faculty who teach capstone experiences, their intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and the type of support they receive at their institutions. Henscheid (2000) found that almost half of 707 regionally accredited colleges and universities use capstones as part of their institution’s assessment program and the 2010-2011 HERI Faculty Survey indicated that 35.8% of respondents had taught a Capstone course. The 2016–2017 HERI Faculty Survey indicated that just half of undergraduate teaching faculty participated in teaching-related professional development opportunities and that a majority of faculty surveyed (69.2%) agree that there is adequate support for faculty development. The results shared in this chapter paint a different picture of faculty desire for resources and support in teaching capstone experiences. In a survey of 138 faculty, less than half found the availability of resources “good” or “excellent,” with 14% of those surveyed saying that resources were not even available to them. It is vital that faculty members preparing to develop and teach capstone experiences have access to the resources they need to help them be successful. To that end, this chapter provides a common support needs checklist; a set of heuristics that help faculty identify what resources may be most helpful for them at the particular moment and guided by the tensions/pressures/motivations they experience in their particular context; and a how to guide to structure a significant conversation.
Henscheid, Jean M., Tracy L. Skipper, and Dallin George Young. 2019. "Reflection, Integration, Application: Intentional Design Strategies for Senior Capstone Experiences." New Directions for Higher Education 2019 (188): 91-100. https://doi.org/10.1002/he.20349.
Henscheid, Skipper, and Young identify the importance of reflection, integration, and application in their piece about Intentional Design Strategies for Senior Capstone Experiences. They suggest that these three elements can aid in developing advanced “analytical and critical thinking, communication skills, employment skills, problem-solving competencies, and team-building.” In addition, in order to foster an environment in which reflection, integration, and application are used to their fullest potential there must be a meaningful educational experience for the student. Something unique and quite important is the acknowledgment that a meaningful educational experience can be different for each individual. Overall, the piece unfolds how to build experiences that “provide structured opportunities for applied learning.”
The authors describe four capstone experiences that promote application of learning:
These experiences, not only are reflective in nature but also suggest that the student take time to reflect on their own interests, needs, and desires, as they move forward in integrating and applying what they have learned.
This piece expands on different ways in which students can engage in learning experiences that support reflection, integration, and application. Breaking down examples of these types of learning experiences can help us to better understand what elements of those experiences really lend themselves to cycles of reflection, integration, and application.
Annotation contributed by Sophie Miller, 2021-2024 CEL Student Scholar
Julien, B. L., L. Lexis, J. Schuijers, T. Samiric, and S. McDonald. 2012. "Using capstones to develop research skills and graduate capabilities: A case study from physiology." Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice 9 (3): 1-15.
Julien, Brianna L, Louise Lexis, Johannes Schuijers, Tom Samiric, and Stuart McDonald. 2012. "Using Capstones to Develop Research Skills and Graduate Capabilities: A Case Study from Physiology." Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice 9 (3): 58-73. https://doi.org/10.53761/188.8.131.52.
This case study describes two physiology capstones that culminate the Bachelor of Health Science at La Trobe University. The authors describe the student assessments involved in the capstones and evaluate the program itself based on student performance, student feedback, and faculty perceptions of the course. The authors found that final grades for students were significantly higher in 2011, following the implementation of the capstone course than final grades in the previous two years. Students reported positive skill development and satisfaction, and instructors noticed a higher degree of student-centered learning along with a “vastly increased workload” and “greater need for infrastructure services” (11). The value of this case study is not only the model it provides for capstone development, but also the consideration of staffing and resource needs to support strong capstone experiences. Other institutions looking to launch or revise capstone experiences would do well to recognize this resource challenge.
Ketcham , Caroline J, Anthony G Weaver, and Jessie L Moore. 2023. Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning. Elon, NC: The Center for Engaged Learning.
Cultivating Capstones introduces higher education faculty and administrators to the landscape of capstone experiences, offers research-informed models that institutions could adapt for their own contextual goals, and suggests faculty development strategies to support implementation of high-quality student learning experiences. The edited collection draws primarily from multi-year, multi-institutional, and mixed-methods studies conducted by participants in the 2018-2020 Center for Engaged Learning research seminar on Capstone Experiences; this work is complemented by chapters by additional scholars focused on culminating experiences.
The collection is divided into three sections. Part one offers typographies of capstones, illustrating the diversity of experiences included in this high-impact practice while also identifying essential characteristics that contribute to high-quality culminating experiences for students. Part two shares specific culminating experiences (e.g., seminar courses in general education curricula, capstone experiences in the major, capstone research projects in a multi-campus early college program, capstone ePortfolios, etc.), with examples from multiple institutions and strategies for adapting them for readers’ own campus contexts. Part three offers research-informed strategies for professional development to support implementation of high-quality student learning experiences across a variety of campus contexts.
Learn more at Cultivating Capstones – Center for Engaged Learning
Kilgo, Cindy A., Ezell Sheets, Jessica K. , and Pascarella T. Ernest. 2015. "The link between high-impact practices and student learning: Some longitudinal evidence." Higher Education 69 (4): 509-525.
Kilgo, Cindy A, Jessica K Ezell Sheets, and Ernest T Pascarella. 2014. "The Link between High-Impact Practices and Student Learning: Some Longitudinal Evidence." Higher Education 69 (4): 509-525. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-014-9788-z.
This study used pre- and post-tests to estimate the efficacy of the 10 high impact practices supported by AAC&U and found that overall, the high impact practices do, in fact, support student learning. They found that active, collaborative learning and undergraduate research were especially effective in promoting critical thinking, cognition, and intercultural effectiveness, while capstones (among other HIPs) had more mixed effects. For capstones in particular, the authors found a negative link to critical thinking, “but positive net association with four-year gains in need for cognition” (519). The authors highlight several other specific positive gains in student learning as a result of capstones, and this data can be especially helpful in advocating not only for the value of capstones themselves, but in the value of intentionally designed capstones. The multi-institutional results help generalize the benefits, and even more importantly point to areas where negative links occurred, suggesting that administration and facilitation are key in capstones actually having high (positive) impact.
Kirkscey, Russell, Julie Vale, James M. Weiss, and Jennifer Hill. 2021. "Capstone Experience Purposes: An International, Multidisciplinary Study." Teaching & Learning Inquiry 9 (2). http://dx.doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.9.2.19.
Kirkscey, Russell, David I Lewis, and Julie Vale. 2023. "Capstone Influences and Purposes." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 41-54. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
This chapter provides a holistic, high-level overview of the global capstone landscape by reviewing a sampling of institutional objectives, faculty goals, and student perceptions of the outcomes of capstone. The chapter provides an inventory of capstone purposes presented in the framework of “what could a capstone be?” These purposes are gleaned from institutional documents, faculty perceptions of capstones, and student perceptions of capstone purposes.
Discussion centers around institutional decisions about capstones, such as disciplinary vs non-disciplinary, required vs elective, etc. and includes commentary on the drivers or influences on capstone purposes such as institutional, disciplinary, or accrediting body requirements. Next, the chapter includes case studies of exemplars of capstone courses.
Laye, Matthew J., Caroline Boswell, Morgan Gresham, Dawn Smith-Sherwood, and Olivia S. Anderson. 2020. "Multi-Institutional Survey of Faculty Experiences Teaching Capstones." College Teaching 68 (4): 201-213. https://doi.org/10.1080/87567555.2020.1786663.
Lee, Nicolette, and Daniel Loton. 2017. "Capstone purposes across disciplines." Studies in Higher Education: 1-17.
Lee, Nicolette, and Daniel Loton. 2017. "Capstone Purposes across Disciplines." Studies in Higher Education 44 (1): 134-50. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2017.1347155.
This literature review analyzes the purposes of capstones as presented by faculty involved in capstone design and instruction. This review is valuable in offering a broad overview of capstone literature and present understandings—for example, capstones are frequently linked to development of employability skills and personal student attributes. In addition to a review of the literature, Lee and Loton conducted an online survey of 216 capstone educators internationally (with just over three–quarters originating from Australia, the authors’ base). Here, they found the 20 most highly rated purposes for capstones were similarly rated across disciplinary groups—implying they serve a common purpose regardless of discipline. The survey responses echoed what has been focused on broadly in the literature and adds some nuance that will be useful to readers seeking to understand capstones at an introductory level. Finally, the purposes raised may help designers of capstones identify shared purposes from which to backward design the capstone experience.
Lewis, David I., Janet Bean, Christina Beaudoin, Carol Van Zile- Tamsen, and Tania von der Heidt. 2023. "Cultivating Capstones Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J. Ketcham , Anthony G. Weaver and Jessie L. Moore, 85-98. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
Traditionally in the biosciences, students have undertaken laboratory-based, fieldwork, or literature review capstones. However, less than ten percent of bioscience graduates go onto careers in scientific research; the overwhelming majority leave science altogether. Traditional bioscience capstones do not provide the requisite work experience or skills development for the diverse range of career paths followed by the majority of our graduates. There is a need to provide capstone opportunities that better prepare our students for the 21st Century workplace, a focus on providing the requisite work experience or skills development for the diverse range of career paths followed by the majority of our graduates.
This chapter details the 20-year journey of taking a discipline specific capstone course and evolving it into a course with a focus on personal and professional development, and preparation for the workplace, giving students the opportunity to select from 15 different formats of capstone. This design enables students to decide what they want to achieve personally and professionally from their capstone, creating a safe space to try out different career opportunities, and choose accordingly. The chapter functions as a comprehensive source of information for colleagues, irrespective of discipline, seeking to broaden the range of capstones available to their students, or those seeking to create capstone opportunities giving students greater ownership of their educational experiences and of their personal and professional development.
McGrath, Moriah McSharry, Sarah Dyer, and Trina Jorre St Jorre. 2023. "Positionality and Identity in Capstones: Renegotiating the Self through Teaching and Learning." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 203-214. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
This chapter argues that fostering inclusive and transformative capstone experiences requires understanding the interplay of various identities and social positions in the learning context. Diversity is generally viewed as a characteristic of the student body or a state to be pursued, camouflaging the fact that social identities are a set of power relationships that both structure social interaction, such as capstone experiences, and that are themselves restructured through social interaction. This notion is explored in relation to both student and faculty identities recognizing that faculty identities are often subsumed by their institutional role and/or the presumption that their academic training has socialized them to the milieu. Through embedded qualitative research at five English-language universities in high-income countries, we identified moments and processes where diversity, identity, and inclusion are (re)negotiated through social interactions as a strategy for our research to find “openings” where hegemonic power can be disrupted in favor of inclusive excellence. Authors conceive capstone experiences as a “project of becoming” for those involved. As the culminating experience, the capstone represents both the pinnacle of and also the cusp of transition beyond students’ university career. From these findings, salient and hidden aspects of diversity and identity are identified that affect capstones and offer a set of curricular tools to improve capstone quality through more inclusive approaches to teaching.
Paris, David, and Ann Ferren. 2013. "How students, faculty, and institutions can fulfill the promise of capstones." Peer Review, 15 (4).
Paris, David, and Ann Ferren. 2013. "How Students, Faculty, and Institutions Can Fulfill the Promise of Capstones." Peer Review 15 (4). https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/how-students-faculty-and-institutions-can-fulfill-promise.
This article offers a useful analysis of the capstone experience broadly, offering some recent historical context for capstones as well as recommendations for where they are headed today based on practice examples found across the United States. For American readers in particular, this analysis will offer some helpful comparisons to programs in a more familiar context. Unlike some of the heavier and formal research-centered pieces, another benefit of this article is its accessibility, due in large part because it serves to introduce a whole issue of Peer Review focused on capstone experiences. Paris and Ferren’s focus on the faculty-student relationship within capstones may be especially useful to readers, as it’s a lens of capstones not frequently seen in other literature and may be a key element in what makes capstones a high impact practice.
Park , Matthew, Paul Hansen, Guy Risko, and Joshua Walker. 2023. "Just a Few Minutes of Your Time: Using Qualitative Survey Data to Evaluate and Revise a Capstone Project at an Early College Network." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 125-136. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
The Bard Early College Network includes ten schools that, through dual-enrollment courses taught by faculty with terminal degrees, allow students to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree simultaneously, tuition free. In their third and fourth years on a Bard Early College campus, students enroll in the Bard Seminar Sequence, a four-semester sequence of interdisciplinary courses that emphasize close reading, critical inquiry, and scholarly writing. During their fourth and final semester of Seminar, students complete a capstone project that culminates in a ten-page research-based essay and presentation. The Seminar capstone project serves two primary functions: it highlights and reinforces the academic skills that students have developed over several years, and it prepares them for the increasingly independent work that will be asked of them as they pursue bachelor’s degrees and careers. Students across the Bard Early College Network come from a multitude of educational backgrounds and bring a wide variety of interests and ambitions to the Seminar classroom.
While the BHSEC campuses are unique in that they employ a traditional college faculty in a public high school setting, the writing-as-a-process elements of the capstone research project would look familiar to instructors of first-year writing at any college or university. The thorniest capstone-related issues faced at the BHSECs, which include an academically diverse student body and the coordination of instructors from multiple departments located in multiple cities, makes this chapter especially relevant to institutions facing similar challenges.
Pearl, Andrew J, Joanna C Rankin, Moriah McSharry McGrath, Sarah Dyer, and Trina Jorre de St Jorre. 2023. "Students-As-Partners and Engaged Scholarship: Complementary Frameworks." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 137-148. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
Drawing on research with two cohorts of student co-researchers who studied capstones, this chapter offers a model to explore the complementary frameworks of students-as-partners and community-engaged scholarship. The authors explore how the principles of each framework might fulfill higher education’s tripartite missions of teaching, research, and service, and encourage full, democratic participation and civic involvement. Engaging with students-as-partners is a practice gaining momentum internationally (Mercer-Mapstone et al., 2017). In these partnerships, students and university staff collaborate and contribute to pedagogical and research projects in equal, but different ways (Cook-Sather et al., 2014) to facilitate more equitable, diverse, and inclusive educational opportunities (Rankin et al., 2020). As part of a larger research project on student diversity, identity, and capstone experiences, the authors engaged with students-as-partners in a research collaboration. While the inclusion of student co-researchers was not an initial part of the research project, it became evident as research progressed that a students-as-partners approach would allow the team to more thoroughly address the research questions.
Rash, Agnes, and Kathryn Weld. 2013. "The Capstone Course: Origins, Goals, Methods, and Issues." PRIMUS 23 (4): 291-96. https://doi.org/10.1080/10511970.2013.775203.
This is an introduction to a special issue on capstone courses, which describes a range of models, common goals across capstones, popular teaching methods used in capstones, the value of capstones as a way to assess a curricular program, and issues related to faculty development. The curricular focus, mathematics, is somewhat unique and so may be especially useful for instructors who come with a strong disciplinary connection and are unsure of how capstones may fit into or enhance the content they hope to impart on students. An interesting and also unique aspect of this piece is the acknowledgement of capstones’ value in program assessment. For administrators in particular, this may be a helpful argument for an added benefit of capstones beyond student learning directly associated with the course. This article, as with several others, is explicit in framing the teaching of capstones as more of a mentorship relationship–an idea that would be worth following up on in future research.
Rash, Agnes, and Kathryn Weld. 2013. "The capstone course: Origins, goals, methods, and issues." PRIMUS 23 (4): 291-296.
Redman, Peggy. 2013. "Going beyond the Requirement: The Capstone Experience." Peer Review 15 (4). https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/going-beyond-requirement-capstone-experience.
This case study describes capstones across the curriculum and educational levels (bachelors, master’s, and doctoral) at the University of La Verne in southern California. By looking at the 127 capstone projects that students produced (41 undergraduate), Redman analyzed student writing and learning. As a result of the findings associated with this analysis, the university adapted a more integrated and reflective process across all four years to prepare students for their final capstone. This piece serves as a valuable model for thoughtfully embedding and scaffolding the capstone experience not only in the final year, but from a student’s first experience on campus. Additionally, the piece offers innovative ideas for linking capstones to other high impact practices such as community partnerships (service-learning) and ePortfolios.
Redman, Peggy. 2013. "Going beyond the requirement: The capstone experience." Peer Review 15 (4).
Reyes, Silvia, Nelson Nunez Rodriguez, and Sarah Brennan. 2023. "The Development of Capstone Assignments Using a Faculty Community of Practice Model." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham , Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 179-190. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
Hostos Community College created a multidisciplinary faculty development course-redesign seminar to craft capstone learning experiences rooted in varied faculty identities and dissimilar pedagogical expertise. We prioritized creating a safe, interdisciplinary, and collaborative environment that was rich with brainstorming, mentoring, and constructive feedback. Eight individual seminars ran for 15 weeks each involving groups of seven or less faculty between 2015 and 2019. Thirty-five faculty participated in redesigning twenty-two courses, using one of two models. This chapter focuses on the first model, a traditional model of individual faculty designing capstone assignments for specific courses in a structured workshop with bi-weekly meetings. The workshop involved developing the assignment, adjusting curriculum, teaching the course, and assessing the delivery and outcomes. This chapter provides a close look at the administrative structures designed to support faculty.
Richards, Cindy Koenig, Nicholas V Longo, and Caryn McTighe Musil. 2023. "Designing Democratic Spaces: Public-Facing Civic Capstone Courses." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 149-162. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
This chapter foregrounds a distinguishing feature embedded in the capstones designed at a diverse mix of colleges and universities: namely, a civic dimension. There is a great potential in capstones that are intentionally designed to foster democratic learning, civic agency, and public problem solving. The authors report results from a multi-year project demonstrating how various disciplines can share specific design features, including scaffolding learning experiences, that culminate in a civic capstone.
Two case studies—a Global Studies Capstone at Providence College and a Communication and Media Capstone at Willamette University—and models from public universities offer lessons for cultivating capstones and provide examples of “what works” to engage students in civic capstones. Through this multi-institutional perspective, the authors show how capstones in a variety of disciplines and institutions can develop civic competencies through collaborative learning, reflective practice, and publicly engaged research. They also outline the importance of engaging, deliberative pedagogy for educating future leaders in communities share and concrete assignments developed over years of practice.
Based on this scan and intensive experience with capstones, the authors introduce the concept of “civic professionalism,” which is a framework for incorporating civic engagement into capstones across various disciplines and essential for connecting capstone courses to broader institutional transformation. Capstone courses are ideal bridges between students, alumni, and community partners, and re-thinking professional identity is an important component of these courses. Ultimately, the core consequence of the design of civic capstones is their power to hone students’ skills in the habits of democratic engagement across differences, making questions of diversity, equity, and agency central. This power extends the impact of disciplinary capstones, increasing student learning in the discipline, while also giving students first-hand experience transforming knowledge into action to contribute to a more just and equitable society.
Upson-Saia, Kristi. 2013. "The Capstone Experience for the Religious Studies Major." Teaching Theology & Religion 16 (1): 3-17. https://doi.org/10.1111/teth.12001.
This study examines capstone experiences for religious studies majors at 29 different U.S. institutions. Upson-Saia not only explores the strengths across these experiences, and the factors that set apart especially successful programs, but also takes an explicit focus on “the most frustrating aspects of the capstone” and “how some departments avoid such frustrations” (4). Unlike Lee and Loton (2017), who found strong consensus among the top purposes of capstones, Upson-Saia found little consensus among religious studies capstones beyond “culmination” in their educational objectives. This may be a difference in scale–on a smaller scale, more variation is visible–or in context. Perhaps authors have similar ideas about what should be talked about in published articles, but in practice, there may be more variation in purpose. Interestingly, Upson-Saia discusses one of the themes Lee and Loton raised about the pressures put on the capstone: suggesting that frustrations about the capstone as not going well, or doing as much as it could, stem from those pressures for capstone to be doing everything. She takes a historical lens in her response to this, exploring the evolution of capstones and their purposes through history to think through how capstones may be positioned today. Her resulting list of best practices for religious studies capstones may be adapted across disciplinary contexts and offer a useful starting point for people designing and developing capstones.
Upson-Saia, Kristi. 2013. "The capstone experience for the religious studies major." Teaching Theology & Religion 16 (1): 3-17.
Vale, Julie, Karen Gordon, Russell Kirkscey, and Jennifer Hill. 2020. "Student and Faculty Perceptions of Capstone Purposes: What Can Engineering Learn From Other Disciplines?" Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA) Conference 2020: 1-8. https://doi.org/10.24908/pceea.vi0.14149.
Van Zile-Tamsen, Carol , Janet Bean, Christina Beaudoin, David I Lewis, and Tania von der Heidt. 2023. "Where There's a Will, There's a Way: Implementing a Capstone Experience for General Education." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham, Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 73-82. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
In a sample of institutions from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, only 9.1% of institutions with universally required capstone experiences approached the capstone from a general education or core curriculum approach. The other 91.0% were either exclusively disciplinary or combined disciplinary knowledge with more general learning across various disciplines. This chapter provides a case study analysis of a universally required general education capstone at University of Buffalo in the United States.
This particular capstone requirement is unique because it is part of the general education program (not a disciplinary capstone) and implemented at a large, research-intensive public institution where a program of such scale is typically not expected. In addition, the signature work product is an integrative portfolio based on general education coursework. Drawing on document analysis and interviews, this chapter describes the context of the institution, the structure of the capstone experience, the drivers for and conception of this program, the detailed goals of this capstone experience, and the benefits and challenges of this general education capstone course.
von der Heidt, Tania, Carol Van Zile-Tamsen, David I. Lewis, Janet Bean, and Christina Beaudoin. 2023. "How Two Australian Universities Achieved "Capstones for All": A Change Management Perspective." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J. Ketcham , Anthony G. Weaver and Jessie L. Moore, 99-112. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
This chapter describes the evolution of the capstone requirement at the two Australian universities, which require all students to undertake a capstone experience in their undergraduate degree. Institutional leaders with knowledge of history and practice of capstones within each of the two Australian institutions committed to capstones were interviewed. Both universities are Melbourne-based: the top-ranked, Group of Eight (sandstone) University of Melbourne and the lower-ranked, innovative research-oriented La Trobe University. Our prompt was: “Tell me the story of capstones at your institution.”
Results explore why and how these institutions developed a strong commitment to capstones in curriculum. In this way, the chapter aims to deepen our understanding of how institutions manage the change process for introducing and sustaining capstones. Overall, these stories reveal the complex forces driving capstone change, implementation and perceived success. The insights provided offer lessons for whole-of-institution capstone design, implementation and maintenance.
Weiss, James M., Russell Kirkscey, and Julie Vale. 2021. "The Boston College Capstone Program: Formation and Function of a Holistic General Education Cumulative Experience ." The Journal of General Education 70 (1-2): 50-61. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/901191.
Participants from the 2018-2020 research seminar on Capstone Experiences profile Boston College’s Capstone Program.
Young, Dallin George, Tracy L Skipper, and Rico R Reed. 2023. "Institutional Considerations for Capstones on Campus: Perspectives Based on National Data on Senior Culminating Experiences." In Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J Ketcham , Anthony G Weaver and Jessie L Moore, 55-70. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.
For institutions of higher education and the professionals that work in them, the senior year represents the final opportunity to prepare seniors to face the demands that lie ahead. Therefore, if institutions wish to capitalize on the opportunities and obligations to provide meaningful culminating experiences through senior capstones, their design and execution must be intentionally and integrally connected to undergraduate education. Interested stakeholders at colleges and universities are likely to find a multiplicity of forms diffused throughout their organizations, making this task fraught with challenges.
This chapter, based on the National Survey of Senior Capstone Experiences, highlights the various forms that capstone experiences takes on campuses across the United States. Then the chapter interrogates the national landscape, highlighting institutional concerns for the senior year.
Young, Dallin George, Jasmin K Chung, Dory E Hoffman, and Ryan Bronkema. 2017. 2016 National Survey of Senior Capstone Experiences: Expanding our Understanding of Culminating Experiences. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.
This publication reports on the 2016 National Survey of Senior Capstone Experiences conducted by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. The survey previously was administered in 1999 and 2011. It reports on capstones in curricular and co-curricular higher education programs, including objectives for the capstone experiences, types of capstone by field of study, and percentage of seniors participating in capstones.