Book cover of Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning, edited by Caroline J. Ketcham, Anthony G. Weaver, and Jessie L. Moore

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.

Discussion Questions

  • The authors analyzed data through Bernstein’s (2000) four lenses: the intended curriculum; that which is actually delivered; what is received or understood by students; and finally, the hidden or tacit curriculum. Discuss these four lenses and how they impact the capstone experience at your institution.
  • Based on their findings, the authors suggest a reposition of the capstone.  What specific steps, identified as best practices, could lead to more inclusive capstone designs in your context?
  • Given the author’s challenge to “normalize the dominant culture” in capstones, how do faculty develop broad based goals that address the needs of the curriculum while also allowing for the intersectionality of different groups?