Indiana State Introduces Liberal Studies Capstone Course in FCS

Article excerpt

Developing and implementing a university liberal studies capstone course in family and consumer sciences (FCS) is consistent with current trends and articulates a core principle. FCS integrates abstract concepts and complex processes from root academic disciplines, giving them meaning and purpose in people's lives. Principles of constructivist learning theory guide curriculum development and implementation.

Recent trends in general education focus on integrating liberal studies, considered intellectual but not practical, and professional fields, which are "viewed as practical but, for that very reason, inherently illiberal. Analysis and application are starting to come together, where once they were presented as alternative educational pathways" (Schneider, 2004, p. 4). In addition, the trend toward capstone experiences in liberal studies assists the integration of general education components with the major (MacDonald, n.d.) and facilitates the transition of students from college to professional life ("Capstone course," 2006). The recent revision of general education requirements to include a capstone course gave each department at Indiana State University the option of developing a liberal studies capstone course exclusively for its majors. The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) seized the opportunity.


The FCS Department houses five specializations: human development and family studies (HDFS); FCS Education (FCS); food and nutrition (F&N); interior design (ID); and textiles, apparel and merchandising (TAM). It is truly a composite of root disciplines found in the university's liberal studies program-psychology, sociology, history, chemistry, life sciences, mathematics, art, humanities, and philosophy. The diverse curriculum calls for teaching and learning approaches that transcend lecturing to include observations, cooperative projects, studio and laboratory experiences, and local, regional, and national field experiences. With the contemporary view that "a good liberal education embraces science and new technologies, hands-on research, global knowledge, teamwork, cross-cultural learning, active engagement with the world beyond the academy, and a commitment to lifelong learning, as well as the acquisition of knowledge and skills" (Association of American Colleges and Universities [AAC&U], 2004, p. 4), relating liberal studies and FCS to each other is as direct as drawing on the expertise of faculty in each specialization.

Course Development-Organizing Frameworks

The university provided structure for developing the course through its general education capstone course guidelines, while the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) Accreditation Standards (AAFCS, 2001) supplied an outline specifying how departmental core courses must meet accreditation goals. Constructivist learning theory guided development of assignments that integrated university and accreditation goals while corresponding to AAC&U's (2004) view of contemporary liberal studies.

University Guidelines

An approved capstone course requires students to research contributions of history, literature, art, science, and technology to the course of societal development, and to analyze values, diversity, and the dynamic nature of human systems. The course also addresses the four common goals for all liberal studies courses-critical thinking, communication, issues of value and belief, and lifelong learning ("General education," 2000).

AAFCS Accreditation Standards

AAFCS Accreditation Standard 3.1 requires that students realize the "synergistic, integrative nature of the family and consumer sciences profession" (AAFCS, 2001, p. 49), understand the manner in which the profession pertains to human systems, apply this understanding to their area of specialization, and develop a professional orientation. This mandate meshes well with university guidelines. …