Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Models to Inform Capstone Program Development

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Models to Inform Capstone Program Development

Article excerpt

Literature Review

Capstones are a superior venue for assessing learning (Wagenaar 1993), while involving students in experiences that transcend the restrictive boundaries associated with traditional curricula (Lopez, 2005). During capstone experiences, students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Students evaluate these complexities from a variety of angles in a manner that respects individual learning styles (Moursund, 1999). Learners demonstrate the ability to plan, select, and locate information; engage in critical analysis; apply multilayered decision making; and generate new meaning (Page, 2006). As a result, students are able to assimilate, assess, and apply knowledge, in a way that demonstrates mastery while building deeper levels of understanding (Berheide, 2012, O'Grady, 1999).

Capstone courses can be offered fully online, through face-to-face classroom based learning, or hybrid where physical classes and technology enhanced learning are combined. Whether technology is used to facilitate, enhance, or totally deliver a capstone experience, the number of technological tools available is numerous. Examples include: simulations; spreadsheets; research databases;

multi-media publishing tools; blogs and wikis; e-portfolio systems; brainstorming and modeling software; computer aided design systems; cloud computing; remote sensing and tele-robotics; learning management systems; open-source instructional tools; presentation software; Web con ferencing systems; virtual worlds; digital storytelling tools; voice threads; mobile technologies; social bookmarking services; communication and collaboration systems; podcasts; avatars and etcetera.

Regardless of the delivery method, capstone experiences can be designed to help learners:

* Understand the connection between curriculum and learning objectives,

* Reflect on what they have learned as a result of completing a program of study,

* Visualize the application of learned knowledge and skills to the workplace,

* Engage in interdisciplinary understanding,

* Reflect on the issues involved in the transition into their next phase of education and/or their professional career,

* Build life-long learning skills,

* Connect general education to discipline specific curriculum,

* Develop the capabilities desired by future employers (Gardner et. al., 1998, pp. 301-302).

Results from the National Survey of Student Engagement Report (2007), report that capstone experiences increase overall student performance. Additionally, data indicates that capstone experiences may serve as an equalizer that offers all students, from low to high achievers, an opportunity to succeed. Further, they have been found to be particular effective with socially disadvantaged and at-risk students (Buzzetto-More & Mitchell, 2009).

Capstone experiences are linked to a number of positive pedagogical concepts. These include: guided inquiry, self-directed learning, information literacy, technological fluency, constructivism, higher order thinking, individualized instruction, metacognition and reflective thinking, e learning, flexible learning, project-based learning, interdisciplinary thinking, core knowledge, and authentic assessment, (Kulthau & Todd, 2007; Page, 2006; Kannapel, 2012; Buzzetto-More, 2012). Holdsworth, Watty, and Davis (2009) explain that while most capstone activities are well established practices, they are treated with new approaches and greater significance when incorporated in a capstone experience.

Capstone experiences are fairly common in higher education. An evaluation of 707 regionally accredited colleges and universities found that almost XA use capstones as part of institutional assessment programs (Henscheid, 2000). Additionally, a national study of community colleges (Clark, Engel, Napolitano, Richardson, Rodriquez, Sterling-Deer, & Kasprzak, 2008) concluded that capstones represent the most comprehensive educational experience possible supporting the assessment of both core competencies and discipline specific objectives. …

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