Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Where Do I Go from Here: Developing a Senior Capstone Course for Music Education Majors

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Where Do I Go from Here: Developing a Senior Capstone Course for Music Education Majors

Article excerpt

Introduction

Every fall, thousands of students enter universities to begin studying for an undergraduate degree. Much study has been done to determine what factors will help them be successful during this first year experience, and help universities retain these students (Gardner, Van der Veer, and Associates, 1998). This experience has many commonalities on different campuses, and has become the focus of study and development of seminars and courses intended to help freshmen make this transition successfully, bridge the high school to college gap, and stay in school to complete their undergraduate degree programs. Courses such as University 101 ("University 101", 2013) help students acclimate to the rigors of college life, and help universities retain them for the rest of their academic careers. This effort has been embraced and supported by John N. Gardner and his associates at the University of South Carolina's National Resource Center for the Freshman Year Experience and Students in Transition, founded in 1986.

Their work also brought forth questions about the needs of students at the next transition point they will face in their academic careers; graduation from college and entry into the workforce or graduate school (Gardner, et al., 1998). Gardner and his associates have identified that graduating seniors have unique needs, and that "the senior year is an important but neglected period of transition on most college campuses" (Gardner, et al., 1998, p. 1). Students in this period of transition will most likely complete their programs, and enter the working world. They will participate in the ceremonial and celebratory rituals afforded them as they leave campus, and become alumni of their universities. Gardner indicates that information has been learned about how institutions of higher learning could sponsor successful transitions, including the experiences of students in their senior year.

Review of Literature

Kinzie (2012) suggests "the senior year in college offers students a final opportunity to bring together the pieces of their undergraduate education into a coherent whole and realize the culmination of their educational career" (p. 72). Capstone courses, job search and transition planning, preparation for life after college, and preparation for graduate school are among a long list of experiences these students can have to help them move through the ending of their undergraduate education (Kinzie, 2012). Kuh (1998) reports five cultural events during the senior year: "1) recognizing achievements, 2) encouraging students to reflect on the meaning of their college experience, 3) cultivating loyal graduates, 4) unifying the senior class, and 5) easing the transition to life after college" (p. 155) focus on integration, reflection, closure, and transition, while helping to support the endurance of these events on college campuses.

Students leaving the university setting need to begin to see themselves in a different role identity than they have during their last four to six years as college students. They may be going to graduate school, or marrying and raising families, but are no longer who they were when they entered the university as high school graduates. While they had the identity of a college student, they were able to develop an understanding of themselves in terms of how closely they matched the "identity standard" of that role (Collier, 2000, p. 286). They must now begin to reestablish a new identity for themselves as adults entering the workforce or moving on to graduate school to further their education. As graduates, they now must become what Baxter Magolda (2009) addresses as "becoming the author of one's own life" (p. 42). Skipper (2012) offers that major decisions, including career choices, are often being made at this point, and these students need to be ready to "trust their own internal voice" (p. 43).

At the University of South Carolina, Gardner, Van der Veer and their associates (1998) have developed a series of courses, from University 101, a seminar for first year and transfer students, to University 401, a Senior Capstone Experience to prepare juniors and seniors for a career or graduate school. …

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