Capstone Assessment An Introduction



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Capstone Assessment An Introduction

  • Office of Assessment and Accreditation
  • Indiana State University

What Is A Capstone Course?

  • Often a course in which students undergo a cumulative experience—the purpose of the course is to apply what has been learned in a course or to engage in an experience that summarizes what has been learned as a result of successful enrollment in a program.
  • Student learning goals for a department or program are often contained within the course objectives.
  • Capstone courses take many forms—seminars, required internship/field experiences, application courses, etc.

Capstone Courses and Assessment

  • Capstone course assessments can assess student learning for most (if not all) of a program, assuming its content represents a cumulative experience.
  • As endpoint courses, assessments in capstone courses can serve as a forum within which standardized testing can occur (GRE subject tests, departmental final exams, ETS subject tests, etc.).
  • Capstone courses contain a convenient forum for assessing university general education student learning objectives.
  • Also provides a convenient forum for assessing other university-wide objectives.

This Presentation’s Purpose

  • Describe the process of setting up a capstone assessment plan
  • Introduce some assessment methods used in capstone courses
  • Discuss methods of using the results of capstone assessment to evaluate departmental student learning goals

Organizing A Capstone Assessment Plan

  • Define objectives. These should ordinarily match program and student learning objectives
  • Integrate program objectives associated with other university-level programs. These objectives are usually connected with general education and other university objectives.
  • Integrate program objectives with capstone course objectives.
  • Include faculty in the process. Faculty need to be part of the process to assure smooth facilitation of assessment plan. Avoid situations where it may appear that this is an administrative mandate.

Capstone Assessment Methods

  • Try to use direct methods of assessment as opposed to indirect assessment.
  • Direct assessments can be more easily facilitated in capstone courses because they can be implemented in a specific forum with specific students—the capstone course.
  • Here are some examples…

Standardized Examinations

  • Nationally-normed. Percentiles can be used to compare with students outside a department or university
  • Informative. Sub-scores (if available) can be used to assess different skills or content areas in the curriculum
  • Adaptable. Some test products (i.e., ETS subject tests) allow departments to submit their own questions.

Final Examinations

  • Questions can be designed to reflect program/student learning objectives.
  • Final (departmental) exam questions can be divided into sections according to subject area.
  • Might contain case studies and essay questions. When a standardized rubric is used and assuming linkage to specific program objectives, a good source of qualitative information for assessment and review by program faculty.
  • Questions can be “embedded” into final examinations that assess specific assessment needs. For example, a question or series of questions, essay prompts, rubric elements, etc. in capstone courses could be that same as those used at 100- or 200- level courses, allowing for comparative analyses of “novice” and senior students.

Projects and Simulations

  • Can be a form of “authentic assessment”—they challenge students to use what they learn through the course of a program in a real-world scenario.
  • Rubric averages and sub-score averages might be used to connect performance with achievement of student learning objectives.
  • Outside parties could also function as primary evaluators (i.e., real world professionals and potential employers could grade students using a specific rubric).
  • Students could be interviewed to assess impact of the experience.
  • Faculty could also be interviewed after grading students to gather summary statements and assessments on the achievement of student learning objectives (i.e., structured interviews, focus groups, etc.).

Caution on Methods

  • Make sure to always explicitly link with program and student learning objectives
  • Try to link to general education student learning objectives
  • Creating meaningful information is key—if the capstone assessment is too complex or cannot be easily implemented, other assessments may be more effective.

Using Capstone Assessment Results

  • Summary measures should be “elegant”—they should be easily organized, easily described, and should be informative
  • Should lead to discussion of the program, not the value of the capstone course only
  • Good idea: If it is possible to use the same assessment for students entering a program (such as freshmen), then the value added by the program might be demonstrated
  • It is important to implement capstone assessment annually (or at least on a regular schedule) so capstone assessment results can be compared by faculty over the years.

Conclusion

  • Implementation of capstone assessments requires a good deal of coordination.
  • Requires explicit linkage with student learning and program objectives.
  • A capstone may be best thought of as a forum in which student learning at the senior level is more readily assessed.
  • Choice of which assessments to use is up to the faculty.
  • If more than one capstone section is taught during a given semester, agreement on the same assessment method(s) is an important consideration prior to conducting the assessment.


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