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.
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.
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