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The Undergraduate Capstone Course in the Social Sciences: Results from a Regional Survey

Abstract and Figures

Among the common requirements for receipt of a degree in the social sciences is the completion of a senior seminar in which a senior thesis or capstone project is produced. A number of educational goals have been proposed for this requirement: integrating the knowledge base supplied by the regular curriculum, contributing to students' future roles as informed citizens, and preparing for study in graduate programs, among others. However, few studies have empirically explored the substance of the senior seminars and capstones offered across a discipline or studied their organization, requirements, and pedagogy. In the present article, the authors describe the results of a survey of sociology and psychology departments in the western United States regarding their senior seminar and capstone courses.
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ISSN : 0092- 055X
Vo lu me 38
Num ber 1
JaN ua ry 2010
Teaching
Sociology
An OfficiAl JOurn Al Of the A mericAn SOciO lOgic Al A SSOciAtiO n
RE SEA RCH A RT ICL E S
The Unde rgraduate Caps tone Co urse in th e Social S ciences : Results from a R egional Survey
Robe rt C . Ha uhar t an d Jon E. Grahe
“A Meeting of Minds”: Using Clickers for Critical Thinkin g and Discussion in L arge Sociology C lasses
Stefa nie M ollborn a nd A ngel Hoe kstra
Inter teaching: Students a s Teachers in L ower-Division Sociology C ourses
Ming Tsui
CO NV E R SAT I ON S
Evolution, Biology, and Soci ety: A Conversation f or the 21st-Centur y Sociology Classroom
Rich ard M acha lek and M ichael W. Mar tin
Bette r Informed, Stil l Skeptic al: Response to Machalek and Mar tin
Betsy Luca l
Teach Soft ly and Deb unk with a Big Stick : A Response to “Evolution, Biology, and S ociet y: A
Conver sation f or the 21st-Centur y Sociology Cla ssroom”
Chad Han son
“Evolutionary Theor y Seems So E asy”: Reply to Lucal and Hanson
Rich ard M acha lek and M ichael W. Mar tin
BO OK R EV IEW S
FI L M R EVI E WS
TS_cover template.indd 1 08/01/2010 5:25:39 PM
Teaching Sociology
Volume 38 Number 1 January 2010
Contents
Guidelines for Papers Submitted to Teaching Sociology
Comment from the Editor 1
Research Articles
The Undergraduate Capstone Course in the Social Sciences:
Results from a Regional Survey 4
Robert C. Hauhart and Jon E. Grahe
“A Meeting of Minds”: Using Clickers for Critical Thinking and
Discussion in Large Sociology Classes 18
Stefanie Mollborn and Angel Hoekstra
Interteaching: Students as Teachers in Lower-Division
Sociology Courses 28
Ming Tsui
Conversations
Evolution, Biology, and Society: A Conversation for the
21st-Century Sociology Classroom 35
Richard Machalek and Michael W. Martin
Better Informed, Still Skeptical: Response to Machalek and Martin 46
Betsy Lucal
Teach Softly and Debunk with a Big Stick: A Response to
“Evolution, Biology, and Society: A Conversation for the
21st-Century Sociology Classroom” 50
Chad Hanson
“Evolutionary Theory Seems So Easy”: Reply to Lucal and Hanson 54
Richard Machalek and Michael W. Martin
Book Reviews
Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist’s Companion.
Joshua D. Angrist and Jorn-Steffen Pischke 59
Ivy Kodzi
Volume 38 Number 1 January 2010
Teaching
Sociology
Gendered Worlds. Judy Root Aulette, Judith Wittner, and
Kristin Blakely 60
Catherine Fobes and Colleen Wilson
Juvenile Delinquency and Justice: Sociological Perspectives.
Ronald J. Berger and Paul D. Gregory, eds 61
James R. McIntosh
Macrosociology: The Study of Sociocultural Systems. Frank W. Elwell 62
Agnes I. Caldwell
American Soldiers in Iraq: McSoldiers or Innovative Professionals?
Morten G. Ender 63
Debra Sheffer
Twenty Lessons in Environmental Sociology. Kenneth A. Gould and
Tammy L. Lewis, eds 64
Todd Paddock
Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in
Bosnia. Savo Heleta 66
Chunyan Song
Substance Use and Abuse: Exploring Alcohol and
Drug Issues. Sylvia I. Mignon, Marjorie Marcoux Faiia,
Peter L. Myers, and Earl Rubington 67
Britni Webster
Film Reviews
The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court.
New Day Films. 70
Basil Kardaras
Crips and Bloods: Made in America. Bullfrog Films 72
Patricia B. Christian
Invisible Girlfriend. Carnivalesque Films 73
Fred E. Markowitz
When the Light’s Red. New Day Films 74
Karen Hayden
Erratum 76
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Printed on acid-free paper
The Undergraduate Capstone
Course in the Social Sciences:
Results from a Regional
Survey
Robert C. Hauhart1and Jon E. Grahe2
Abstract
Among the common requirements for receipt of a degree in the social sciences is the completion of
a senior seminar in which a senior thesis or capstone project is produced. A number of educational goals
have been proposed for this requirement: integrating the knowledge base supplied by the regular curric-
ulum, contributing to students’ future roles as informed citizens, and preparing for study in graduate pro-
grams, among others. However, few studies have empirically explored the substance of the senior
seminars and capstones offered across a discipline or studied their organization, requirements, and ped-
agogy. In the present article, the authors describe the results of a survey of sociology and psychology
departments in the western United States regarding their senior seminar and capstone courses.
Keywords
capstone, capstone course, senior seminar, senior thesis, undergraduate curriculum, sociology
curriculum, psychology curriculum
One of the components of many undergraduate pro-
grams in the social sciences is the senior seminar,
leading to the development of a capstone paper or
senior project. As sociologists and psychologists
have described, the purposes that such courses
serve are potentially manifold. Davis (1993) notes,
for example, that such a project ‘‘draws together
theoretical work from disparate areas of sociology,
serves as a bridge to graduate study, and helps
students assume more active lives as citizens and
consumers of knowledge’’ (p. 233; see also Vande-
Creek and Fleischer 1984:9). Another author has
suggested that ‘‘such a course serves as an impetus
to review, integrate, extend and apply the materials
presented in the curriculum; it allows us to foster
a pragmatic orientation toward sociology in our
students’ (Wallace 1988:34; see also Ault and
Multhaup 2003:48). Durel (1993:223) suggests
that the value of the capstone course is not so
much identifiable by its service of certain goals
as it is by its role in socializing students to their
coming status as liberally educated citizens in
a democratic polity: It is a rite of passage that
marks the abandonment of one status and the
assumption of another.
As these references from the literature of the two
disciplines suggest, sociology and psychology
share many of the same concerns regarding cap-
stone courses. However, although there has been
a record of interest among sociologists and psychol-
ogists in offering capstone courses, there has been
substantially less of a record developed regarding
the actual content, format, design, and pedagogy
associated with senior seminars and capstones in
1Saint Martin’s University
2Pacific Lutheran University
Corresponding Author:
Robert C. Hauhart, Saint Martin’s University, 5300
Pacific Avenue SE, Lacey, WA 98503;
e-mail: rhauhart@stmartin.edu
Research Articles
Teaching Sociology
38(1) 4–17
ÓAmerican Sociological Association 2010
DOI: 10.1177/0092055X09353884
http://ts.sagepub.com
sociology and psychology. In an effort to redress
this imbalance, we developed a survey and distrib-
uted it to members of the Pacific Sociological
Association (PSA) and Western Psychological
Association (WPA). Our method, results, and con-
clusions are the subject of this report.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
A review of the literature regarding senior semi-
nars, capstone courses, and advanced research
practicums in the social sciences reveals a broad
expression of interest in the subject but only
a faintly illuminating impression of the role these
courses are intended to fulfill and the process and
content they display. In examining the literature,
we (a sociologically trained criminologist and
a research psychologist) noted the high levels of
convergence between many of the concerns
expressed.
Both disciplines share a concern with the poten-
tial for capstones to enhance the goals of liberal
education (Durel 1993; McCarthy 2005; McGovern
et al. 1991). Likewise, members of both disciplines
have written of the need for graduating seniors to
integrate material from throughout the discipline
(Davis 1993; Heise 1992; Wallace 1988; Weis
2004:43). Similarly, both sociologists and psychol-
ogists have written about using the senior capstone
course to assess the major (Morgan and Johnson
1997; Wagenaar 2002). Finally, both sociologists
and psychologists have addressed the benefits of
using capstones to foster undergraduate research
and research skills (Davis 1993; Page, Abramson,
and Jacobs-Lawson 2004; Steele 1993; Wayment
and Dickson 2008).
Other similarities are equally evident. Authors
from both disciplines lament the absence of any
substantial knowledge about the actual practices
in capstones, senior seminars, or research practi-
cums. Indeed, sociologists and psychologists
both describe multiple, and often muddled, goals
for capstone courses and wonder aloud how their
disciplines might improve these courses (Vande-
Creek and Fleischer 1984; Wagenaar 1991,
2002; Wayment and Dickson 2008).
On the basis of even a cursory review, we con-
cluded that although sociology and psychology
each naturally emphasize each discipline’s distinc-
tive substantive body of knowledge, both disci-
plines share more intellectual concerns regarding
the design and use of capstone and senior seminar
courses than each discipline holds exclusively.
Consequently, we chose to jointly study questions
regarding capstone course selection, construction,
delivery, and process across both fields rather
than in each field separately. A more detailed com-
parison of the literature on capstones in sociology
and psychology formed the background for devel-
oping our survey.
Sociology
A review of the sociology literature with respect
to senior seminars and capstone courses reveals
that interest within the discipline has historically
revolved around two issues. First, many commen-
tators have addressed the purposes to be achieved
through the inclusion of senior capstone courses
within the sociology curriculum (Collier
2000:285; Davis 1993; Durel 1993; Tiemann
1993; Wallace 1988). Second, many authors
have addressed the content of their own capstone
courses or their experience in designing and
delivering new (or variations on existing) cap-
stones (Carlson and Peterson 1993; Dickinson
1993; Sherohman 1997; Smith, 1993; Wattendorf
1993). Only the occasional journal article in soci-
ology attempts to take a broader view and survey
the roles, purposes, nature, organization, content,
and pedagogy of capstone courses across the field
more generally (Wagenaar 1991, 1993).
Kain (2007), however, recently examined
through a content analysis the catalogs of the
top 10 sociology departments within each tier of
the 2000 US News and World Report survey of
colleges. Kain found that 63 percent of sociology
departments offered capstone courses, identical to
Perlman and McCann’s (1999a, 1999b) finding
for psychology reported below. Kain also reported
that half of those sociology capstone courses
required some form of individual research, while
another 11 percent required some writing. How-
ever, unlike most of the previous capstone litera-
ture in sociology—but similar to most of the
published literature in psychology—Kain does
not provide any appreciable degree of discussion
regarding the content, organization, and style of
delivery of these general capstone options. Thus,
although his data are current, they are also limited.
Psychology
In psychology, the literature tends to address the
general undergraduate psychology curriculum first
and foremost. Secondarily, the literature turns to
Hauhart and Grahe 5
the presence or absence of capstone courses
within psychology curricula, and only then to
the content or process of the senior seminar.
Thus, Baron Perlman and Lee McCann (1999a,
1999b, 2005) have developed a minor specialty
in regularly surveying and analyzing the range
of courses that form the undergraduate psychology
curriculum. In so doing, they have reported com-
prehensively on ‘‘the most frequently listed
courses’’ in the undergraduate psychology curric-
ulum (Perlman and McCann 1999b) and under-
graduate research experiences in psychology
(Perlman and McCann 2005), including in this lat-
ter article minor reference to research experiences
that might form part of senior seminar courses.
Although fewer peer-reviewed journal articles
in psychology appear to delve into the details of
senior seminar and capstone experiences offered
compared with sociology, there is a focused skein
of articles that address the use of research or field
practicums as a major requirement for advanced
students. The benefits ascribed to research practi-
cums in psychology generally include increased
familiarity with research methods, increased inter-
personal skills and confidence, and increased
familiarity with the discipline, including increased
interest in and admission to graduate programs
(Nauta 2002; Page et al. 2004; Starke 1985;
Wayment and Dickson 2008). The benefits pur-
sued by psychology departments that support field
practicums include unifying a student’s acquisi-
tion of a diverse, but often unorganized, body of
knowledge, often in preparation for graduate
school; enhancing a liberal education generally;
and advancing career development (VandeCreek
and Fleischer 1984). However, some of these
same goals are often set forth for ‘‘issues-
oriented’’ senior seminar courses in psychology
that do not involve field components and are
exclusively classroom based (Ault and Multhaup
2003; Roscoe and Strapp 2009). Finally, like soci-
ology, there is an interest among some psychology
departments in using capstone courses to assess
the major (Morgan and Johnson 1997).
Like Kain’s (2007) study within sociology,
Perlman and McCann’s work stands out, as they
have developed empirical data with respect to
the extent to which psychology departments offer,
and typically require, the completion of a capstone
course. Thus, in their review of 500 college cata-
logs in the 1990s, Perlman and McCann (1999b)
found that 63 percent of psychology departments
required the completion of a capstone course or
senior seminar for the undergraduate degree.
Moreover, their survey of the catalogs suggested
that the most frequently required type of capstone
course (32 percent) involved a senior seminar or
colloquium. Less frequently, psychology cap-
stones consisted of a ‘‘senior status’’ course dedi-
cated to history and systems within psychology
(23 percent); an integrative, but not exclusively
senior, course on history and systems (16 percent);
an applied internship, practicum, or field experi-
ence (13 percent); or a senior research seminar
or project (5 percent).
OUR STUDY
In considering the questions sociologists and psy-
chologists have raised, we were struck most by the
paucity of recent empirical studies on capstones.
Much of the literature that addresses the details
of capstone courses in sociology cited above is
dated, predominantly from a 1993 issue of Teach-
ing Sociology (volume 21, number 3). In psychol-
ogy, the one analysis that has attempted to make
an overarching examination of the nature and
scope of the capstone course within the under-
graduate curriculum is also now 10 years old
(Perlman and McCann 1999a, 1999b). As a conse-
quence, we determined that studying how sociolo-
gists and psychologists construct, design, and
offer senior seminar capstones would contribute
to the literature.
As part of this general interest and concern
with undergraduate capstone courses, we designed
and conducted a survey of sociology and psychol-
ogy departments in the western United States. The
purposes of the survey were to identify the fre-
quency and distribution of the use of the capstone
requirement within western U.S. sociology and
psychology departments and to gauge the nature
of the requirements, and the manner of delivery,
for capstone courses and senior seminars within
these two disciplines.
METHODS
Participants
The population of departments comprised sociol-
ogy departments on the membership mailing list
of the PSA and psychology departments listed
on the WPA’s Web site. We obtained e-mail
addresses for each department. Of the 375
6Teaching Sociology 38(1)
department addresses in the western United States
that formed our total population, 18 were returned
with no forwarding addresses, 14 e-mailed us that
they had no programs (six community colleges,
two universities with graduate programs, and six
undergraduate colleges), and 5 were returned with
‘out of the office’’ replies. The remaining 338
departments consequently constituted our effective
total population. From this group, we received 95
replies to our survey, a 28 percent response rate.
This rate of return is consistent with methodolo-
gists’ expectations for this type of research as
reported in the literature (Porter and Whitcomb
2003; Shannon and Bradshaw 2002; Van Selm
and Jankowski 2006).
As a matter of course, we obtained institutional
review board approval to conduct the study from
both affiliated institutions. Thus, all respondents
were treated according to American Sociological
Association’s and American Psychological Asso-
ciation’s ethical guidelines.
Survey Materials and Procedure
Initially, a solicitation e-mail was sent to the chair
of each department identified from the PSA and
WPA lists. The e-mail explained the purpose of
the study and requested that one member of the
department most familiar with the capstone course
complete our Internet-based survey. Two follow-
up e-mails were sent after the initial request to
increase the response rate. This follow-up technique
was effective in almost doubling the response rate.
Capstone Course Survey
The survey was administered using SurveyMonkey.
com, one of several commonly accepted online
survey instruments (Greenberg, Kit, and Mahoney
2005). The survey contained seven separate Web
pages: (1) informed consent, (2) school information,
(3) capstone course presence, (4) capstone course
characteristics, (5) capstone course mechanics, (6)
capstone course assessment, and (7) debriefing and
contact information. The questions included a mix
of closed- and open-ended questions. We designed
questions on the basis of principles, qualities, and
factors identified as important considerations in
capstone and senior seminar courses in the existing
sociological and psychological literature.
School information. Respondents answered
questions about (1) institutional classification,
(2) degrees offered, (3) the number of students at
the institution, (4) the number of majors graduating
yearly, and (5) the number of faculty members.
Capstone course presence. On the third page,
respondents informed us about (1) whether they
offered a capstone course and (2) if not, what con-
siderations led to not offering a capstone course or
whether it was ever considered. It was apparent to
us from our examination of the literature that there
were no consistent definitions of the terms cap-
stone,senior seminar,senior project,research
practicum, and other similar terms used in sociol-
ogy and psychology. Thus, we determined that the
best procedure was to use capstone course and
senior seminar interchangeably, without defining
them, and allow respondents to address the ideas
these terms evoked as they would. We chose
this approach to obtain the broadest possible rele-
vant data.
Capstone course characteristics. On the fol-
lowing page, respondents initially described their
courses by choosing from menu lists describing
common aspects of capstone courses, including
(1) stated purposes for the capstone courses,
(2) course activities, (3) expected outcomes, and
(4) minimum requirements (i.e., minimum page
length or references and expected writing style:
American Psychological Association, American
Sociological Association, or Modern Language
Association). Participants provided open-ended
comments as necessary for each question.
Wherever possible, prior comments about cap-
stone courses guided the selection of the closed-
ended options. For instance, the list of seven stated
purposes for a capstone course was located in the
literature (Davis 1993; Durel 1993; Garfinckel
and Tierney 1957; Wallace 1988). Other course
characteristics were also identified in this manner.
For example, Smith (1993:251) discussed minimum
capstone paper length, so we elicited responses
regarding page counts.
Capstone course mechanics. Respondents
provided information about (1) who teaches the
course (whether a single faculty member or
several), (2) how many students generally com-
plete the course, (3) number of hours the course
meets, and (4) course activities (e.g., lecture,
discussion, common readings). As the literature
makes clear, there are multiple options for teach-
ing a capstone course in the social sciences
(Troyer 1993:248). Thus, we provided an array
of choices to accommodate different teaching
Hauhart and Grahe 7
loads and faculty assignments. Because class time
would affect class content and activities, we at-
tempted to offer question response options that
would encompass the likely range of answers.
Our questions regarding the class activities pur-
sued within the capstone experience were also
guided by discussions in the literature that high-
lighted the range of formats pursued, from a highly
organized schedule of readings and discussion in
a classroom setting to the largely individually pur-
sued ‘‘independent study’’–style completion of
a capstone paper (Steele 1993:244).
Questions about course assessment. The final
section included open-ended questions inquiring
about respondents’ knowledge of using capstones
course for assessment, including (1) the evaluation
of student performance, (2) the relationship of
student performance to departmental assessment,
(3) student evaluation of capstone courses, (4) suc-
cessful capstone requirements, (5) dissatisfactions
and struggles with capstone requirements, (6) any
changes in the courses in the past 10 years, and
(7) the overall value of a capstone course.
Questions in this final section also owe a debt
to the intellectual climate that inspired the major
examination of capstone courses within sociology
in these pages more than 15 years ago. As Smith
(1993) and others noted, the desire to assess the
undergraduate curriculum was one impetus for
revising sociology and psychology curricula.
Often, a specific goal was including capstone or
senior seminar courses to use for assessment
(Hartmann 1992; Morgan and Johnson 1997;
Smith 1993:250; Steele 1993). Consequently, we
attempted to elicit responses that would illuminate
the use of capstones to evaluate students, depart-
ments, and the courses themselves.
RESULTS
Sample Statistics
As expected, the sample (n=95 independent
respondents) was generally composed of institutions
awarding four-year degrees (BA or BS, 34 percent)
and graduate degrees (MA or MS, 37 percent;
doctorate, 17 percent), with few two-year institu-
tions responding (12 percent). The institutions
ranged broadly in three measures of size: total num-
ber of students (M=10,693.16, SD =13,580.21,
median =7,000), students graduating each year in
the major (M=113.59, SD =183.90, median =
50), and number of full-time equivalent (FTE)
faculty members (M=11.07, SD =9.23, median
=8). The discrepancies between the means and me-
dians reflect the positive skew of these data.
Capstone Course Presence
Although none of the two-year schools offered
capstone courses, the majority of four-year insti-
tutions (75 percent) and those offering master’s
degrees (56 percent) did, while a smaller percent-
age of PhD programs did (22 percent). Overall, 58
of the 95 respondents (61 percent) offered cap-
stone courses. Of the 37 that did not report offer-
ing capstones, the 11 respondents that never
considered offering such a course were either
two-year schools or schools with PhD programs.
Others reported a number of reasons for not offer-
ing courses, including a lack of resources or alter-
native assessments or course activities, and a few
reported that such courses were still being con-
sidered. Institutions that offered capstones tended
to be smaller in three size characteristics: total stu-
dent population (capstone: M=7,287.07, SD =
15,837.95; no capstone: M=15,837.95, SD =
18,260), t(93) =3.13, p<.05; department size
(capstone: M=77.50, SD =93.29; no capstone:
M=177.78, SD =271.62), t(89) =2.57, p<
.05; and department FTE faculty members (cap-
stone: M=9.54, SD =7.23; no capstone: M=
12.87, SD =11.51), t(92) =1.72, p=.08.
Capstone Course Purposes
To evaluate what occurs in capstone courses, only the
responses from institutions with capstone courses
were considered (n=58). Table 1 displays the per-
centage of departments that reported that the listed
goals were stated purposes for having a capstone
course. The most common stated goals were ‘‘review
and integrate learned material’’ and ‘‘help students
extend and apply learned material.’’ Responses
showed the least likely reasons offered were ‘‘help
students become more active as citizens’’ and ‘it so-
cializes students as educated citizens.’
Capstone Course Characteristics
Table 2 displays the percentages of capstone
courses that included various outcomes and
expectations. These data describe the typical
capstone course from our sample. Generally,
capstone courses appear to include major
8Teaching Sociology 38(1)
projects (66 percent) with some data collection
(66 percent) resulting in research papers (95
percent) that must conform to some specific
writing style (88 percent) with peer-reviewed
supporting materials (72 percent). In cases in
which there were minimum paper lengths (55
percent), most respondents reported minimums
between 10 and 25 pages (88 percent). When
there was a minimum number of references
(45 percent), the sample most often reported
requiring 6 to 10 references (46 percent), with
11 to 15 references (27 percent) a distant sec-
ond. During class, students were most likely to
encounter instructor-led discussion, though com-
mon readings, student-led discussion, and peer
review of paper drafts were also commonly
reported.
For institutions offering capstone courses,
it was most common that instruction rotated
between faculty members. Whoever was in-
structing the course was most likely teaching
it to more than 25 students (33 percent),
with other class sizes dispersed across the
sample (21 to 25, 18 percent; 16 to 20, 16
percent; 11 to 15, 19 percent; and 6 to 10,
12 percent). The courses were likely to be
taken for three (49 percent) or four (30 per-
cent) credits, depending on whether the insti-
tution was on a semester or quarter system.
When courses met regularly, respondents
mostly reported that the classes met three or
four (71 percent) times a week, with few con-
vening more often (20 percent) or less (8 per-
cent) per week.
Potential Factors Influencing Capstone
Course Purposes and Characteristics
Although we sampled from both sociology and
psychology programs, we did not find meaningful
differences between the two. To compare potential
differences between department types, x2and
t-tests were performed for the closed-ended ques-
tions. No differences emerged for their preference
for specific goals (see Table 1), median x2(1, N=
49) =0.63, all pvalues >.10. There was little
effect across the variables measuring the charac-
teristics or administration of capstone courses,
median x2(1, N=49) =0.84 (see Table 2),
with only two differences emerging. Sociology
capstones (85 percent vs. 57 percent) were more
likely to require extended papers with literature
reviews, x2(1) =4.72, p<.05. Sociology cap-
stones never required poster presentations at the
institutions, whereas 40 percent of psychology
courses did, x2(1) =14.20, p<.01.
We also compared programs that offered
graduate degrees (n=33) with those that offered
only undergraduate degrees (n=25). The type of
degree offered did not affect the likelihood of
reporting any of the listed goals (Table 1),
median x2(1, N=58) =0.43, all pvalues >
.10. Only two differences emerged in the charac-
teristics or administration variables (Table 2),
median x2(1, N=58) =0.72. Undergraduate
institutions were less likely to report integrating
material between the discipline and general edu-
cation, x2(1) =7.50, p<.05, and were more
likely to include instructor-led discussion during
Table 1. Percentage of Respondents Reporting Each Stated Purpose of Capstone Courses
Purpose
All
(n=58)
Graduate
(n=33)
Four
Year
(n=25)
Sociology
(n=26)
Psychology
(n=23)
Integrate theoretical work across the field 53 55 56 38 65
Bridge to graduate study 57 61 52 69 52
Students become more active as citizens 29 33 24 35 26
Students become better consumers of knowledge 44 45 40 38 57
Review and integrate learned material 83 88 80 88 96
It helps students extend and apply learned
material
84 79 96 88 87
It fosters a pragmatic orientation toward the
discipline
43 39 48 46 48
It socializes students as educated citizens 24 24 24 31 30
Hauhart and Grahe 9
class, x2(1) =5.22, p<.05. We also compared
private to public institutions along the same lines
and similarly found no meaningful difference
that this distinction had an effect on how cap-
stones were organized or conducted.
Because size was related to whether a capstone
course was offered, we further examined whether it
produced any effect on how the course was admin-
istered. By standardizing and then averaging the
three size variables (total students, major students,
and FTE faculty members), a reliable (a=.78)
size construct was generated. Where measured re-
sponses reflected at least ordinal data (number of
goals selected, number of course projects, number
of outcomes selected, number of project limits,
minimum pages, minimum references, students
per semester, and credits earned), we computed
correlations with the size construct. All eight corre-
lations failed to reveal statistical significance
(median r=.02), suggesting that although size
might influence the offering of capstone courses,
it is not related to how the courses are delivered.
Table 2. Percentage of Respondents Reporting That the Capstone Course Included Particular Elements
Item % Responding
What does the capstone course include?
A course that integrates material across the discipline 59
Course that integrates material between discipline and general education 21
A major project that evaluates some topic 66
A review of primary research materials 45
Some form of data collection 66
An internship experience 19
An extended paper that includes a literature review 72
What are course outcomes?
Research paper 95
Oral presentation 69
Poster presentation within institution 19
Poster/oral presentation at conference outside the institution 10
Data analysis or manipulation 67
What are minimum requirements for capstone projects?
Minimum page length 55
Minimum number of citations or references 41
The writing is required to conform to a specific style 88
The references must include peer-reviewed publications 72
Student must devote a minimum number of hours to project involvement 22
The capstone idea is the sole responsibility of the student 40
Capstone idea can be an extension of a faculty member’s research area 34
There must be independent data collection 45
What course activities are included in the capstone course?
Instructor lectures 53
Instructor-led discussion 84
Student-led discussion 67
Common reading list of research articles 57
Common reading list of books 52
Peer review of rough drafts 55
Peer review of final papers 26
Peer review of oral presentations 48
Who staffs the capstone course?
Same person always teaches it 14
Same person mostly teaches it 24
Rotates between faculty members 59
Cotaught by some department members 10
Cotaught by all department members 5
10 Teaching Sociology 38(1)
Capstone Course Assessment
The rest of the questionnaire included questions
with open-ended responses. For all these ques-
tions, we received 51 responses. Thus, for the
rest of the data, n=51. For all open-ended re-
sponses, three readers reviewed and categorized
the responses. Similar responses were counted to
present the percent of responses.
Capstone course assessment was measured
using two open-ended responses. Respondents
were asked, (1) ‘‘How is student performance
in the course project, or paper evaluated?’’ and
(2) ‘‘Does the department evaluate student prog-
ress in the capstone course or senior thesis as
a form of program assessment? If so, how?’’
These questions produced responses showing
that a variety of evaluation types are used across
institutions.
We received 51 responses to the question of
how grades were assigned. Respondents over-
whelmingly reported that grading relied on stan-
dard letter assignment (98 percent). Although
responses were vague about how instructors deter-
mined these grades, typically, they indicated that
various components of the course received inde-
pendent weighting. Some of these listed only these
components, while others provided detailed de-
scriptions about the percentages or reported using
established grading rubrics. A small portion of the
sample reported the use of multiple evaluators (12
percent) who were other faculty members, peers,
or supervisors. One respondent reported using
a faculty-student contract whereby students chose
the weighting for various evaluations.
Of the 51 respondents remarking about using
capstone courses for formal assessment, 61 per-
cent reported that they did so, and 10 percent indi-
cated that they would be soon or were working on
it. The responses regarding the manner of use for
assessment ranged from simple yes answers (e.g.,
‘Yes, percentage received higher than a C’’) to
more detailed descriptions of program evaluation.
Many stated that the major paper or a sample of
the capstone papers was evaluated according to
student learning outcomes, while others stated
that the major paper was part of the students’ port-
folios, which were evaluated later. Other options
included measuring a series of assessments as
part of the capstone course, mixing project evalu-
ation with student performance on standardized
discipline focused tests, using ‘‘in-house’’ quizzes
or exams tied directly to departmental goals, and
using the course to administer an exit survey.
Together, the range of responses suggests that var-
ious methods for assessing student progress are
used.
Among our respondents, 86 percent (44 of 51)
reported that their departments regularly measured
student evaluations of their capstones. Of those,
34 (72 percent) reported that the feedback was
favorable to strongly favorable, while 4 respond-
ents (9 percent) reported mixed feedback and 1
respondent (2 percent) stated, ‘‘Our students do
not like our capstone course very much.’’ Student
complaints that were reported focused on the
workload, the papers, or some instructors.
What Works Well?
In an effort to elicit suggestions for best practices,
we asked respondents to report what worked well
in their departments’ capstone course. As with
many open-ended questions, the responses were
quite varied (at least 15 distinct response catego-
ries), so there were no high frequencies associated
with any single response.
Some commented on the integration of material
across varied topics: ‘‘integrated and cooperative
learning through various subjects and departments.’
Others noted the value of students’ completing self-
directed work: ‘‘enabling students to find their sense
of independent scholarship and learning.’’ Other re-
sponses commented on the value of students’ expe-
riencing the process of completing a major research
project. ‘‘The course works well in showing the stu-
dents how to write a major paper and that that they
can, and the process to follow to accomplish this.’
Others reported that the capstone built relationships
between faculty members and students (‘‘students
work closely with faculty to develop their projects’’)
or between students (‘‘students learn to ‘workshop’
one another’s work and to manage time and work
on a large project and to work together’’). Many idi-
osyncratic responses suggested specific course for-
mats and practices that were working well. These
comments included one response that the mecha-
nism of the faculty members’ selecting umbrella
topics and students’ making specific choices
improved student interest. Another commented
that meeting the class every three weeks kept stu-
dents’ progress on target. Finally, recommendations
included having students develop the idea and/or
complete institutional review board approval before
the capstone semester begins.
Hauhart and Grahe 11
What Dissatisfactions and Struggles
Were Experienced?
When asked about their dissatisfactions, some of
the 51 respondents reported none at all (8 per-
cent). However, most of the responses focused
on resource limitations related either to faculty
(25 percent) or student (14 percent) workload.
This example shows concern for both types of
workload in addition to some conflict about deci-
sion making: ‘‘(1). Too many students for avail-
able faculty, (2). Too little time to really
complete an independent research project,
(3). Tension between allowing students to freely
pick a topic and putting restraints on students to
fit with faculty expertise.’
The single most common response, however,
focused on students’ approach to the course (33
percent), because of either motivation (e.g., ‘‘stu-
dent burnout’’) or ability (e.g., ‘‘students are not
prepared [for] this type of course’’). The following
example describes not only a student motivation
problem but also how it has been addressed:
Senior-itis. Many students show promise
early in their work, but do not always live
up to our lofty expectations. Not all stu-
dents are inspired to continue on with grad-
uate work, so sustaining their intellectual
curiosity can be difficult. As a result, we
have implemented a more pragmatic ser-
vice component to the major which will
hopefully provide students on a non-aca-
demic career path with the practice of
applying their analytical skills to a real
world field setting.
In addition to concerns about resource demands,
some expressed more abstract tensions that arise
related to capstone courses. One expressed concern
about ‘‘how to integrate theory with data, tension
between breadth (thus general) versus in depth anal-
ysis of few case studies.’’ Another expressed dissat-
isfaction that was related to the tension between
faculty members’ expectations and departmental
goals. Multiple responses related to this concern.
One respondent mentioned that ‘‘the capstone
focuses on program-wide learning objectives and,
sometimes, faculty want a more narrowly defined
course.’’ Negative outcomes of this could reflect
another respondent’s dissatisfaction about ‘‘incon-
sistency in how course is run and what is expected
of students based on who teaches the course’’ or, as
a third stated bluntly, ‘‘faculty do not always con-
form to agreed requirements,’’ leading to student
frustrations about inconsistent expectations.
Recent Changes
To establish areas that might be improved, we asked
respondents, ‘‘Has your Department changed its
senior seminar, senior thesis, or capstone project re-
quirements in the last ten (10) years? Tell us about
the nature of the change—including why the change
was made. Whatdid you do before?’’ In response, 27
percent reported no changes. Another 18 percent re-
ported that there were no changes because the cap-
stones were between one and ten years old.
Of the remaining responses, many focused
only on how the capstone courses had changed.
However, many of these changes reflected issues
related to the resource demands stated above.
For instance, there were changes in course length
from one semester to a year, increasing the num-
ber of credits the capstones reflected, or reducing
class sizes. Additionally, there were changes to
make the capstones more practical, such as adding
applied or internship options. Some changes re-
flected the priorities of the departments, such as
including workshops to increase writing quality,
including public presentations, or changes to the
research projects to make them more empirically
based or more practical to students’ future work.
Other changes reflected the increased institutional
expectations regarding assessment. Multiple re-
spondents suggested that the capstones included
more assessment or reflected increased standardi-
zation for this purpose. Finally, some departments
commented that the capstone courses regularly
received minor changes, perhaps as a way of keep-
ing the capstone experience fresh.
Overall Impression
The survey ended with the respondents’ providing
comments in response to the question ‘‘What are
your thoughts about the value of a capstone course
in your major? Please use this [section] to add any
other information that you feel is valuable.’’ Of
the 51 respondents, 90 percent reported that there
was ‘‘some value’’ or that it was highly valuable.
The values that were expressed ranged from ‘‘very
valuable, now we feel like we have a legitimate
major’’ and ‘‘the capstone experience is critical to
12 Teaching Sociology 38(1)
the major’’ to more specific outcome benefits for
the students and department. Some values the re-
spondents identified were skill related, such as im-
provements in written or oral communication or the
accumulation of improved research skills. Others
saw value related to students’ potential for lifelong
learning. Multiple respondents commented that
these were more evident in motivated or better pre-
pared students. Finally, some commented on the
value for the department, such as increased com-
munity building between students or the integration
of various major courses in an effective culminat-
ing experience. Two respondents saw the value as
increased assessment opportunities. In sum, our re-
spondents believed the capstone courses provide
a number of valuable outcomes.
DISCUSSION
The Typical Capstone Course
The primary value of our survey is that it attempts to
capture the most common features of capstone or
senior seminar courses within our regional sample
of sociology and psychology departments. The re-
sults highlight a number of consistencies among
these departments and thereby provide an initial
report of current capstone practices. The results offer
departments with existing senior seminars a basis for
comparing their formats and requirements with our
results from other comparable institutions.
Our results show that a clear majority of four-
year institutions (75 percent) and universities with
graduate programs use undergraduate capstone
courses, but very few if any two-year schools
do. This baseline research result has implications
for institutions that offer curricula that are at
odds with the majority of institutions within their
respective categories.
However, our data suggest that the type of
school (public, private, four year, graduate) does
not affect the mechanics of the course. In other
words, variations in capstone requirements and
expectations among schools that do offer capstone
experiences are institution specific, not classifica-
tion specific. The goals of these courses are most
likely to involve integrating, extending, and
applying previously learned material and least
likely to seek to make students more effective or
educated citizens regardless of the type of school.
This finding is a direct contribution to the socio-
logical literature, which proposes that socializing
students to be future educated citizens of a liberal
democratic society constitutes an important goal
(Durel 1993).
Our results reflect that students in the capstone
courses engage in a range of activities (including
class discussions, lectures, and essays). However,
the vast majority will primarily be required to
complete some type of research project, focused
either on a literature review or on reporting data
that they (or their professors) collected. Most
often, these projects will result in the preparation
of a major paper. Instructors are likely to require
that papers conform to professional writing styles,
include peer-reviewed citations, and meet some
minimum length requirement, but they are not
likely to require some minimum number of hours.
The topic idea is equally likely to be the sole
responsibility of the student or developed with
the help of a faculty mentor. Generally, capstone
or senior seminar courses rotate between faculty
members in the department, and class size is likely
to reflect resource allocation, with a preference for
smaller enrollments. The courses commonly count
for three or four credit hours, depending on
whether the institutions are on semester or quarter
systems, with regular meetings.
Student progress is commonly evaluated
using a combination of assessment methods,
including participation, paper drafts, and presen-
tations, but might also include exams (i.e., the
ETS Major Field Test). Grading is primarily the
task of the instructor, with occasional help from
other department members. Peer review was pri-
marily used for reviewing manuscript drafts. Stu-
dent progress in the capstone courses was used as
one means of assessment by departments. When
the courses were assessed by student opinions,
the majority of respondents reported favorable
responses.
Limitations of Our Study
The most significant weakness of our study is per-
haps the fact that the questions were designed for,
and directed to, the faculty members conducting
the capstone courses and did not seek to elicit direct
student responses. Thus, with respect to our query as
to whether each department’s senior seminar or cap-
stone ‘‘works well,’’ and the degree of student satis-
faction or dissatisfaction, our questions captured
only the faculty members’ perceptions, not the stu-
dents’ evaluations. The short answer to this criticism,
Hauhart and Grahe 13
of course, is that few social science research studies
can successfully address every potential audience
and answer every possible question. Moreover, it is
possible to follow up with a later study that is de-
signed to elicit the views of student consumers of
the capstone experience and thereby correct this
shortcoming.
A second limitation arises from the sample size
and the response rate. Although our response rate
of 28 percent is consistent with the literature, the
small sample size meant that our ability to gener-
alize reliably and meaningfully was severely
restricted. As a consequence, we did not effec-
tively compare qualitative responses across the
sample. (For instance, did a school’s course
administration affect the respondent’s perception
of successes or dissatisfactions?)
Third, the fact that our survey was regional could
be the source of unknown bias and might not reflect
accurately other regional or national patterns.
Capstone ‘‘Best Practices’’: Successes
and Frustrations
Finally, although we believe that canvassing the field
to determine current practices is a significant contri-
bution, we believe that our survey could have
benefited from additional questions intended to cap-
ture internal process and best practices. Thus, in
designing our survey, we did not focus on including
questions intended to elicit responses regarding prac-
tices that directly affect the student learning process
(i.e., the use of discrete learning objectives, motiva-
tional strategies, and reflective practices; Svinicki
2007). At the same time, we believe that some of
the responses we received lend themselves to identi-
fying and supporting this form of analysis.
Our identification of what we consider to be
best practices is based on the existing learning the-
ory literature (Bain 2004; Svinicki 2007) and
(1) the most common features found in social sci-
ence capstones from our survey, when supported
by (2) responses to the open-ended survey ques-
tions that offered favorable comments consistent
with the best-practices literature.1
Structural Framework
In our view, our survey’s central findings point
directly toward some structural features that a good
capstone course might include on the basis of
accepted learning theories (Svinicki 2007). In this
regard, we would note the following common prac-
tices reported by our respondents that are consistent
with, and supportive of, educational best practices:
a goal of integrating, extending, and
applying core ideas from the discipline;
a structured research and writing project;
and
a course used as one factor in depart-
mental curricular assessment.
Responses elicited by our question ‘‘What works
well?’’ support this conclusion.
Thus,commentswereceivedfromsurveyre-
spondents were associated with the benefit to stu-
dents of integrating material across the field (Smith
1993:250; Weis 2004:43) and thus, as one related
benefit, preparing students effectively for graduate
work (Davis 1993). Comments such as theseare con-
sistent with what educational psychologists who
study learning theory recognize as ‘‘deep process-
ing,’’ that is, practices that support storing informa-
tion in long-term memory generally on the basis of
its real meaning and structure (Svinicki 2007:27).
Practices that compel learners to access prior
knowledge and then make connections with new
knowledgethroughthecourseofanactivelearning
experience, such as a research project grounded
within an existing literature, would support this
type of learning experience (Svinicki 2007).
In another example, some respondents in our sur-
vey noted that students benefit from engaging in self-
directed work or that faculty-student collaboration
was rewarding (Wayment and Dickson 2008).
Learning theory suggests that some of the best learn-
ing arises when learning is intrinsically motivated
(Bain 2004:33-34; Svinicki 2007:147-48). Self-
directed work on a project within the context of
a group learning setting, such as a capstone course,
can thus lend itselfto supporting intrinsic motivation
and hence contribute to this type of learning. In short,
the common structural framework for capstones re-
ported above can be an effective support for this
learning benefit as well. In this way, a solid structure
is often the starting point for an effective pedagogy
as our survey responses implicitly suggest.
Process and Management
Dissatisfactions expressed by our respondents
focused primarily on resource limitations. These
comments took the form of two complaints:
14 Teaching Sociology 38(1)
(1) large class sizes and (2) a format that other-
wise generated too much work for students or
instructors. Respondents were clear that either of
these factors negatively affected the capstone
experience and therefore should be avoided or
mitigated. Other comments consistently raised
problems due to the gap between student prepara-
tion and the scholarly demands of a research pro-
ject or paper format. Survey respondents
identified students who were underprepared as
commonly experiencing difficulty.
In a related vein, some respondents noted that
students who were not motivated to further their
education were less receptive to the typical cap-
stone (i.e., a scholarly paper) reported. This expe-
rience has been noted previously in the sociology
literature2(Steele 1993:243) and is often an issue
in motivating students. Learning specialists, for
example, know that aiming at a specific goal
improves learner motivation (Svinicki 2007:
144-45). Learning theory suggests that students
will fare better if instructors help identify a series
or sequence of intermediate goals in the absence
of a strongly held overall goal, such as planning
for further education. We believe this is another
contribution to the sociology and psychology
capstone literature.
Considering that about half the departments re-
sponding to our survey altered their capstone
courses in the past decade, departments contem-
plating changes can intentionally adopt best prac-
tices by, among others, extending the capstones to
a year in duration (thereby reducing student or
faculty perceived workload) or reducing class
size. These were the primary reasons given by sur-
vey respondents when asked the purpose of chang-
ing their courses. Both support a good capstone
experience by permitting more focused student
and instructor attention. Generally, any feature
that increases student focus is learning positive,
because research suggests that attention is limited.
Intense, but spaced, periods of attentiveness sup-
port learning best (Bain 2004:109-10; Svinicki
2007:18, 97-98).
Future Directions
As we stated at the outset, we consider our
research initial and exploratory, not definitive.
This is due in part to our assessment of the ‘‘state
of the art’’ regarding capstones: Although many
departments offer them, they do so with a broad
range of rationales, formats, and procedures that,
to date, have not been collected and analyzed to
a satisfactory degree. Although we have made
a start, we believe further investigation of current
practices would be justified.
Our survey was not intended primarily to
identify programs that work well. However, we
would like to conduct a series of interviews
with programs that report capstone success to
further the discussion of best practices. By so
doing, we could pursue the process and organiza-
tional issues that our present survey did not
address well. Because one of the well-known
limitations of survey data is the lack of depth
and detail the data may reflect on complex issues
(Denzin 1970:175) and one of the well-known
benefits of structured follow-up interviews is
the ability to investigate complexity (Phillips
1971:142), this would complement our present
work.
CONCLUSION
Capstone or senior seminar courses have
become a common feature of the undergraduate
curriculum in contemporary American social
science education. Our survey confirms that
undergraduate capstone courses constitute a
feature of most sociology and psychology pro-
grams at both four-year and graduate-level
institutions.
Although capstones are common, there have
been few comprehensive studies of the most com-
mon goals, features, formats, and practices within
social science capstones. Our regional study has
been an early effort to rectify the absence of
recent studies regarding the capstone experience.
The literature that does exist suggests that faculty
members define the goals for their capstone
courses differently (Troyer 1993:246) and corre-
spondingly design and pursue a variety of cap-
stone options. Thus, one of our goals has been
to identify the most common considerations and
course forms within sociology and psychology.
Within the limitations noted, we believe we have
done so.
NOTES
Reviewers for this article were, in alphabetical order,
Cara Bergstrom-Lynch, Kathleen McKinney, and Ted
Wagenaar.
Hauhart and Grahe 15
1. Best-practices discussions from social scientists
who direct undergraduate capstones at sessions
we hosted at the 2008 PSA meetings in Portland,
Oregon, also converged with the results of our sur-
vey. Briefly, we organized two sessions (held
Thursday and Sunday), which included six formal
reports by faculty members from six universities
representing five disciplines: Pacific Lutheran Uni-
versity (psychology and economics), Washington
State University (sociology), Saint Martin’s Univer-
sity (criminal justice), Brigham Young University
(family studies), St. Bonaventure University (soci-
ology), and the University of Northern Colorado
(sociology). These reports generally focused on
two issues: (1) the qualitative features of individual
programs, with an emphasis on those that worked
and those that did not, and (2) the considerations
and factors that motivated departments to redesign
their curricula with respect to the senior capstone
experience. The PSA sessions complemented our
survey data by highlighting the intersection between
some current practices we report that also arguably
constitute best practices.
2. A comment we received at the 2008 PSA meetings has
the potential for addressing this issue. One panel dis-
cussant reported instituting a multitrack capstone
requirement that permitted students to choose among
several options: (1) an internship with a daily activity
diary and weekly analytical papers, (2) a standard the-
sis option that required a literature review and survey
of an important issue within the discipline, or (3)
a research thesis option that required a literature
review, survey of an important issue, and a modest
field experiment. The discussant reported increased
student motivation and satisfaction, particularly among
those non–academically motivated students who ex-
pressed interest in the applied internship option. Two
other commentators at the PSA sessions focused our
attention on the benefits of tangible progress markers,
timetables, and incentives for timely completion.
Although a small segment of the economics literature
concerns itself with addressing such internal capstone
micro-mechanics (see, e.g., Siegfried 2001:170), this
illustrated an area largely unexplored by the sociology
and psychology capstone literature and not pursued
directly by our survey.
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Bios
Robert C. Hauhart, PhD, JD, is an associate professor
of criminal justice, sociology, and law and a prelaw
advisor at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash-
ington. His interests include the intersection of law,
economy, and society; undergr aduate teaching and
research modalities; and nonlegal initiatives for social
justice.
Jon E. Grahe, PhD, is an associate professor of psychol-
ogy at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washing-
ton. Professor Grahe’s interests include studying
influences on interpersonal perception and factors that
increase dyadic rapport.
Hauhart and Grahe 17
... Become involved in sustainable impact-oriented research. 21 Build skills in scholarship and professionalism including writing, presenting, and integrating "core theoretical concepts to form a broad view of professionalism." [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty. ...
... 21 Build skills in scholarship and professionalism including writing, presenting, and integrating "core theoretical concepts to form a broad view of professionalism." [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty. 21 In this paper, we describe the global health capstone including how the capstone can be used to teach essential global health competencies, and we report on characteristics of the global health capstone for the first 35 graduates of the GMED Program. ...
... [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty. 21 In this paper, we describe the global health capstone including how the capstone can be used to teach essential global health competencies, and we report on characteristics of the global health capstone for the first 35 graduates of the GMED Program. This educational method may be of value to other global health educators who wish to develop or strengthen their global health training programs for health professions students. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background Global health educational programs for medical and public health professionals have grown substantially in recent years. The University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine (UICOM) began a global medicine (GMED) program for selected students in 2012 and has since graduated four classes. As part of the four-year curriculum, students complete a longitudinal global health capstone project. This paper describes the global health capstone project as an innovative educational tool within a competency-based curriculum. Methods The authors define and describe the longitudinal global health capstone including specific requirements, student deliverables, and examples of how the global health capstone may be used as part of a larger curriculum to teach the competency domains identified by the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. The authors also reviewed the final capstone projects for 35 graduates to describe characteristics of capstone projects completed. Results The global health capstone was developed as one educational tool within a broader global health curriculum for medical students. Of the 35 capstones, 26 projects involved original research (74%), and 25 involved international travel (71%). Nine projects led to a conference abstract/presentation (26%) while five led to a publication (14%). Twenty-one projects (60%) had subject matter-focused faculty mentorship. Conclusions A longitudinal global health capstone is a feasible tool to teach targeted global health competencies and can provide meaningful opportunities for research and career mentorship. Further refinement of the capstone process is needed to strengthen mentorship, and additional assessment methods are needed.
... Become involved in sustainable impact-oriented research [21]. Build skills in scholarship and professionalism including writing, presenting, and integrating "core theoretical concepts to form a broad view of professionalism." ...
... Build skills in scholarship and professionalism including writing, presenting, and integrating "core theoretical concepts to form a broad view of professionalism." [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty [21]. ...
... Build skills in scholarship and professionalism including writing, presenting, and integrating "core theoretical concepts to form a broad view of professionalism." [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty [21]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Global health educational programs for medical and public health professionals have grown substantially in recent years. The University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine (UICOM) began a global medicine (GMED) program for selected students in 2012 and has since graduated four classes. As part of the four-year curriculum, students complete a longitudinal global health capstone project. This paper describes the global health capstone project as an innovative educational tool within a competency-based curriculum. Methods: The authors define and describe the longitudinal global health capstone including specific requirements, student deliverables, and examples of how the global health capstone may be used as part of a larger curriculum to teach the competency domains identified by the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. The authors also reviewed the final capstone projects for 35 graduates to describe characteristics of capstone projects completed. Results: The global health capstone was developed as one educational tool within a broader global health curriculum for medical students. Of the 35 capstones, 26 projects involved original research (74%), and 25 involved international travel (71%). Nine projects led to a conference abstract/presentation (26%) while five led to a publication (14%). Twenty-one projects (60%) had subject matter-focused faculty mentorship. Conclusions: A longitudinal global health capstone is a feasible tool to teach targeted global health competencies and can provide meaningful opportunities for research and career mentorship. Further refinement of the capstone process is needed to strengthen mentorship, and additional assessment methods are needed.
... Become involved in sustainable impact-oriented research. 21 Build skills in scholarship and professionalism including writing, presenting, and integrating "core theoretical concepts to form a broad view of professionalism." [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty. ...
... 21 Build skills in scholarship and professionalism including writing, presenting, and integrating "core theoretical concepts to form a broad view of professionalism." [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty. 21 In this paper, we describe the global health capstone including how the capstone can be used to teach essential global health competencies, and we report on characteristics of the global health capstone for the first 35 graduates of the GMED Program. ...
... [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty. 21 In this paper, we describe the global health capstone including how the capstone can be used to teach essential global health competencies, and we report on characteristics of the global health capstone for the first 35 graduates of the GMED Program. This educational method may be of value to other global health educators who wish to develop or strengthen their global health training programs for health professions students. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background Global health educational programs for medical and public health professionals have grown substantially in recent years. The University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine (UICOM) began a global medicine (GMED) program for selected students in 2012 and has since graduated four classes. As part of the four-year curriculum, students complete a longitudinal global health capstone project. This paper describes the global health capstone project as an innovative educational tool within a competency-based curriculum. Methods The authors define and describe the longitudinal global health capstone including specific requirements, student deliverables, and examples of how the global health capstone may be used as part of a larger curriculum to teach the competency domains identified by the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. The authors also reviewed the final capstone projects for 35 graduates to describe characteristics of capstone projects completed. Results The global health capstone was developed as one educational tool within a broader global health curriculum for medical students. Of the 35 capstones, 21 projects involved original research (74%), and 25 involved international travel (71%). Nine projects led to a conference abstract/presentation (26%) while five led to a publication (14%). Twenty-one projects (60%) had subject matter-focused faculty mentorship. Conclusions A longitudinal global health capstone is a feasible tool to teach targeted global health competencies and can provide meaningful opportunities for research and career mentorship. Further refinement of the capstone process is needed to strengthen mentorship, and additional assessment methods are needed.
... Become involved in sustainable impact-oriented research. 21 Build skills in scholarship and professionalism including writing, presenting, and integrating "core theoretical concepts to form a broad view of professionalism." [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty. ...
... 21 Build skills in scholarship and professionalism including writing, presenting, and integrating "core theoretical concepts to form a broad view of professionalism." [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty. 21 In this paper, we describe the global health capstone including how the capstone can be used to teach essential global health competencies, and we report on characteristics of the global health capstone for the first 35 graduates of the GMED Program. ...
... [21][22][23] Develop research mentorships and relationships with faculty. 21 In this paper, we describe the global health capstone including how the capstone can be used to teach essential global health competencies, and we report on characteristics of the global health capstone for the first 35 graduates of the GMED Program. This educational method may be of value to other global health educators who wish to develop or strengthen their global health training programs for health professions students. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background Global health educational programs for medical and public health professionals have grown substantially in recent years. The University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine (UICOM) began a global medicine (GMED) program for selected students in 2012 and has since graduated four classes. As part of the four-year curriculum, students complete a longitudinal global health capstone project. This paper describes the global health capstone project as an innovative educational tool within a competency-based curriculum. Methods The authors define and describe the longitudinal global health capstone including specific requirements, student deliverables, and examples of how the global health capstone may be used as part of a larger curriculum to teach the competency domains identified by the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. The authors also reviewed the final capstone projects for 35 graduates to describe characteristics of capstone projects completed. Results The global health capstone was developed as one educational tool within a broader global health curriculum for medical students. Of the 35 capstones, 21 projects involved original research (74%), and 25 involved international travel (71%). Nine projects led to a conference abstract/presentation (26%) while five led to a publication (14%). Twenty-one projects (60%) had subject matter-focused faculty mentorship. Conclusions A longitudinal global health capstone is a feasible tool to teach targeted global health competencies and can provide meaningful opportunities for research and career mentorship. Further refinement of the capstone process is needed to strengthen mentorship, and additional assessment methods are needed.
... Our findings align with prior research suggesting that very few student projects are shared beyond the classroom (Hauhart & Grahe, 2010;Perlman & McCann, 2005). Further, as we anticipated and in line with anecdotal intuitions and existing arguments in the literature, many instructions reported that student projects were not perceived as sufficiently rigorous (e.g., not well-powered, poorly designed) or interesting, which may be a contributing factor in why student projects are often not disseminated. ...
Article
Full-text available
Psychology majors typically conduct at least one research project during their undergraduate studies, yet these projects rarely make a scientific contribution beyond the classroom. In this study, we explored one potential reason for this—that student projects may not be aligned with best practices in the field. In other words, we wondered if there was a mismatch between what instructors teach in principle and what student projects are in practice. To answer this, we asked psychology instructors ( n = 111) who regularly teach courses involving research projects questions about these projects. Instructors endorsed many of the commonly assumed pitfalls of student projects, such as not using rigorous methodology. Notably, the characteristics of these typical student projects did not align with the qualities instructors reported as being important in research practice. We highlight opportunities to align these qualities by employing resources such as crowdsourced projects specifically developed for student researchers.
... As this study also noted, it is often difficult for students to leave their comfort zones and move into a new environment, and educators need to make an effort to help students move on after graduation. Chickering and Schlossberg (1998) component is the actual capstone course, that some also describe as an 'experience' in recognition that the capstone objectives are likely to be satisfied better by a composite range of activities (Hauhart & Grahe, 2010). Reflecting upon the diverse needs of the student body and the transition needs, as one institution (Copenhaver, 2011) has determined, the capstone experience is made up of a varied set of options so that students are able to choose their personal capstone experience according to their abilities and future needs. ...
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IAFOR Journal of Education: Volume 1 – Issue 1 Editor: Dr Sandra Kroh, University of Pikeville, United States of America Associate Editors: Bernard Montoneri, Providence University, Taiwan Martha J. Payne, Michigan State University, USA Published: May 2013 ISSN: 2187-0594 https://doi.org/10.22492/ije.1.1
... This correlation likely reflects the labor-intensive, private nature of the research process in most social science disciplines (Carney, 2016). Undergraduate researchers in social science disciplines are typically expected to perform independent capstone projects, requiring them to construct and implement research projects of their own design (see Hauhart & Grahe, 2010, for a comparison of sociology and psychology capstone experiences). There is certainly variation across disciplines in this practice (e.g., psychology students may join a faculty member's lab and examine their own line of inquiry). ...
Article
Full-text available
Disciplinary identity, or connection to a particular academic discipline, is constructed through a developmental process across a scholar’s academic life course. Using unique data from an online survey of students at four different colleges and universities, we investigate the extent to which disciplinary identity among undergraduate researchers reflects motivations for participating in research and varies by student discipline. We document key differences in disciplinary identity based upon two internal motivators, intellectual interest and grit, as well as demographic characteristics. We discuss implications for institutions and undergraduate programs desiring to encourage students to participate in undergraduate research.
Article
Purpose This study used the industry-oriented capstone course to increase the employability of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) students in technological university. Design/methodology/approach In this study, EECS students were selected and divided into groups, and the non-equivalent pretest–posttest quasi-experimental research method was adopted. Findings Industry-oriented capstone courses can improve students' employability, especially general ability, behaviour and attitude. Practical implications The results of this study and many other studies show that capstone courses are helpful for the soft skills of students. Originality/value This study provides evidence that industry-oriented capstone courses can improve EECS students' employability.
Article
How well can students exposed to political science for the first time work through the research article writing process? Previous research has introduced selected research article writing skills to students in introductory courses, but has not studied whether students in such courses can complete the entire process of writing and revising a research article. I re-designed an Introduction to Comparative Politics course based on the research article writing process. I hypothesized that students would make major gains in article writing skills and develop a proficient ability to write each research article component. Using a pre- and post-test design along with rubrics for each part of the research article, I found support for my hypotheses. Students reported large increases in confidence and ability to handle research article writing tasks as a result of the course and demonstrated proficiency on more than two-thirds of rubric items. These results suggest that research article writing tasks are appropriate for students in introductory courses and that their presence can help effectively introduce students to the discipline. I also provide suggestions for ways to implement parts of this course design in traditional, large introductory course settings.
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Undergraduate capstone courses in sociology are designed to integrate students’ knowledge in the discipline and to culminate the classroom experience with field application. Are capstones achieving these goals in a durable way? Although the short-term outcomes of capstone courses have been researched, fewer studies have documented the long-term outcomes of capstone courses. We conducted a survey of sociology capstone alumni to understand the long-term outcomes of the sociology capstone by asking sociology alumni about their capstone experience. Our research revealed that all capstones produced long-term outcomes as measured in the alumni survey. Second, alumni of the community-based research capstone experienced a more profound and longer reaching effect than those who participated in the internship or traditional capstone seminar format. Alumni reported the development of professional skills, application of sociological concepts and research skills, and a sense of being part of a community.
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This article describes an undergraduate capstone course with practicum designed to integrate students' previous knowledge of psychology, research methods, and statistics and to apply this knowledge to the benefit of others. Specifically, students administered a 10-week reading intervention and behavior modification program to children with Reading Disorder. Students conducted assessments before and after intervention and statistically evaluated the effectiveness of their work. Students addressed ethical issues and collaborated with other professionals. Outcome data suggested the course was beneficial from pedagogical and service-oriented perspectives.