UCLA has long embraced the practice of using assessment data to facilitate improvement in teaching, research, and service. In support of UCLA’s Capstone Initiative, the 2008 UCLA Senior Survey – which is administered each spring and explores students’ views about their lives on campus, their studies, and their plans after graduation – incorporated a set of questions concerning four types of courses that encourage students to integrate and apply their knowledge from previous coursework: senior seminars with comprehensive term papers, community or corporate internships, departmental honors theses, and independent study courses. In addition, the 2008 survey queried student participation in “other” unspecified types of synthesis/application coursework.
Taken together, the findings showed that sizable numbers of College students had participated in some sort of meaningful capstone-like experience prior to completing their bachelor’s degree. Overall, participants expressed a shared sentiment that engaging in such coursework is a valuable, and often powerful, aspect of their academic experience. For many students, engagement in one or more of these course-based experiences also served to encourage application to graduate or professional schools.
The decision to align the Capstone Initiative with having faculty across campus articulate learning outcomes and develop a corresponding assessment framework has aided the process of setting criteria and options for UCLA capstones and establishing a capstone certification process. Capstones bring into focus programmatic outcomes for the major, and the assessment of students’ capstone performances serves as an effective diagnostic tool to facilitate the curricular review and reform process.
Detailed information about UCLA’s approach to Evaluating the Educational Effectiveness of Programs for Undergraduate Students, including specific recommendations for capstone majors, is available on the UCLA Learning Outcomes Assessment website. For more information about these efforts, please contact Kelly Wahl , Director of Statistical Analysis & Assessment Coordinator.