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Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning Capstone Assignment Design

Assessing Capstone Experiences

Given their position near the end of the curriculum, capstone experiences typically carry a strong responsibility for culminating evidence of student achievement of learning outcomes. When using a capstone experience for program assessment, the standard assessment loop is followed: establish outcomes, create learning opportunities, collect an assessment measure, interpret the results, and use those results to inform decision-making.

Good Practices

  • The assessment process should lead to a discussion of the program as a whole—not only a discussion of the capstone experience.
  • Map curriculum to ensure that the critical courses introduce and reinforce the essential skills. Significant new skills or content should not be introduced in a capstone.
  • Deliberately incorporate learning opportunities—activities and assignments—into the curriculum and capstone experience so that students can achieve the desired learning outcomes.
  • Capstone experiences should be designed and facilitated by full-time faculty.
  • Capstone experiences don’t need to be a single course necessarily; the experience could span two courses, or a course and an internship, etc.


University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Capstone How-To Website: Using a Capstone Experience for Program Assessment

Barkley, E. F. & Major, C. H. (2016). Learning Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hutchings, P. (2016). Aligning Educational Outcomes and Practices (Occasional Paper #26). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

Jonson, J. (2006). Guidebook for Programmatic Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. pages 32-37.

Walvoord B. E. & Johnson Anderson, V. (2010). Effective Grading. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Weimer, M. (2012). Using a Capstone Course to Assess Learning. Faculty Focus.

Washington State University