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Capstone workshop – James Cook University 21 November 2011 Liz van Acker and Janis Bailey Griffith University Capstone courses on campus and capstones.

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Presentation on theme: "Capstone workshop – James Cook University 21 November 2011 Liz van Acker and Janis Bailey Griffith University Capstone courses on campus and capstones."— Presentation transcript:

1 Capstone workshop – James Cook University 21 November 2011 Liz van Acker and Janis Bailey Griffith University Capstone courses on campus and capstones within majors

2 Duration: Oct 2010-Oct 2012 Study of five partner business schools plus data on good practice from others Website ‘audit’ (all business schools) Student focus groups Lecturer interviews (and course materials) Industry advisory board focus groups Associate deans’ focus group Alumni survey

3 Major output: ‘Good Practice Guide’ (May 2012) ‘Capstone Courses in Undergraduate Business Degrees: A Review of the Literature’ (Fyffe, Bailey, van Acker, Macneil and Wilson) Journal articles Liz van Acker contact details: 07 373 57696

4 Aims of presentation Why capstones? What are they? Drivers How prevalent? Features Dilemmas Discussion

5 Why capstones? Final year students face significant transition issues - just as challenging as those facing first year students (Jervis & Hartley, 2005). Only 2.7% later year students in Australasia had a ‘capstone experience’ in their course compared to 36.8% in US ( AUSSE, 2010, 25). Not common in legal education Much more common in business Recent focus on discipline standards and requirement to demonstrate student acquisition of program learning outcomes – a role for capstones

6 Capstone experiences and types Capstone courses are a subset of ‘capstone experiences’. Other examples: Work-integrated learning Internships Study abroad Usually final year, final semester, but ‘interim capstones’ possible earlier Magnet: within a ‘major’ Mountaintop: within a degree (‘multidisciplinary’) Mandate: required by outside body

7 Drivers for their introduction Internal and individual (‘this is good pedagogy’) Emphasis on ‘final year experience’ and the student life-cycle International business school accreditation (EQUIS, AACSB, EMBA) TEQSA and AQF Employers’ low perceptions of graduates’ skills

8 Website audit: findings (n = 37) Capstones widespread in undergraduate business degrees Mountaintops: 7 Magnets in all majors: 3 Magnets in some majors: 18 Mountaintops PLUS magnets in some majors: 6 No capstones: 5 * * 2 have ‘capstonelike’ features 40% of all Oz business schools have a capstone for all students; 47% for some students

9 Broad features of capstones Ambiguous, challenging, holistic Aims (and arguments for having them) Consolidate previous learning Apply previous learning Consolidate and demonstrate ‘soft skills’ Vehicle for professional socialisation/identity formation Students question ‘what they know’ ie ‘transformative’ Both a ‘synthesis’ and a ‘bridge’ Both cognitive and affective aims

10 Comments ‘ Capstones are without the borders and parameters that we lock around other courses. Understand how it fits together; that’s what you want for students.’

11 Some features of capstones Project-based team work Opportunities to apply knowledge eg via case studies Emphasis on developing graduate skills Reduced emphasis on or no examinations Practitioner input (guest lecturers, research informants, mentors, or assessors) Less formal contact time (esp lecturing) and more informal activities (Bailey et al, 2007)

12 No ‘one model’ for a capstone – large diversity Can consciously build on the pedagogical strengths of the convenor/teaching team ‘Dynamic, organic, malleable’ (Starr-Glass 2010) An opportunity for formal dialogue about major/degree Often patchy across faculties, depending on individual departments’ enthusiasm/awareness Role often not sufficiently differentiated – for students, and for staff

13 Learning and teaching approaches Possible approaches (by no means exhaustive) include: Action learning Constructivist approaches to learning Problem-based learning The case study method

14 Cases in Public Policy: Briefing Topics Should the drinking age in Queensland be raised to 21? All live animal exports from Australia should be banned. All cigarettes should be sold in plain packaging Australia should abandon off-shore processing of asylum seekers

15 Cases in Public Policy: Assessment A briefing note for a minister (800 words) 30% A cabinet submission and appropriate appendices(2000 words)30% Class participation (contribution in class 10%; presentations 10%) Exam 20%

16 Dilemmas in developing/teaching capstones Political Personal Pedagogical

17 Political where does a ‘magnate’ capstone sit in the ‘structure’, what goes in it, who decides, who teaches it? control, resistance, consent (from lecturers who have to ‘lose’/modify a course) logistics and resources (class sizes, timetabling, rooms, prerequisites) balancing stakeholder interests Starr-Glass (2010); Payne, Whitfield & Flynn (2002); Heinscheid (2000)

18 Comments ‘In an effort to make teaching and learning best practice, the requirements have become rigid. For example, we have to have four pieces of assessment, and some subjects don’t fit well with that’.

19 Personal How can my unit be sustainable? Does anyone care? The positives Idiosyncratic is OK! Ownership Opportunities for leadership in curriculum development ‘Right brain’ thinking required from staff

20 Comments ‘I was organising nearly 30 industry interviewees [for group projects] which in itself wore me out, and as there are only so many suitable organisations with people willing to help, I was running the risk of wearing out my contacts. But I still get guest facilitators to come during class time; that works really well and is a better use of their time as they interact with more students.’

21 Pedagogical Challenging to achieve all aims What is a capstone? What do I do if I try to lecture less? What is/how much ‘new content’? Use a text book? How to deal with student reactions? Should the capstone course be about ‘strategy’?

22 Comments ‘Some students just don’t appear to be ready for integrating and thinking outside the square.’ ‘To make it as “real world” as possible, the whole course is structured around a client and their problem.... We try to give students a glimpse through the eyes of an advisor’. ‘I don’t introduce new content, but a lot of new contexts’. ‘We have to train staff, rewire them so they don’t step in and help students’.

23 Capstones within majors Brainstorm some ideas in your own discipline for: course ‘content’ course ‘activities’ that would be suitable for a capstone for your cohort

24 Capstone teachers like teaching capstones.... ‘It’s a really cool subject.... It’s very modern, fun and engaging [to teach]’. ‘You tend to grow dramatically as staff because you’re learning new issues all the time’. ‘It turns teaching on its head. You get to know students [more than in other subjects] and it’s a lot of fun’. ‘This subject has taught me that students can learn without [too much of] my guidance and they can do it really well’. ‘It’s about giving them confidence that they can tackle things, which is really important for their transition’.

25 Project partners David Gray and Leigh Wood [Macquarie University] Lynda Andrews and Erica French [QUT] Johanna Macneil and Jim Psaros [University of Newcastle] Jan Turbill and Michael Zanko [University of Wollongong] Liz van Acker, Janis Bailey, Lorelle Frazer, Ray Hibbins and Keithia Wilson [Griffith University] Project Officer: Jacqui Fyffe (

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