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Assessing General Education in Major-specific Capstones Opportunities & challenges in major-specific capstone courses.

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Presentation on theme: "Assessing General Education in Major-specific Capstones Opportunities & challenges in major-specific capstone courses."— Presentation transcript:

1 Assessing General Education in Major-specific Capstones Opportunities & challenges in major-specific capstone courses

2 Craig Pepin Champlain College (VT) Joan Hawthorne University Of North Dakota Tom Steen University Of North Dakota

3 Capstones & Assessment & General Education Making connections

4 Capstones – Key Features High Impact Practice The Last Best Place Integrates previous work in the major (and maybe Gen Ed?)

5 Making use of capstones for assessment? "A review of programs... revealed that many institutions have yet to turn this period toward assessment,... Reflection on and synthesis of liberal learning and learning for the world of work would seem to be a logical centerpiece of this assessment." (Jean Henscheid, 2008)

6 Making use of capstones for assessment? 2011 National Survey of Capstones (NRC)... Used formal assessment = 55.7% No formal assessment = 31.3% Unsure ??? = 13%

7 Discipline-specific Capstones Not all Capstones are in-majors Cross-disciplinary vs. Inter-disciplinary In-major can involve multiple programs No matter how designed, D-S Capstones have great potential to connect students general education with their education in their majors.

8 The AGLS assessment/GE project 10 institutions – common interests

9 Association General & Liberal Studies Assessment/GE Project John Nichols (St. Josephs College, IN), Project Leader Lumina Foundation funding AGLS publication: Spring 2013 What is worthy assessment --> understanding our GE programs? 10 institutions – across the U.S. Diverse missions Diverse size Diverse program design/GE Common effort: What do our students learn in GE? How do we know?

10 Challenges For GE Assessment in Capstones Common problems

11 Capstones are often quite different Challenge: divergent learning outcomes

12 Aggregating results looks easy.... Majors may assess for disciplinary outcomes. Challenge: can we add them together to produce valid evidence?

13 Power and authority are often diffused Who are the deciders?

14 General Education is important but not everybody wants to help assess it Challenge: How to build support among those who control the capstones? Good assessment is often sticky work … and if poorly handled, possibly even toxic.

15 Some challenges cant be anticipated Assessment is, at its core, a subversive activity…Although most institutions operate the way they do because faculty, staff, students, and administrative leaders genuinely believe that the current structures promote learning, the current state of affairs at almost every institution is based on a delicate set of compromises and optimizations in which many parties have participated and which few care to alter. (Banta and Blaich, 2011)

16 Getting the work done: Strategies from the AGLS GE/capstone project

17 Challenge: Building support Institutional DNA Culture, power structures, resources Incentive structures SoTL publications Teaching feedback Shared values about higher education skills employers want Institutional missions

18 Challenge: divergent learning outcomes Alignment of GE learning outcomes with professional accreditation requirements. Choice of GE learning outcomes is crucial

19 Challenge: Aggregating existing assessments Autonomy vs. uniformity: the tradeoffs University of North Dakota Course and program level Building culture of assessment Champlains hybrid Common assignment parameters, but instructor choice

20 Challenge: Aggregating existing assessments Independent scoring of student work: St. Francis (IN) and Champlain More comparable, reliable Less faculty autonomy Faculty are more likely to participate in assessment work if they can see some additional benefits for them. A second option

21 How about your campus? assessing student work in capstones

22 Discussion: 4 Questions (+ 1) 1. Political obstacles? 2. Learning outcomesmost plausible? 3. Learning outcomesmost important? 4. Who needs to know? What do they want to know? And…What questions do you have that youd like good answers for today?

23 Please stay in touch Heres how to contact us....

24 Our contact information Craig Pepin, Assistant Dean for Assessment, Core Division Champlain College, Burlington VT 05402-0670 Joan Hawthorne, Director of Assessment & Accreditation The University of North Dakota, Grand Forks 58202-8176 Tom Steen, Director of Essential Studies The University of North Dakota, Grand Forks 58202-7310

25 The AGLS Assessment Project Nichols, J. (Ed.) Judgments of Quality: Connecting faculty best assessment with student best work. Association for General and Liberal Studies, Spring, 2013. Copies available soon: order from AGLS office: (812) 376-7468 or The project will be featured at the 2014 AGLS Conference in Indianapolis, Sept. 19-21.

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