Capstone Courses and Projects

Culminating experiences for seniors in high school or college. At the college level, capstones are often designed to foster the student’s integration and synthesis of knowledge within an academic major; the college level capstone may be formulated as a senior seminar, comprehensive examination, senior thesis or senior project. At the high school level, capstones or culminating experiences are often designed to cross disciplines. Students are challenged to define their personal response to an essential question in an intellectually rigorous way. Students create expressive or inventive exhibits depicting their learning, its contribution to the community, and to their own futures.


Evidence Base for Capstone Courses/Projects:

Articles & Websites
“A Conceptual Model for Understanding Disciplinary Approaches to Student Success.” ASHE Higher Education Report 34.1 (2008): 11-34. Education Research Complete. EBSCO. Web. 20 July 2011. This chapter proposes a multi-layered conceptual model for understanding student success, drawing from a review of journal articles in economics, sociology, psychology, and education.

McPherson, Kate. “Project Service Leadership and Culminating Projects.” Leadership Information, a Publication of SIRS 5.1 (2006): 10-13. A brief describing key questions for K-12 districts or schools to use when planning a comprehensive framework for developing civically rich culminating projects. A complete planning guide may be found at

McPherson, Kate and Beth Lambert. “Capstone Projects.” A power-point presentation for K-12 educators describing capstone projects enriched by service-learning connections and civic engagement.

Brownell, Jayne E. and L.E. Swaner (2010): Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion, and Quality. Washington DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. This monograph identifies five high-impact educational practices in relation to 21st century learning outcomes, and summarizes current research on the practices.

National Leadership Council for Liberal Education & America’s Promise. College Learning for the New Global Century. Association of American Colleges and Universities. Washington D.C.: AACU, 2007. This report identifies essential learning outcomes, principals of excellence, and a guide to effective educational practices that address the aims and outcomes of a 21st century college education.