Assessment of Undergraduate Learning Goals Through the Capstone Experience

Learning-centered assessment is the direct measurement of specific learning outcomes. In April 2005 at an annual faculty assessment forum, and based upon the recommendations of the University Assessment Committee, Adelphi faculty expressed its preference in using the capstone experience as a means of assessing the University’s undergraduate learning goals. The capstone products that are derived from Capstone Experiences are used to evaluate the relative success of student learning vis-à-vis the University’s undergraduate learning goals. This assessment of Adelphi’s undergraduate learning goals is designed to highlight strengths and weaknesses of general education, not individual instructors, individual courses, individual departments, or individual students. It is also meant to underscore the faculty’s collective responsibility for general education. Benefits of using the capstone experience include:

  • Assessment is focused on the upper-division level, thereby evaluating learning outcomes at an optimal time for students to demonstrate their best work.
  • Assessment through capstone experiences allows the institution to evaluate the learning outcomes of transfer students, who may not have experienced Adelphi’s general education curriculum.
  • While the focus of the capstone product is the synthesis and demonstration of advanced disciplinary learning, it is also used to encourage the alignment of University undergraduate learning goals with discipline-based and professional learning goals. Departments may use capstone experiences, therefore, to provide program assessment information in addition to general education assessment.
  • Departments may tailor capstone experiences to suit their unique needs or student learning goals.
  • The required inclusion of at least two of the University’s undergraduate learning goals in each capstone experience product allows for flexibility. Although faculty are asked to include two of the six undergraduate learning goals (a reduction from the original request of four out of six) does not imply that it is the responsibility of the instructor of the Capstone Experience to teach students all they need to know regarding those two learning goals. No single instructor in any single course (or any single department) could or should do that; the responsibility for general education is collective and outcomes are necessarily cumulative.

As of 2008, every undergraduate student is required to complete a capstone experience in order to graduate. The following are assessed through the Capstone Experience: creative thinking, critical thinking, information literacy, and written communication. (Quantitative reasoning and oral communication are assessed in general education designated courses.) The Director of Assessment in the Office of Academic Research, Assessment, and Accreditation (OARAA) facilitates the collection of syllabi, assignments, and capstone products and prepares them for evaluation by faculty at Capstone Assessment Day (discussed below). The capstone assessment process is as follows:

  • Capstone instructors are asked to identify those learning goals that should be evident in an assessment of the capstone products produced by students in their course. This does not mean that the capstone faculty taught the learning goal during the course but rather, whether the capstone assignment requires students to submit work that demonstrates a particular learning goal.
  • Capstone Experience instructors are provided with a random sample of students’ names from their courses/products if the general undergraduate learning goal(s) to be assessed that year has been identified either in the syllabi or by the instructor.
  • Instructors email copies of students’ work to
  • OARAA removes the students’ names from the capstone product so that the work remains anonymous.
  • Capstone Assessment Day is an annual half-day evaluation session in which faculty representatives from each of the Schools/Colleges assess between eight and ten capstone products. Using learning outcome rubrics, each capstone product is evaluated, separately, by two faculty members. OARAA provides electronic copies of the capstone products, the syllabi/guidelines/assignments associated with each product, and the rubrics used to assess them.
  • After faculty evaluates the capstone products, OARAA analyzes the results (scores), and provides summary statistics to the General Education and Assessment Committees.
  • Representatives from the Assessment and General Education committees report results to faculty at a full faculty meeting, usually in March.
  • Faculty discuss the outcomes and consider any modification to the General Education requirements.
  • All aspects of the Capstone Experience Assessment Plan, including the rubrics, undergo periodic review under the purview of the University’s General Education and Assessment Committees.
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