Collaborating about Capstone Learning

07 September 2020

On 31 August 2020, the SCD Professional Development Seminar workshopped the design of several educational experiments in which theological faculty might collaborate. One group, chaired by Peter Laughlin, suggested a more faculty-collaborative approach to a student capstone experience.

One suggested collaborative educational experiment that could be designed would be around the implementation of a capstone unit for a student towards the end of their award. Capstone units by their very nature are integrative units. They are designed to allow the student to integrate their learning across the curriculum and apply such learning to a specific task. This provides an opportunity for multiple faculty across various disciplines to also be involved and to collaborate with the student at the same time.

An experiment could be set up in which three cross-discipline faculty (e.g. Bible, Theology, and Pastoral Practice) engage with the student. The faculty would be involved in two areas: input into the capstone unit and assessment. At the same time, a control group could be established in which a student only dealt with the prime faculty member within the discipline in question. The experiment could thus draw conclusions from the differences in student and faculty experience across the two methods.

Such an experiment could be set up like this:

Two groups of faculty (potentially same faculty participants) –

  1. control group – 3 faculty members to supervise on their own with individual students in their discipline. No consultation with other faculty
  2. experiment group – 3 faculty to work together in designing the student capstone experience with a collaborative marking of student work.

The benefits of such an experiment can be seen for both faculty and student. For the faculty, they would gain an integrated knowledge of the wider curriculum and not just in their own area. They would also gain a more holistic sense of what the student was learning which would in turn allow for a more coherent approach to be taken toward the topic of study. The student would benefit from this coherent approach as well as gaining an advanced level of understanding from viewing the topic from different perspectives. They would also benefit from receiving focused guidance on exegetical, theological, and pastoral praxis issues.

However, in order to implement such an experiment some prior research may need to be completed. Areas of research could include:

  • Integration of discipline methodologies – tension vs compatibility
  • How to overcome silo approaches – look at other curriculum examples
  • Scaffolding – assessments connected to learning outcomes
  • Graduate attributes – how to connect them with the experiment.
  • Existing dissertations – masters or doctorate – has anything been done cross-discipline from which we can learn?

Having established the relevant background information, the following method could be adopted:

  • Initial Faculty workshop/communication with focus outcome
  • Establish guidelines/outcomes; process of interaction with the student
  • Student/faculty dialogue around assessment options
  • Faculty forums/student presentations

Upon completion of the capstone unit, the assessment would then need to be graded. Here a collaborative approach could be taken with the three faculty members involved all marking the assessment with an average grade being awarded. Alternatively, the prime faculty member could grade the assessment with additional feedback being provided by other faculty members.

To determine whether the experiment had been successful, a survey of both student and faculty would need to be carried out.

Survey of student: how did they judge their learning? Did they get a sense of integration vs confusion over the experience; did the integration enhance their learning; to what extent did this method of assessment help them achieve the outcomes they were hoping for; Compare learning experience of the independent vs collaborative learning.

Survey of faculty – Experience of working with other faculty; things they learnt; how this will impact their future assessment design, organisation of learning activities. Impact on future curriculum design – even institutionally.

It might also be possible to do this experiment longitudinally. In other words, collect data over an extended period of time (3-4 semesters) to allow for patterns/trends to appear.

Finally, the results need to be evaluated. Here success is not determined by the student numerical grade but the learning experience itself. What is the satisfaction of both student and faculty? What were the advantages of engaging collaboratively? These are the measures that will need to be examined.

Is this a project in which you would like to be involved? If so, express your interest through [email protected].

Similar Articles

Join our newsletter