Capstone Experience Purposes

An International, Multidisciplinary Study


  • Russell Kirkscey Penn State Harrisburg
  • Julie Vale University of Guelph
  • Jennifer Hill University of Gloucestershire
  • James Weiss Boston College



undergraduate capstone, syllabi, module outline, catalog, calendar


Capstone experiences (CEs) serve a variety of purposes in higher education as opportunities to apply academic skills, explore post-graduate life and employment, and achieve a meaningful undergraduate event. This study investigated the purposes of CEs through a content analysis of institutional course syllabi/course outlines/module outlines and catalog/calendar descriptions at five institutions of higher education: a large public research university in Canada, a large public teaching university in the United Kingdom (UK), a college of a large public research university in the United States (US), and two medium-sized private liberal arts universities in the US. Using the CE purposes found in a review of scholarly literature as a research guide, the authors analyzed 84 institutional documents. CE purposes that appeared in the sample at lower percentages when compared with published studies included oral communication, a coherent academic experience, preparation for graduate school, preparation for life after college, and civic engagement/service learning. Implications for practice include the need for instructors and administrators to consider revising CE documents to better reflect the content and goals of the courses and to address the requirements of other audiences (e.g., program reviewers, accreditation evaluators). Moreover, the results of this study may assist educators in considering reasons for omitting explicit purposes from CE documents and/or justifying the inclusion of previously omitted purposes.


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Author Biographies

Julie Vale, University of Guelph

Associate Professor, School of Engineering

Jennifer Hill, University of Gloucestershire

Head of Learning and Teaching Innovation

James Weiss, Boston College

Associate Professor of Theology, Founder and Director of Capstone Senior Seminars Program


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How to Cite

Kirkscey, Russell, Julie Vale, Jennifer Hill, and James Weiss. 2021. “Capstone Experience Purposes: An International, Multidisciplinary Study”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 9 (2).