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Capstone Project | Explained step by step with examples

Capstone Project | Explained step by step with examples

November 23, 2019

What is a Capstone project?
    Also called a capstone experience, culminating project, or senior exhibition, among many other terms, a capstone project is a multifaceted assignment that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for students, typically during their final year of high school or middle school, or at the end of a university or college academic program or learning-pathway experience.

While similar in some ways to a college thesis, capstone projects may take a wide variety of forms, but most are long-term investigative projects that culminate in a final product, presentation, or performance. For example, students may be asked to select a topic, profession, or social problem that interests them, conduct research on the subject, maintain a portfolio of findings or results, create a final product demonstrating their learning acquisition or conclusions (a paper, short film, or multimedia presentation, for example), and give an oral presentation on the project to a panel of teachers, experts, and community members who collectively evaluate its quality. The team of expert academic North American MA and PhD writers at CustomEssay.com will be happy to help you to select a topic or with any other aspect of your Capstone Project.

 

Purposes of the Capstone Project
Capstone projects are generally designed to encourage students to think critically, solve challenging problems, and develop skills such as oral communication, public speaking, research skills, media literacy, teamwork, planning, self-sufficiency, or goal setting—i.e., skills that will help prepare them for college, modern careers, and adult life.

In most cases, the projects are also interdisciplinary, in the sense that they require students to apply skills or investigate issues across many different subject areas or domains of knowledge. Capstone projects also tend to encourage students to connect their projects to community issues or problems, and to integrate outside-of-school learning experiences, including activities such as interviews, scientific observations, or internships.

Examples of Capstone Projects
While capstone projects can take a wide variety of forms from school to school, a few examples will help to illustrate both the concept and the general educational intentions:

• Writing, directing, and filming a public-service announcement that will be aired on public-access television
• Designing and building a product, computer program, app, or robot to address a specific need, such as assisting the disabled
• Interning at a nonprofit organization or a legislator’s office to learn more about strategies and policies intended to address social problems, such as poverty, hunger, or homelessness
• Conducting a scientific study over several months or a year to determine the ecological or environmental impact of changes to a local habitat
• Researching an industry or market, and creating a viable business plan for a proposed company that is then “pitched” to a panel of local business leaders

Educational goals of Capstone Projects:
1. Increasing the academic rigor of the senior year.
Historically, high school students have taken a lighter course load or left school early during their twelfth-grade year, which can contribute to learning loss or insufficient preparation for first-year college work. A more academically and intellectually challenging senior year, filled with demanding but stimulating learning experiences such as a capstone project, the reasoning goes, can reduce senior-year learning loss, keep students in school longer (or otherwise engaged in learning), and increase preparation for college and work.

2. Increasing student motivation and engagement.
The creative nature of capstone projects, which are typically self-selected by students and based on personal interests, can strengthen student motivation to learn, particularly during a time (twelfth grade) when academic motivation and engagement tend to wane.

3. Increasing educational and career aspirations.
By involving students in long-term projects that intersect with personal interests and professional aspirations, capstone projects can help students with future planning, goal setting, postsecondary decisions, and career exploration—particularly for those students who may be unfocused, uncertain, or indecisive about their post-graduation plans and aspirations.

4. Improving student confidence and self-perceptions.
Capstone projects typically require students to take on new responsibilities, be more self-directed, set goals, and follow through on commitments. Completing such projects can boost self-esteem, build confidence, and teach students about the value of accomplishment. Students may also become role models for younger students, which can cultivate leadership abilities and have positive cultural effects within a school.

5. Demonstrating learning and proficiency.
As one of many educational strategies broadly known as demonstrations of learning, capstone projects can be used to determine student proficiency (in the acquisition of knowledge and skills) or readiness (for college and work) by requiring them to demonstrate what they have learned over the course of their project

What is a Capstone Project in Graduate School?
In order to successfully finish graduate school, most master's programs require students to either write a thesis or complete a capstone project. Capstone projects, while they vary from university to university, are usually more "experiential" projects where students take what they've learned throughout the course of their graduate program and apply it to examine a specific idea. 

Which programs usually require Capstone Projects?
Typically, it is very common for master's programs in social services, public administration, mass communications and liberal arts to require graduate students to complete a capstone project. This is because these programs are usually geared towards working professionals and capstone projects give students the ability to take knowledge and theory they have learned and apply in a real-world setting.

Prerequisites for a Capstone Project?
Before an individual can complete a capstone project, one must take a series of undergraduate or graduate courses that will give one the theoretical and skills-based knowledge necessary in order to formulate an idea for a capstone proposal. Classes that usually are required before taking a capstone course usually center around research statistics, ethics, program theory, leadership and other relevant courses based on the master's program. Also, many programs have a GPA requirement before actually completing a capstone course.

Start with the Capstone Proposal
Before a student can actually take capstone course to begin implementing their capstone project, many students would need to come up with a comprehensive proposal that will be reviewed by a professor or instructor. This proposal usually contains an introduction, theories, hypotheses, scholarly literature review, research methods, proposal alternatives and any other issues relevant to the project proposal. Each capstone requirement is unique to the student's program, so it is best that a student continuously consult with a program advisor to make sure their capstone proposal meets the necessary requirements. 

 

Need help to get started with your Capstone Proposal?

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Different types of Capstone Projects
There are a variety of capstone projects. Some include case studies, program evaluations, outcomes-based evaluations, surveys, focus groups, etc. Each master's program has a different set of capstone projects that students can complete for graduation. Nonetheless, case studies and program evaluations tend to be the most popular forms of capstone projects completed by students.

Examples of Capstone Projects
While capstone projects can take a wide variety of forms from school to school, a few examples will help to illustrate both the concept and the general educational intentions:
1. Writing, directing, and filming a public-service announcement that will be aired on public-access television
2. Designing and building a product, computer program, app, or robot to address a specific need, such as assisting the disabled
3. Interning at a nonprofit organization or a legislator’s office to learn more about strategies and policies intended to address social problems, such as poverty, hunger, or homelessness
4. Conducting a scientific study over several months or a year to determine the ecological or environmental impact of changes to a local habitat
5. Researching an industry or market, and creating a viable business plan for a proposed company that is then “pitched” to a panel of local business leaders

How long does it take to complete a Capstone Project?
Although this will vary from school to school, generally a capstone project will be as short as a 10-week quarter to as long as two semesters depending on the rigor and requirements of the graduate program. However, it is common for most graduate programs to require students to take a capstone project course that generally only lasts around a semester.

If you are currently enrolled in a graduate program and you have the option of completing a capstone project, it is best that you start formulating an idea of what you would like to investigate. Waiting to the very last minute to study a particular problem or issue in relationship to your graduate program can derail your capstone project. You would need to have a sufficient amount of previous research in order to complete a capstone project proposal. 

 

Need help to start formulating an idea for your Capstone Project?

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What is a CIL Capstone Project?
The CIL capstone project is a personal essay, where you reflect on what you have learned as you completed the various components of the Certificate (e.g., coursework, experiential learning, co-curricular activities, language learning and intercultural training).

In your capstone, you should demonstrate your achievement of the CIL learning outcomes:
• Knowledge of international and global issues and systems.
• Understanding of the interconnectedness of systems and of local and global issues.
• Knowledge of other countries, cultures, and understanding of one’s own culture as one worldview in a global context.
• Ability to apply one’s awareness and understanding of culture and language skills to communicate and interact with people of other cultures in local or international contexts.

 

What makes a good CIL Capstone Project?
In the best capstone projects, students analyze the full range of their experiences.

 

Here are some tips!

Dos
• Reflect on your personal experience
• Analyze your experiences. Tell us what you learned and how you’ve changed.
• Be specific, give examples and use lively language to illustrate your points.
• Consider the full range of activities (i.e. Orientation, intercultural experience, courses, language learning, co-curricular participation, intercultural communication training).
• Honor the uniqueness of your experiences. What are your CIL takeaways?

 

Don'ts
• Write an academic paper
• Merely describe your experiences. Tell us what you did.
• Use vague generalizations and opaque, hyperbolic language (i.e. wonderful, awesome, amazing).
• Focus on a single requirement (i.e., your abroad experience).
• Follow a formula or copy a model capstone we have provided.

 

I’m not sure what to write about. Any suggestions?
Some questions worth considering might be:
• What have I learned from completing the Certificate? What did I learn about myself? How have I changed?
• What is my biggest takeaway? What was the highlight of the Certificate for me?
• Why was that experience/learning so powerful?
• What most surprised me about _______________? (Fill in the blank with studying abroad, learning another language, exploring global issues and/or interacting with different cultures).
• In retrospect, why was that surprising? Has this program answered old questions? If so, how so?
• Has it raised new ones? If so, what are the burning questions that I’m left with?

 

Are there alternative formats for the Capstone Project?
While most students choose to do a written reflection, schools have accepted capstone projects in a variety of formats, from PowerPoint presentations to posters to poems. Students who submit a non-traditional capstone project are usually required to submit a 500-700 word explanation of their project.

 

Need help to structure your CIL Capstone Project?

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