Edited by John Ishiyama, William J. Miller and Eszter Simon
Chapter 2: Capstone courses and senior seminars as culminating experiences in undergraduate political science education
Capstone courses and senior seminars mark a transition for students and programs alike: students beginning their professional lives or pursuing graduate studies and faculty reflecting on successes and shortcomings among students in the graduating class (Hunter et al. 2012, p. xii). Such courses encourage students to synthesize and evaluate their university experience. At the same time, they present an opportunity for program assessment. In this respect, capstones elicit reflection from both students and faculty regarding how the many pieces of an undergraduate education fit together. Capstone experiences also round out a sequence of high-impact practices that enrich higher education endeavors and form the final stage of student development (Brownell and Swaner 2010). Although other vehicles, such as senior theses, senior portfolio construction and required internships, might provide similar opportunities for student development and assessment, capstone courses and seminars are the most effective (Boyer 1987; Henscheid 2012). They are also the most frequently used culminating experience in higher education, with political science following the trend.
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