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A Framework For Assessing The Influence Of Variations Between Individual Capstone Experiences

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Assessing Design Course Work

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.28.1 - 14.28.14



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Paper Authors

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Oliver Platts-Mills University of Virginia

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Reid Bailey University of Virginia

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Framework for Assessing the Influence of Variations between Individual Capstone Experiences


Within the boundaries of a single capstone course, the experiences of different students can vary greatly. Different students tackle different problems, work with different clients, are advised by different faculty and are organized into unique teams. Such a range of experiences within a single course is not typical; many courses are designed with the opposing goal of providing as uniform of an experience as possible to all students. Due to this fundamental difference, that some courses aim to provide a uniform experience for all students while others embrace a range of experiences for individual students, the same evaluation framework cannot be applied to both types of courses.

While an evaluation framework for a course with minimal variation between student experiences can assume that each student receives the same "treatment," the effect of differences between individual student experiences must be integrated into an evaluation framework for a capstone course within which there is a large range of individual experiences. In this paper, an assessment framework is introduced which assesses the effect that differences between capstone experiences have on student outcomes.

The proposed framework identifies sources of variation in a student’s capstone experience that are endogenous to the course (e.g., project type, team size) and exogenous to it (e.g., students’ prior knowledge, students’ demographics). This approach emphasizes an understanding of the underlying aspects of each student’s individual capstone experience. In addition, differences that students bring with them to capstone, including prior industrial experience, academic performance, and demographic differences, are integrated into the framework. Understanding the connection between these differences and the fulfillment of desired outcomes is important to informing the structure of a capstone program.

Through a detailed case study with Systems & Information Engineering capstone students at the University of East, it is established that variation between individual student capstone experiences influences student outcomes. Variation in gender, previous work experience and differences in the level of interaction with clients all influence the achievement of several measured objectives. The assessment framework reveals the connections between specific independent variables and outcomes. Strengths and weaknesses of the framework are discussed and opportunities for future work will be explored.

Motivation for the Framework

In response to critiques that engineering graduates lacked practical design skills relevant to industry, capstone design courses have become, during the last two decades, a standard component in the final year of most undergraduate engineering curricula3, 2. While each capstone course is unique, most include teams of students under the direction of a project

Platts-Mills, O., & Bailey, R. (2009, June), A Framework For Assessing The Influence Of Variations Between Individual Capstone Experiences Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5391

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