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The Capstone Design Course And Its Failure To Serve As An Effective Outcome Assessment Tool

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ET Capstone Courses

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1125.1 - 7.1125.8



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Paper Authors

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Thomas Currin

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The Capstone Design Course and Its Failure to serve as An Effective Outcome Assessment Tool By Thomas R. Currin Ph.D.,P.E. Southern Polytechnic State University


This paper presents t he results of a 5 year study at Southern Polytechnic State University of the effectiveness of a capsto ne design course as an outcomes assessment tool. The study clearly demonstrated that the course has merit in the curriculum but fails as an outcomes assessment tool. It is shown that the primary difficulty faced when attempting to use a capstone design course as an assessment tool lies with the quantification of findings. The sharing of results with colleagues to facilitate improvements to the curriculum rarely goes beyond the anecdotal level since many intangibles are noted and are not measurable. Examples of the attempts to produce useable quantifiable feedback are given along with suggestions for further study.


As stated this paper deals with the findings of a 5 year study of the capstone design course required of all civil engineering technology students at Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) and the attempts to use this course as an effective outcomes assessment tool. First, outcomes assessment in the context of the study is described and discussed. Likewise, the capstone design course is described and the learning outcomes for this course presented. The many attempts to measure the learning outcomes of the civil engineering technology program using the capstone course are described and the successes and failures identified. It is concluded that the capstone course, while worthy of a spot in the curriculum, is not an effective tool for assessing program outcomes. The 5 year history at SPSU strongly supports t his conclusion.

Effective Outcomes Assessment:

Educators by their very nature are skeptics. Having reviewed and graded hundreds upon hundreds of student papers, the words outcomes assessment are often interpreted as faculty evaluation regardless of what administrators or o thers may say. Unfortunately, faculty are often correct in their assumption that outcomes assessment procedures are just another form of faculty evaluation to be added to the long list of faculty evaluations already in place. It was clear throughout the 5 year experience that both faculty and administrators alike understand what outcomes assessment is and is not, but must be reminded often that it is not faculty evaluation. It is because of this experience that we must take the time here to review what is outcomes assessment and what makes an effective outcomes assessment tool.

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Currin, T. (2002, June), The Capstone Design Course And Its Failure To Serve As An Effective Outcome Assessment Tool Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10178

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