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Designing Capstones

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Capstone requirement goals

All Stanford students must complete as part of their major a robust capstone requirement that will help them integrate learning from different aspects of their major or undergraduate education, extend their learning and develop their expertise, and develop skills in managing a complex and extended project.    

Departments and programs are the authorities on what counts for a capstone for students majoring in their field. Resources offered here are suggestions only, so please pick and choose what is most helpful for your major program.

History

In May 2020, the Faculty Senate passed legislation proposed by the Future of the Major design team that made several changes to the major at Stanford.  These include a minimum and maximum number of credits required by any major, a new university-level review process for majors, and a required major capstone.

“All majors will require, and students will complete a capstone experience, through which students can integrate knowledge and skills developed in the major and learn to think independently with the tools of the discipline.”
—SenD #7804

Definition of a capstone

Capstones may take the form of an honors thesis, senior paper or project, capstone seminar with group or individual projects or a substantial, scaffolded individual project, or other options acceptable to the major department or program. 

Departments and programs determine what counts for a capstone for students majoring in their field and determine procedures for certifying that students have completed this requirement.  

Interdisciplinary Honors Programs and/or capstones offered by other departments and programs may be counted at the discretion of the major of the student and the unit offering the capstone. At the discretion of the department, an exceptions request process may be available for students to propose an alternative to the standard capstone(s).

Implementation

The reforms are effective for the class of 2025. This means that all undergraduates matriculating as first-year students in AY 2021-22 or later and graduating in AY  2024-25 or later must complete a capstone. Transfer students who enter in AY 2022-23 or AY 2023-24 and plan to graduate in AY 2024-2025 or later will also be required to complete a capstone.  

For more information, see the October 2021 guidance memo from Vice Provost Sarah Church.

FAQ

Coming soon!  Please note that some questions regarding nuances of policy are being worked out with C-USP, the Schools, and the Registrar’s Office during the 2021-22 academic year.  Some questions under discussion include:  Are students who double major required to do a capstone in each major, or could they do a joint project?  Will programs be required to track student capstone progress in Peoplesoft?  If you have suggestions for additional resources that would be helpful or other questions, please email vpue@stanford.edu.

Resources and Tools to Assist in Developing or Refining Capstone Experiences

This is a partial and evolving list of resources and tools for departments and programs to assist in developing or refining capstone experiences for students in their majors.  If you have suggestions for additional resources that would be helpful or other questions that have not been answered, please email vpue@stanford.edu.

How to develop a capstone experience

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has developed a Capstone Experience Design (CapED) program that will be offered in summer 2022. Additional workshops and information sessions on capstones will be offered during 2021–22 and announced here.

In general, we encourage you to practice learner-centered design and to start by thinking about student learning goals for the capstone experience. Ideally, drafting and agreeing on a set of goals that can guide initial capstone design involves student input. CTL can help develop questions for an online survey, and you might also consider inviting students to conversations with instructors to share their ideas and preferences.

Once the capstone goals are set, everything else follows from that:

  • what format the capstone should take
  • how it should be scaffolded over one or more quarters and connected to other parts of the major curriculum
  • what prerequisites students should have to be successful in the capstone
  • what sources of support students should be connected to
  • how the project should be assessed, and so on.

CTL offers (Re)Designing Your Course, a self-paced, asynchronous Canvas course that anyone involved in designing the capstone experience may take. Consider forming a department or program learning community and going through it together. If you decide that a capstone course will be part of the larger capstone experience, this will help you think about how to design that course. If not, this will still provide an introduction to the basic ideas and design practices that a team would pursue in much greater depth in CTL’s Capstone Experience Design Program. CTL also often offers a 60–90 minute Fundamentals of Course Design workshop, which can be presented for departments or groups of instructors.

To inquire further, please complete a consultation request.

Capstone Framing Template

For departments and programs without an existing capstone, this template offers a possible framework for approaching the task of developing a capstone experience.  

Assessment Tools from Institutional Research and Decision Support

The tools and resources here may provide you with a framework for conducting effective assessment, including how to write learning outcomes, assessment methods, ways of measuring student learning.

External links for capstone resources

Timeline

August 1, 2022:  Information about the capstone options for students in a major must be available in the Bulletin to assist students in determining their majors. VPUE and the deans’ offices of the undergraduate schools will develop template language and communicate with department administrators in advance of this deadline, but departments should begin planning with an eye to this communication deadline

August 1, 2023:  full details about each major’s capstone requirement must be published in the Bulletin

Academic Year 2024 - 2025:  All students graduating this year must complete a capstone

Information from C-RUM

The Committee for the Review of Undergraduate Majors (C-RUM) will implement University level review of all undergraduate majors, which will complement and not replace School-level review. The focus of this review will be on university-level policy and consistency, including the unit range mandate and accessibility plans, as well as capstones.  Additional information from C-RUM on capstones will be posted here as the committee develops criteria and/or guidance in the 2021-22 year.

Lists of departments/programs with existing capstones

Coming soon:  links to descriptions of existing capstones in Stanford departments and programs.

Integrative, culminating experiences available to any student

These are existing programs which may be resources or models for departments and programs considering what will count as a capstone for their majors.

Interdisciplinary honors programs are available to students in any major, unlike BAH or BSH honors programs that are specifically for students in a particular major. The following programs offer interdisciplinary honors programs.

Interdisciplinary Honors Programs

Transcript Notations for a body of extra-degree program work

Additional Programs

Note: If you know of another program that is missing from this list, please email vpue@stanford.edu.