Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate Dissertations and Capstone

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Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects and the
Student Experience
Mick Healey
University of Gloucestershire, UK
www.mickhealey.co.uk
“new models of curriculum … should
all … incorporate research-based
study for undergraduates”
(Ramsden, 2008:10-11)
Is the end of the dissertation nigh?
“A new masters programme has scrapped its dissertation
requirement. Is this a one-off or is the end of the dissertation upon
us?” Guardian Professional, 1 June 2011
Are predictions about the end of the dissertation any more accurate than
those about the end of the world? Photograph: Alamy
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
The initial impetus
behind the ResearchInformed Teaching
Initiative was to preserve
the ‘gold-standard’ of
honours dissertations
and protect the
international
competitiveness of UK
universities.
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Bachelor's degrees with
honours are awarded to
students who have
demonstrated:
“a systematic understanding of
key aspects of their field of study,
including acquisition of coherent
and detailed knowledge, at least
some of which is at, or informed
by, the forefront of defined
aspects of a discipline” (QAA,
2008, FHEQ, 18)
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
“… academic disciplines should be free to choose
what is appropriate to measure independent,
advanced learning for their students … having a
uniform approach to demonstration of honours-level
achievement is arbitrary”
(Huggins, 2005).
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Alternative or additional projects, some of which may
be employment or community-based, are required to
meet the needs of all honours students regardless of
background, discipline or life goals.
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
We value highly the traditional
dissertation as a potentially
transformational experience, but
do feel one size does not fit all.
Argue need for greater choice in
the form the dissertation may
take, the nature of the end
product, and the ways in which
it is assessed.
Additional or alternative
experience?
Our working definition
“Projects, which are wider than the traditional honours
dissertation, that students undertake towards the end of
their undergraduate degree, usually in their final or senior
year, in which they engage in a significant amount of
independent research or inquiry.”
Capstone – term commonly used in North America and
Australasia to refer to integrative final year projects
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Draw on wide range of literature
• Linking research and teaching
• Undergraduate research and inquiry
• Employment and community based projects
• Capstone projects and integrative learning
• Independent, creative and transformational
learning
• Equity and widening participation issues
• Graduate attributes and standards
• Assessment of individual and group
projects
• Disseminating and celebrating
undergraduate work
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Our focus is on
students undertaking
research at honours
level, but it is wider in
its conception,
function, form, location
and how it is
disseminated than the
traditional dissertation.
Contrast with traditional honours dissertation
Wider in their:
• conception (e.g. collaborative projects as part of a research
group; consultancy projects);
• function (e.g. synthesising capstone projects; preparatory
projects for transition into a profession);
• form (e.g. student group projects);
• location (e.g. employer and community based projects);
and/or
• how they are disseminated (e.g. through exhibitions,
undergraduate research conferences and other forms of public
engagement)
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Alternative research-led
projects in Biosciences at
Durham
a) Laboratory-based project
b) Biology enterprise
c) Biology into schools
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
[email protected] is a
universitycommunity
partnership that
connects faculty,
students and staff at
MIT with
community-based
organizations and
civic leaders in the
City of Lawrence,
Massachusetts.
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
British
Conference on
Undergraduate
Research
Dimensions of final year and capstone projects
Additional to honours project
Campus based
Undertaken at the University
Research preparation
Student learning centred
Discipline based
Student initiated
Individual
Original to the student
University audience
In-depth analysis
Assessed by academics
Individual supervision
Alternative to honours project
Employer / community based
Distance learning
Professional / employment preparation
Outcome product centred
Multi- or interdisciplinary
Teacher / supervisor initiated
Group
Original to the discipline
Professional / public audience
Synthesis of knowledge/skills
Assessed by peers / professionals
Group / peer supervisions
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Recognise that some
disciplines (e.g. art &
design and some
professional
subjects) and some
institutions (e.g.
Leeds Met) have long
track records of
diversifying what
counts as an Hons
Project, but this is a
new area for many.
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Research question:
‘How can final year
undergraduate
projects and capstone
projects be designed
and assessed to help
students prepare for an
uncertain world?’
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Initially 5 Subject Centres:
• Art, Design and Media;
• Business, Management,
Accountancy and
Finance;
• English;
• Hospitality, Leisure,
Sport and Tourism;
• Sociology, Anthropology
and Politics.
Now all subjects
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Outputs and events:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Lessons from literature;
Resource bank of examples;
Student experiences;
Debate within UoG;
Ten case studies;
Showcase event – 22 June;
Develop alternative & additional
hons projects at UoG;
• Guide on creative solutions;
• Presentations, briefings &
publications;
• Grand findings national event.
Student experiences of the dissertation
We asked some
broadcast journalism
students what they
thought about
traditional dissertations
and whether some 'rethinking' was due.
Student experiences of the dissertation
We asked some
broadcast journalism
students what they
thought about
traditional dissertations
and whether some 'rethinking' was due.
Rethinking Final Year Undergraduate
Dissertations and Capstone Projects
Let’s be creative
and go beyond
the traditional
dissertation
THE END
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