Capstones: A Shared and Culminative Learning Experience
Through the different stages of a student career, an award of the University of Divinity can contain many diverse learning areas. This is in order to fulfil the outcomes of a course, particularly in the variety of units available, so that students can understand and synthesise the topics they are passionate about. For particular awards, the promise from the University is to ensure that the student has covered each learning outcome relevant to the award: a gathering together in a fuller understanding of all the foundational and advanced areas of learning. For these particular courses, a Capstone unit is offered for this integrative learning experience.
Capstones are a unique part of the curriculum as they embody a culminative learning experience, not simply a list of all the different learning in the course. A Capstone is an opportunity for a student to question, synthesise and consolidate what they have learned in their course as a whole. The student can then develop their own decision making and evaluative judgment into post-award life with a sense of their own skills or employment readiness.
In terms of this Capstone unit experience, the University is developing a collegial and targeted strategy for delivering these learning experiences. After the conclusion of the Teaching Conference of 2018, there was a meeting of Academic Deans to discuss Capstone units. Through the chair of the Academic Board, a working group had met through 2018 to reflect on the versions of Capstone units in the University, which contributed to changes in the Unit Policy as to the definition. Further to this, through 2019, the Academic Deans discussed further the ideas from the working group and their plans for implementing Capstones in 2020.
The McNaught Review on Multistreaming (2018) of the University found that Capstones were a way in which to clarify and complete the scaffolding of the course learning outcomes for foundational awards. The Kift Review of Assessment (2019) of the University found that the mapping of awards should include the use of Capstones where applicable, to assure the student has acquired the learning outcomes of the course.
Over 2019, Academic Deans have developed a variety of Capstone unit responses. Bachelor units are currently offered for eligible students in the penultimate or last semester of their course. In Masters level units, particular Capstone units for appropriate awards have been designed in-College and between Colleges, with each College having their own varieties. For example, in 2020, a shared Capstone unit will be offered for the Master of Education and Theology delivered between Catholic Theological College and Yarra Theological Union. The Very Rev Dr Kevin Lenehan of CTC and Rev Dr Michael Kelly of YTU have initiated this unit and are coordinating the classes. Rev Dr Kelly has told Vox that this unit is part of “an experience for students to complete a range of shared units in the award, in different geographic locations to help complete their course successfully.”
This occurrence of a shared Capstone is an emerging trend pointing into the direction of multi-College Capstone cohorts in the future, while retaining the learning outcomes and mapping of these onto the units in an entire award, which may be a feature of only one College.
You can discuss any Capstone units that are available in your course by speaking with your course advisor or Academic Dean.
Dr Carolyn Alsen is an educator, linguist and researcher in education, religious and biblical studies, particularly Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. She is currently the Learning Specialist at the University of Divinity, based in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.