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Why Students Need Capstones and Signature Work

Capstones and signature work projects ideally are related to a question or problem that is important to the student and important to society. For many, these projects will be career related; for others, they could be related to significant societal challenges such as health, literacy, sustainability or human dignity. For all, capstones and signature work allows students to connect liberal and general learning with the world beyond college.

Capstones and signature work can help students demonstrate their achievement of the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes and their ability to integrate learning from multiple sources. Capstones and signature work can be pursued in a research project, in thematically linked courses, in a practicum or in service or community-based learning. These projects will always include substantial writing, multiple kinds of reflection on learning, and visible results. Many students will use e-portfolios to present and explain their projects and related learning outcomes.

Today's students will participate in a global economy fueled by successful innovation, and they will engage with diverse communities that need solutions to intractable problems. This demands an education that explores issues from multiple perspectives and across disciplines, and that helps students apply what they learn to real-world situations. Recent research indicates that only one third of today's graduates complete capstone work, and only about 20 percent of students report doing undergraduate research. More than half do an internship and/or service learning, but these potentially powerful experiences do not typically result in a significant piece of (signature) work. Students who do engage in these kinds of "high impact" experiences leading to signature work are more likely to complete college, are more engaged in their work, and show higher levels of deep and integrative learning.

Selected Signature Work Resources

Falling Short: Employers' Views on College Graduates' Preparation for Work (2015).

Ensuring Quality and Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale (2013)