Learning Theories and Pedagogy Related to the Development and Delivery of a Capstone Course and Assessment Tools
Schools and learning institutions have mechanisms to establish whether students have achieved goals intended in the learning process through use of the capstone course. It has been expressed that an effective capstone course should entail various learning skills including psychomotor, affective and cognitive skills. Educators should do their best to ensure that the method of commanding, analyzing and synthesizing information is student-centered and directed to maximize its benefits.
Theorists such as Gagne recognize that learning is cumulative in nature, where the simple knowledge and skills must help to learn the complex ones (Kemp & Smellie, 1989). A capstone project involves systematic development of a curriculum and systematic evaluation of the same.
According to research on curriculum and instruction, any capstone project must have various elements to aid learning and teaching. These elements include a set of aims and objectives. It must point out the need for organized learning patterns and content organization. The other component must be an evaluation (Oliva, 1982). These must be integrated to ensure a positive learning experience. Evaluation aids development, refinement and revision of courses.
Research recognizes that learning does not only occur through cognitive skills. Instead, effective and psychomotor domains are also involved. Use of combination of these skills in learning is supported by learning theory developed by Gagne, where about five skills are recognized as important to learning, including motor, attitudes, and verbal, among others. Kemp & Smellie (1989) recognize the need to mix various skills of evaluating the student, such that it is possible to evaluate their past experiences in a broader range. Hence, a capstone course should use the cognitive, psychomotor and affective skills in evaluation.
Components of implicit curriculum such as the student feelings and interests are included in a capstone project through affective learning (Bloom, 1971). These affective skills are derived when the students interact with one another and learners. Psychomotor learning ensures that the curriculum includes psychomotor skills such as non-verbal communications and movements (Kemp, 1975). Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives could help students to achieve better learning outcomes by encouraging them to reach goals which are beyond knowledge application. This is because it encourages higher-order intellectual activity concerned with the issues of why and how learning takes place rather than just what is being taught (Moore, n.d.).
Formative and summative techniques are employed in evaluation. As far as evaluation of a capstone is concerned, theory by Merril recognizes the need to use two dimensional evaluations of outcomes. The capstone should on one hand test how best students derive contents from procedures, concepts and facts. On the other hand, they should test the performance of students in processes such as remembering and using facts. These should be integrated in the traditional means of evaluating students (the examinations and tests), as well as other modern techniques of evaluation such as student projects (helps in testing applications).
Core Concepts in Development of Courses for both Online and Traditional Learning
Both the online and traditional learning environments must include a well developed curriculum with core elements. These elements not only encourage learning and teaching for improvement of student and teacher performance, but must necessitate identification of flaws within the learning process, and encourage improvement of the whole curriculum through review, refinement and adjustments.
Online and traditional learning environments must have goals (aims and objectives, according to Oliva, 1982) developed for the learning process and the necessary procedures, principles and rules needed to achieve these goals. Both classes must recognize the need to integrate various skills in learning; psychomotor, cognitive and affective skills. All patterns of learning and the contents must be organized with respect to the aims and objectives. Development of any course must also involve the need for evaluation of performance, evaluation of competence of the curriculum and encourage necessary curriculum review.
Another important core concept of the learning environment in both cases is ensuring adequate and proper participation of students. In this respect, communication between learners and educators is important. It is necessary that students learning techniques be involved in the development of any curriculum to increase motivation among students to participate. In addition, all environments must involve learning experiences rather than just teaching.
Incorporation of Students’ Learning Techniques in Designing Online and Traditional Courses
Courses such as the capstone encourage self-directed and independent learning. Such a curriculum requires incorporation of the student’s learning techniques in order to encourage better performance in the whole process. This is because the curriculum deviates from the traditional techniques of approaching learning, where the teacher offers complete direction in learning. The former allows students to work at their own pace and skill suited for achieving success in the careers they wish to pursue (Moore, n.d.), which is crucial to success, because it is recognized that students have differences of intelligence endowment, comprehension, and learning strategies among them. The practice also helps students to pursue the learning modalities they regard as suitable to themselves (Moore, n.d.).
Incorporating student’s learning techniques helps to place expectations in learners for learning independently. It also motivates students in the learning process since they are more likely to find relevance to projects and courses. One of the outcomes proposed in the Michigan Professional Preparation Network Report was the need for students to be motivated for continued learning (Moore, n.d.). This is where students should be encouraged to seek to explore and expand knowledge throughout their life (Blanchard & Christ, 1993). In addition, the report recognized that students need to be tested of the capacity to lead in contributing productively. These can be fostered by incorporating student’s learning techniques in the various courses in any curriculum because teachers are able to understand and offer the specific requirements to this end.
What Course, between Online and Traditional Courses, Benefits Students More?
The benefits derived from all courses depend on how suitable the curriculum is to achieving specific learning goals. Traditional courses are regarded as supporting and encouraging more interactive learning environments than online courses. It encourages direct engagement between students and teachers. This ensures better achievement of learning goals because of better communication, more student participation in learning, development of curriculum and its evaluation. Although online courses can be tailored to achieve these, they cannot achieve them to the level attained by traditional courses.
The benefit of courses should be gauged on how best they help students to achieve learning goals established in the curriculum. It is necessary to mention that the benefits achieved from these two courses depend on other factors such as the type of learning/training (e.g. educational and professional training). In very few cases where interaction between learners and educators is the least factor to success, online courses are more beneficial than traditional courses. Unfortunately, interaction between learners and educators is one of the pillars of successful learning.
Is there any necessity to adapt Guiding Principles when developing student learning outcomes assessment and best practices in teaching courses?
Development of techniques to assess learning outcomes is necessary to ensure that the goals of learning are achieved. Achievement of learning goals is dependent on many factors such as the curriculum itself and the input by students and educators. Guiding Principles encouraging student assessment can help in devising best practices in teaching, because it can help identify procedures, practices and guidelines in teaching that is necessary to achieve the developed learning goals so as to help achieve defined outcomes. Assessment techniques can help distinguish the weak areas which need to be improved in order to improve learning through best practices in teaching. It therefore helps in the integration of the various aspects of learning.
Guiding Principles can help educators to adhere to specific learning goals and relate these goals to viable assessment techniques, in order to achieve defined outcomes. These principles can help in motivating students in the learning process. In addition, assessment techniques ensure that students have expectations for learning, especially when the assessment goals are made known to them. Such assessment is important to instilling into students expectations about moving into careers of their interests and choice in future.
Adherence to assessment principles can help to establish the link between coursework and mission of the learning institution/program as whole, as well as link between coursework and societal expectations of education (Boyer, 1987; Moore, n.d.). A good assessment must encourage links between various learning outcomes in a multi-faceted course. This helps to prepare students in as many areas of learning as possible.
Blanchard, R., & Christ, W. G. (1993). Mission statements, outcomes, and the new liberal arts: Assessing the new professionalism. BEA Convention. Las Vegas, NV.
Bloom, B. S. (1971). Affective consequences of school achievement. In J. H. Block (Ed.), Mastery learning. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Kemp, J. E. & Smellie, D. C. (1989). Planning, producing, and using instructional media (6th ed.). New York: Harper Collins.
Kemp, J. E. (1975). Planning and producing audiovisual materials (3rd ed.). New York: Crowell.
Moore, R. (n.d.). Capstone Courses. Web.
Oliva, P. F. (1982). Developing the curriculum. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.