Australian academics and students are discovering the value of final-year capstone units. Often designed as inquiry-based projects, capstones can engage students in authentic work that interests them personally, while building on their disciplinary knowledge and graduate capabilities. However, for some academics dealing with less academically accomplished students, the focus on student-directed activity that is inherent in inquiry-based learning can be a cause of concern. The cross-disciplinary inquiry-based capstone in Arts at an Australian university discussed in this chapter should allay some of those concerns. The cohort at this university includes a high proportion of non-traditional and first in the family students, many from non-English speaking backgrounds. The success of this capstone stems from student teams selecting and designing their own projects, often drawing on knowledge(s) and concerns relevant to their own diverse communities. The flexible framework and guided inquiry approach sees tutors step back – becoming facilitators rather than experts – and this in turn builds students’ confidence in their capacity to plan and execute their projects. The range and quality of student projects carried out in this capstone (many of which involve close links with local communities and advocacy organisations) attest to the value of cross-disciplinary, inquiry-based and student-managed capstone units.
The authors would like to thank the students involved in the example projects detailed in this chapter and Daniel Loton, Centre for Collaborative Learning and Teaching, Victoria University, for his assistance in preparation of the chapter.
Support for the development of this chapter has been provided by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching through a National Senior Teaching Fellowship. The views presented do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching.
Funston, A. and Lee, N. (2014), "The Graduating Project: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Capstone in Arts", Inquiry-based Learning for Faculty and Institutional Development: A Conceptual and Practical Resource for Educators (Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Vol. 1), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 223-241. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2055-364120140000001012
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