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Posters as an effective assessment tool for a capstone course

Abstract

A rubric was developed to assess student posters as a mechanism to evaluate learning outcomes for a senior capstone course. The analytic rubric allows for the efficient and systematic collection of data from posters by students who worked across a variety of disciplines including the physical, biological, Earth sciences, social science, and the humanities. The rubric effectively addressed a fundamental assumption and requirement put forth during rubric development, that is, it needs to be relatively easy to use without training while at the same time producing consistent results across evaluators. The overall Chronbach’s alpha of 0.80 across semesters indicates acceptable inter-rater reliability. Data generated by assessment of 106 interdisciplinary posters indicates a general, yet not statistically significant, improvement, in total scores from the spring 2014 to spring 2018, documents student proficiency, and captures the variability in the quality of the various projects. The rubric was primarily developed as a tool to inform formative assessment, but it is also a teaching tool. Its use in providing feedback and as reflection tool enhances the learning experience for students and increases the impact of the senior thesis process on their professional development. The use of a student feedback questionnaire has informed reflective instructional practice. This resulted in an increased emphasis within the capstone course on the inclusion of reference citations, use of informal writing activities, and frequency of meetings with faculty mentors. The results from our approach should be encouraging to other interdisciplinary environmental studies and science programs that seek to efficiently and effectively impact student learning outcomes and evaluate the impact of course changes over several semesters.

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Correspondence to David C. Gosselin.

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Gosselin, D.C., Golick, D. Posters as an effective assessment tool for a capstone course. J Environ Stud Sci 10, 426–437 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-020-00612-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-020-00612-x

Keywords

  • Assessment
  • Formative assessment
  • Higher education
  • Rubric development
  • Capstone course