Characterizing capstone design teaching: A functional taxonomy
Pembridge, James J.
Paretti, Marie C.
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Background: Capstone design courses represent a critical juncture in students' development at the transition from school to work. However, few studies have systematically explored teaching in this context, leaving a significant gap in our ability to concretely describe faculty practices in ways that support subsequent explorations of the relationships between teaching practices and learning outcomes. Purpose/Hypothesis: The aim of this study was to develop a comprehensive description of the pedagogical practices used by capstone design faculty from a functional perspective and provide researchers with a framework for subsequent work. Design/Method: This study used qualitative methods to analyze interviews with 42 capstone faculty; the participants represent a stratified purposeful sample of respondents to a national survey. Analysis focused on descriptive coding, beginning with a priori codes, to define broad functions, supplemented with emergent coding to identify concrete practices used in the capstone context. Results: The study resulted in a model of capstone design teaching that includes nine functions (challenge, protect, coach, promote employability, provide exposure, provide role models, accept and confirm, counsel, and build rapport) and 28 associated practices. Conclusions: Capstone faculty use a range of practices designed not only to coach students through the engineering design process but also to more broadly prepare students for workplace practice and build their identity as engineering professionals.