Capstone Courses

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Capstone Courses

NCPR partnered with the Virginia Department of Education to document the implementation of English and mathematics capstone courses during their pilot year in 2011–12. The aim of this project was to better understand the use of capstone courses as an approach to increasing college readiness. NCPR researchers interviewed capstone course stakeholders at the state, school division, and school levels, as well as staff at four partner universities who helped to develop instructional materials for the courses. In addition, researchers conducted site visits to understand how the curricula were being used and to learn more about course content and pedagogy. Through this work, NCPR has identified key considerations for practitioners and for researchers aiming to conduct a rigorous evaluation of capstone courses. 

For more information, contact Dr. Heather Wathington at 434-982-2715 or


Preparing Students for College Learning and Work: Investigating the Capstone Course Component of Virginia's College and Career Readiness Initiative (An NCPR Working Paper). 
By: Heather D. Wathington, Elisabeth A. Barnett, Maggie P. Fay, Claire Mitchell, Joshua Pretlow, and Rachel Hare Bork (December 2012).

Based on a set of performance expectations for college readiness, Virginia’s capstone courses in English and mathematics were developed to help support college-intending high school juniors and seniors who are at risk of placing into developmental education. The courses were piloted in more than 20 high schools across Virginia during the 2011–12 academic year. NCPR researchers investigated the design and implementation of the capstone courses, identifying issues that practitioners should consider as the capstone course initiative expands and implications for researchers investigating capstone courses.Download the PDF