Defining Features

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In its QEP, "Ideas to Action: Using Critical Thinking to Foster Student Learning and Community Engagement," the University of Louisville outlined its intention to require every undergraduate to apply critical thinking skills in a culminating undergraduate experience such as a:

  • capstone course
  • service learning project
  • research project
  • internship
  • practicum
  • student teaching semester

The defining features of a culminating undergraduate experience are that it:

  1. Is undertaken after sufficient academic preparation e.g., after completion of at least 90 credits of coursework or key prerequisite courses.
  2. Is part or all of an approved or accepted:
    • credit-bearing course in the major or
    • experience in the discipline/major(e.g., honors project or independent study).
      The unit/department has the responsibility for designing the culminating undergraduate experience.
  3. Provides the opportunity for demonstration of the student's mastery of content, reflection on accumulated content and experiences, and the integration and application of critical thinking skills.
  4. Addresses an authentic issue. Authenticity includes meaningful, real-world issues, problems or concerns that are relevant to the learner and the discipline and are shaped by practical constraints of time, space, or resources.
  5. Incorporates ongoing, comprehensive feedback from students, faculty or others involved with the experience (which may include mid-term or final student evaluation, periodic review by department faculty, feedback from internship/practicum sites, or other assessment measures).
  6. Results in an output that can be assessed by internal or external reviewers using evaluation criteria favored by the discipline. Examples of outputs include a paper, portfolio, or performance.


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