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Generally, capstone experiences are specially designed seminars for seniors majoring in a particular discipline. Capstone courses integrate the specialized knowledge, theories, research methods, and technical skills that students have been taught over the course of one's study in the major. At some institutions, however, capstone course provide an opportunity for students to integrate their General Education courses into one encompassing class.

In some majors, a capstone experience may take the form of a senior research project evaluated by several readers. In other disciplines, senior majors might be required to develop a portfolio of materials from different courses and summarize the themes and experiences from each course in their major. In the capstone experience, students are often required to give an oral presentation of their project before a panel of faculty reviewers.

Capstone courses are not a specific means of assessment per se, but the experience offers access to a representative body of a student's work. As a result, capstone courses provide an ideal setting for conducting authentic assessments of what students know and are able to do.