Capstone Overview

The Ed.D. in leadership and learning in organizations is designed to prepare students to skillfully combine people and resources to facilitate organizational learning and improvement. As the culminating academic experience in the LLO program, the capstone project challenges students to integrate what they have learned in Ed.D. coursework, to demonstrate mastery of content, and to apply it in a disciplined way to an organizational context. As part of the capstone project, students establish a relationship with a focal organization (other than their own) to address questions or problems of practice related to organizational performance and improvement. Annual on-campus convenings are designed to introduce students to capstone work and to cultivate knowledge and skills to be used in the capstone project. The capstone project will be completed in two parts during the final year of LLO plan of study.

Capstone Seminar I

Capstone Seminar I and capstone part I are undertaken in the sixth term of the LLO program of study. Capstone Seminar I will meet regularly over the course of the sixth semester, and groups of students will work with a faculty advisor via 2VU. Over the course of this seminar, students will identify, introduce, and analyze a problem of practice, a challenge, or a complex phenomenon in an external focal organization, and produce part I of their capstone.

The capstone topic and external organization must be approved by the Capstone Seminar instructor. Sample capstone topics include but are not limited to: creating a strong organizational identity to improve performance or retention; creating effective leadership development strategies for women’s career advancement and success; organizational restructuring to achieve higher levels of performance; motivating through work design to address attrition from burnout; and related subjects and topics.

The problem, challenge, or phenomenon will be framed in the relevant literature and will serve as the basis for the capstone investigation. Students will bring multiple forms of evidence to bear that frames and provides the rationale and need to focus on the problem, challenge, or phenomenon in the particular organizational context. Based on the organizational analysis and literature review, students will then design an intervention or process targeted to learning, improvement or change. Students will draw upon LLO coursework and their own independent research to identify a viable intervention or approach aligned with the organization’s needs.

Capstone paper part I is submitted to the Seminar instructor for a final grade, and is presented to the focal organization for feedback. The successful completion of Capstone Seminar I and presentation to the focal organization are required for participation in Capstone Seminar II. Grading is Pass/Fail.

Key deliverables for Capstone Seminar I include:

  • Faculty-approved focal organization and capstone project topic
  • Proposal that outlines the organizational problem or challenge under investigation
  • Literature review and framework that informs the investigation and types of evidence/data to be collected and analyzed
  • IRB submission and approval
  • Interim drafts and completed capstone paper part I
  • Presentation to focal organization
  • Summary of feedback from the focal organization

Capstone Seminar II

Capstone Seminar II and development of the final capstone project are undertaken in the ninth term of LLO study. Capstone Seminar II will meet regularly over the course of the ninth semester, and groups of students will work with a faculty advisor via 2VU.

Students build upon work completed in Capstone Seminar I and capstone paper part I to incorporate feedback from the focal organization on the proposed intervention, outline a system of evaluation for the recommended design, and integrate the content of the entire project into a coherent narrative and final deliverable.

Students are not required to implement the intervention and measure the consequences. However, the final capstone project should provide descriptions of the research design, elements of the intervention or process to be evaluated, measures that will be used, and strategies of analysis to include a full proposal of a program evaluation. The final capstone project will describe the specific plan for organizational improvement, and a proposed evaluation plan that would, if implemented and carried out, provide evidence that the plan, informed by theory and research, would result in the expected improvement or a pathway to address the problem or phenomenon under investigation. Key deliverables for Capstone Seminar II include:

  • Draft program evaluation plan
  • Draft capstone project including integration of capstone paper 1
  • Presentation of evaluation plan to focal organization
  • Draft capstone presentation
  • Final, fully integrated Capstone Project and Presentation

The fully integrated final capstone project is submitted to the Seminar instructor for a final grade, and is presented to faculty and classmates during the third campus convening. The final capstone project will be filed in the Vanderbilt University Discovery Archive.

Additional capstone details will be shared during the seminars and campus convenings.