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On the Struggle To Attain Universal Competence in a Complex Skill: The Case of a Senior Capstone Experience


  • Gregory A. Lilly

    () (Department of Economics, Elon University)

  • Thomas Tiemann

    () (Department of Economics, Elon University)


Seventeen years ago, a blue-ribbon committee of economists asserted that the “ideal” program for an economics major should include “a capstone experience, whereby students apply their knowledge and skills in creative and systematic ways through research and writing.” (Seigfried, Bartlett, Hansen, Kelley, McCloskey, and Tietenberg (1991)) Yet we are not aware of a data-driven assessment of an implemented senior capstone experience in the economics education literature. We have been experimenting with a senior capstone experience – based on research and writing – for more than a decade. In this paper we describe the history of our senior capstone experience, and provide a data-driven assessment of student performance in this experience. Our primary objective for this senior capstone has been to create a system that will result in all of our majors writing a competent senior thesis. In other words, we want to attain universal competence in a complex skill. This simple objective has, however, been very difficult to achieve. We will argue that undesired variation in student motivation has been our primary obstacle in attaining universal competence.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory A. Lilly & Thomas Tiemann, 2008. "On the Struggle To Attain Universal Competence in a Complex Skill: The Case of a Senior Capstone Experience," Working Papers 2008-06, Elon University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:elo:wpaper:2008-06

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John J. Siegfried, 2001. "Principles for a Successful Undergraduate Economics Honors Program," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 169-177, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen B. Deloach & Elizabeth Perry-Sizemore & Mary O. Borg, 2012. "Creating Quality Undergraduate Research Programs in Economics: How, When, Where (And Why)," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 57(1), pages 96-110, May.

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    JEL classification:

    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate

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