The Capstone Experience

Upon completion of a minimum of 50 credit hours applicable to the certificate program, the student must satisfactorily complete a capstone experience. This requirement can be met in one of two ways:

  1. Comprehensive Examination
    This examination is focused on three domains--literacy and society; literacy and schooling; and nature and acquisition of literacy.
  2. Inquiry Project
    Examples of inquiry projects would include empirical investigations, or analytic literature reviews, related to issues in literacy. The topics for these inquiry projects are chosen by the student in consultation with his/her advisor.

Comprehensive Examination

The function of the Comprehensive Examination is to ensure that you have a broad yet focused understanding of the field of literacy. The exam is part of the larger process of the program that begins with establishing a broad understanding of the field providing the context for a deeper understanding of a specific domain within which you complete a very focused piece of research. At the same time, the exam does have a certifying or gate-keeping function in that a solid understanding of the broad field of literacy is a necessary expectation of an individual holding a doctoral degree from this institution. Consequently, the exam requires you to demonstrate to the members of the department, in writing, a thoughtful and critical understanding of the theory, research, and tensions in the broad field of literacy through each of the three domains--The Nature and Acquisition of Literacy Across the Lifespan, Literacy and Schooling, and Literacy and Society.

These domains clearly overlap and are not intended to split a thoroughly interconnected field into separate pieces. Literacy acquisition across the life span is influenced by the institutional structures within which it is acquired, and these structures and the acquisition are influenced by society. Although literacy acquisition and learning happen in societies, in families, and in and out of school and other institutional contexts, these are not the focus of domain 1. Issues of gender, or of reading disability, for example, might turn up in all three domains, but would be cast differently in each. Texts children read could be located in any or all of these domains, depending on how they are framed. The domains are merely to provide divergent points of emphasis and thus ensure a broad understanding of the field.

Students can choose one of three options for satisfying the Comprehensive Examination: three essays; a portfolio; or a closed-book, written exam.

Preparing for Comprehensive Exam

CAS in Literacy students who are preparing to take the Comprehensive Examination take the same required courses as Ph.D. students. Thus, these students would take each of the core courses (ELTL 756, 757, 710, 711, 781, 782), with the option of substituting ‘cross-domain’ courses (e.g., ELTL 773, 738) with permission of the Department when core courses are not available.  Course distribution requirements:

  • Core Reading Courses (min: 18 hours)
  • Other Courses in Reading: (min: 12 hours)
  • Allied Courses in Professional Education (min: 6 hours)
  • Courses in Research Methodology: (min 6 hours)

More information and details about the exam is available on the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam page.

Inquiry Project

The CAS inquiry project is to demonstrate your understanding of your chosen study focus for the CAS in Literacy program. It can take the form of any professionally publishable research study--a report of a study or project undertaken in the field, a literature review or position paper. For example, a student coming into the CAS in Literacy program to study early literacy intervention programs, might write a paper that summarizes the findings of a focused inquiry, with conclusions and recommendations for school districts. Another student might conduct a research study on the effectiveness of intervention strategies at the middle school. A third might write a theoretical or philosophical paper on some aspect of adult literacy.

The project is conducted under the guidance of the program advisor (or another faculty member with expertise in the project area). While engaged in the Inquiry project, CAS in Literacy students must be registered in ELTL 758 for a minimum of 3 credits, repeatable to a maximum of 9 credits. Upon completion, the project will be examined by the student's advisor and two other members of the Literacy Department faculty, who will recommend either a Pass, Revise and Resubmit, or a Fail.

You are allowed three attempts to pass the CAS Inquiry Project. Before resubmitting the project, however, you will meet with your Program Advisor and make an agreement regarding the steps you will take to prepare for resubmitting it.

A second option is to appeal the results of the examination. This appeal must be made in writing to the Department Chair, who will bring it before the faculty for review and decision. This decision can be appealed to the Academic Standing Committee of the School of Education and that ruling may be appealed to the Graduate Academic Council. The GAC's ruling is final.

Preparing for Inquiry Project

CAS in Literacy students preparing for the Inquiry Project have to take a minimum of one course in each of the three domains--Literacy across the lifespan, Literacy and schooling, Literacy and society--plus ELTL 758 (Inquiry Project).  Course distribution requirements:

  • Core Reading Courses (min: 9 hours)
  • Other Courses in Reading: (min: 21 hours)
  • Allied Courses in Professional Education (min: 6 hours)
  • Courses in Research Methodology: (min 6 hours)
  • ELTL 758: Inquiry Project (3-9 hrs, repeatable for a maximum of 9 hrs)

Choosing the Comprehensive Exam or Inquiry Project

Students do not have to choose between the comprehensive exam and the inquiry project until after three core courses in Literacy have been completed. However, once a student undertakes the inquiry project, it cannot be used to satisfy the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam. On the other hand, completing either the inquiry project or the Comprehensive exam qualifies the student to receive the CAS.