6. Exit Requirements

Faculty of Education




6. Exit Requirements

Students may complete either a course-based or research-based exit requirement for the Master of Education degree. Students who complete the course-based route are required to complete a culminating exit course (EDUC 5Q97: Culminating Seminar in Educational Studies). As part of this course, students are required to integrate theory and accumulated knowledge with respect to their fields of specialization and practice. Students are also expected to complete an exit paper and to participate in some form of public dissemination (e.g., poster presentation, workshop). Students who complete either the research-based routes are required to complete either a MRP or thesis. Normally, both formats fulfill the entrance requirements for doctoral programs although, in some cases, a MRP may be acceptable only to Doctor of Education programs whereas the thesis is acceptable to Doctor of Philosophy programs. Students interested in pursuing doctoral studies should contact the institution of choice to determine entrance requirements. Note Students completing the Masters Program in the Thesis Pathway are restricted to completing either EDUC 5P96 (Internship) or EDUC 5P98 (Independent Study) as either a field of specialization elective or general elective course.

Explicit procedures for the completion of a MRP or a thesis have been established by the Department (Refer to Section 9) and students should read the procedures carefully before beginning the exit requirement.

6.1. Differences Between a Thesis and a MRP
Effective September 2009:

• Students must complete either the Application for MRP or Application for Thesis.
• Prior to applying for the thesis, students must complete 5 half-credit courses including all required courses according tot heir field of specialization. Applications are reviewed by the Department, with successful applicants being provided with an override that permits them to register for the thesis (EDUC 5F95). The Department may require students to complete additional courses or prerequisites prior to registering for the thesis. Should an application for thesis be declined, full-time students will complete the MRP by default. Part-time students may complete either the MRP or course-based route.
• Prior to applying for the MRP, students must complete 7 half-credit courses including all required courses according to their field of specialization. Applications are reviewed by Department with successful applicants being provided with an override that permits them to register for the MRP (EDUC 5Q91).

For all students:

• A thesis is overseen by an advisor and a thesis committee of at least two individuals whereas a MRP is overseen by an advisor and a second reader.
• Both a thesis and a MRP are preceded by a written proposal. The thesis proposal must be presented at a committee meeting whereas a MRP proposal is approved by the advisor and a second reader and may not require a formal meeting for approval.
• A thesis must undergo a public defence with the thesis committee and an external examiner whereas a MRP is evaluated by the advisor and a second reader.
• A thesis is expected to deal with theoretical development whereas a MRP may focus on questions of practical import.
• A thesis must be research based (broadly defined) whereas a MRP can be developmental, evaluative, or non-traditional in nature. Students persuing the MRP option are encouraged to consider innovative formats for completing the exit requirement
• Both requirements are expected to be soundly documented and built on current literature. The literature foundation for each type of exit requirement should be appropriately comprehensive and focused.

6.2 Types of Theses and Major Research Papers

The following examples demonstrate the wide variety of acceptable formats available to students for completing the research-based exit phase of their program. Students should not see this as a comprehensive list of options. They are encouraged to consult with their advisor if they wish to work with a format that is not included in this table.

Thesis

Quantitative Research Designs

• Survey
• Experimental
• Quasi-Experimental
• Correlational

Qualitative Research Designs

• Action Research
• Biography/Autobiography
• Interpretive
• Ethnography
• Grounded Theory
• Narrative
• Phenomenology
• Case Study

Conceptual Research Designs

• Deconstruction
• Historical Analysis
• Conceptual Analysis
• Philosophical Treatise

MRP

A MRP may use quantitative, qualitative, or conceptual research designs as listed for the thesis, and is expected to be of the same academic rigor but not necessarily of the same scope or scale.

The MRP may also take the following formats:

Development Designs

• Curriculum Unit
• Handbook/Manual
• Workshop

Evaluative Designs

• Instruction/Program Assessment
• Instrument Development
• Needs Assessment

Non-traditional Designs

• Comprehensive Portfolio
• Program Synthesis
• Individual Designs
• Narrative
• Personal Journals
• Refereed Article

6.3 Evaluation Criteria for Theses and MRPs

All MRPs and theses are expected to meet the following academic standards:

• Clearly articulated and substantive purpose that focuses the work
• Coherent conceptual framework that organizes the work
• Critical presentation of a substantive, relevant, and current literature base
• Appropriate, defensible, clearly articulated research design, methodology, or process of disciplined inquiry that addresses the purpose
• Generative implications that extend the work beyond its immediate context and that identify avenues of further research and practical applications
• Evidence of critical, analytic, evaluative thought
• Student ability to explain, to discuss, and to defend all aspects of the work
• Clear connection to educational contexts, concerns, theories that are of current or anticipated importance to the field
• Student independence and originality in design and completion of the work
• Adherence to conventions and standards of academic writing and presentation

6.4 EDUC 5Q97 Culminating Seminar in Educational Studies

The EDUC 5Q97 Culminating Seminar in Educational Studies provides students with an opportunity to engage in a scholarly synthesis of their M.Ed. work for their final written paper, and through this and a public presentation, they celebrate their academic accomplishments over the degree. The course thus serves as meaningful closure to the M.Ed. for course based students.

The departments intentions for the EDUC 5Q97 course are as follow:

Students who complete the course-based route are required to complete a culminating exit course (EDUC 5Q97: Culminating Seminar in Educational Studies). As part of this course, students are required to integrate theory and accumulated knowledge with respect to their fields of specialization and practice. Students are also expected to complete an exit paper and to participate in some form of public dissemination (e.g., poster presentation, workshop).

In EDUC 5Q97, students are expected to

• Write a culminating position paper (20-30 pages) that either a) synthesizes their M.Ed. experience, incorporating and reflecting on work from the M.Ed., integrating scholarly literature, and outlining their academic development or b) identifies, prepares, and presents a problem/issue in light of the literature in their field of specialization;
• Integrate relevant theoretical perspectives (including foundational literature from their field of specialization) as a context for their academic development, problem, or issue;
• Critique, assess, and share these perspectives with their peers;
• Apply these integrated perspectives to their academic development, problem or issue;
• Evaluate and provide feedback to a partner on their work;
• Model critical thinking and a scholarly writing style;
• Communicate their position paper with a public presentation; and
• Provide a clean copy (professionally proof-read) of their final position paper.

In each instance, students are expected to draw on critical thinking and research skills and literature read during the M.Ed. Each should make a contribution to theory, practice, and/or future research. Possible formats include:

1. A culminating paper synthesizing the student's M.Ed. experience, incorporating and reflecting on work from the M.Ed., integrating scholarly literature, and discussing the student's academic development; or
2. A position paper synthesizing the scholarly literature on a topic of interest and mapping implications for theory, practice, and future research.

Students must draw on relevant literature they read in their M.Ed. and apply it as a framework for their exit paper. With either option, students are to situate themselves within the paper and discuss how the M.Ed. program and in particular their stream has prepared them to write about this topic.

The criteria for assessing the research-based exit requirement are the same regardless of the route chosen for completing this part of the program (e.g., thesis, MRP). These are

• clearly articulated and substantive purpose that focuses the work
• coherent conceptual framework that organizes the work
• critical presentation of a substantive, relevant, and current literature base
• appropriate, defensible, clearly articulated research design, methodology, or process of disciplined inquiry that addresses the purpose
• generative implications that extend the work beyond its immediate context and that identify avenues of further research and practical applications
• evidence of critical, analytic, evaluative thought
• student ability to explain, to discuss, and to defend all aspects of the work
• clear connection to educational contexts, concerns, theories that are of current or anticipated importance to the field
• student independence and originality in design and completion of the work
• adherence to conventions and standards of academic writing and presentation
(Guidelines for Department Members, April 2011)

A Masters level of scholarship is demonstrated by

• in-depth understanding of the knowledge in an area of study;
• ability to think deeply, comprehensively, conceptually, and critically about key issues, debates, and theories in an area of study and in education;
• conceptual and theoretical understanding of different research designs, methods, and traditions;
• ability to work and to think independently and to have an inquiring mind;
• ability to relate personal work to a body of knowledge, specifically to major writers in an area of study;
• ability to make personal and global connections among different theories and/or different sources of information;
• ability to make connections between theories and practice;
• ability to critically reflect on personal constructs, practices, theories, and to generate new conceptualizations;
• ability to conduct original research and/or to develop and to articulate an original, coherent learning record; and
• ability to generate a finished product that demonstrates the expected skills and knowledge for a master's graduate.
(Guidelines for Department Members, April 2011, pp. 22-23)

Ethical Practices

Papers written for EDUC 5Q97 are not empirical research; there is not time in one academic term to obtain ethics permission. Ethical principles, however, are in place. For example, Appendix C in the M.Ed. Guide outlines the Department policy regarding confidentiality and anonymity:

No actual names, locations or jurisdictions are revealed throughout the document. General locations only are to be specified in the document, (e.g., a school board in southern Ontario, or a hospital in northern Ontario). If pseudonyms are used for names, schools, school boards, hospitals, etc. it is stated in the methodology chapter or equivalent that all names are pseudonyms.
Students can apply for exemption from the Confidentiality Policy by completing the Request for Exemption form and submitting it to the department.

We recommend that students should also be guided by principles such as those stated in this example from Taylor & Francis:

At Taylor & Francis we expect that our authors' work will always conform to the highest scholarly standards. Therefore, we require our authors to undertake that their work will contain nothing which is defamatory, and that all statements purporting to be facts are true; and moreover that the truth of such statements can be demonstrated by providing references where appropriate to source material, or can otherwise be justified. (Taylor & Francis, 2004, p. 47)

Each student will be asked to sign the Brock copyright release form.

References

Brock
University (2010). Reserve collection policy. St. Catharines, ON: Brock
University James A. Gibson Library. Available at http://www.brocku.ca/library/about-us-lib/policies/reserve-collection-po...

Taylor & Francis (2004). Instructions for authors.
Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis Books.

6.5 Topic Selection for Theses and MRPs

A wide range of issues are appropriate for study during the research-based exit phase of the program and may address populations from early childhood to the elderly. All topics must address an educational issue and must be approached from an educational perspective. Although students typically choose the topic of study, the advisor must agree that it is an appropriate and acceptable topic for a Master of Education degree. It also is helpful if the topic lies within the advisor's domain of academic expertise. During consultations between the student and the advisor, it may be determined that some topics are either too broad and general or too narrow and specific to be easily investigated, and the advisor might suggest a different topic or a different focus.

Students may find ideas for topics by examining current educational journals, MRPs and theses available online in the Brock University Digital Repository.

As early as possible in the program of study, students should reflect on what their chosen area of research interest could involve. In most, if not all cases, simple questions seem to work best. The progression of both the informal thinking phase and formal writing phase for proposal development includes the following steps:

• Introduction: What is the problem context and unknown domain?
• Literature base: What have others written about this question? What seems not to have been written?
• Methodology: How could/should the question be answered?
• Findings: What is likely to be found or worked out using this approach?
• Importance: What might the results mean, to whom might they have meaning, and where might they lead?

6.6 Conducting Ethical Research

Considering the ethics of information-gathering methods is relevant to most MRPs and theses. Whether the end result is a handbook, a curriculum unit, or a qualitative or quantitative research study, the collection of data or information may have ethical implications for the people and/or organizations involved in the process.

The Senate of Brock University has established ethical guidelines for planning and conducting research involving human participants. The process of submitting research proposals to the Ethics subcommittee is intended to protect the people who will be involved in the study.

Information regarding Brock University policies and standards for research with human participants is available at the website for the Office of Research Services: www.brocku.ca/research. The information can be found by clicking on the Ethics & Research Reviews link. Students who plan to collect original data from people must apply for approval to the Brock University Research Ethics Review Board before beginning the project. A minimum of 10-15 working days is required for the review. Forms are also available on this website.

Most organizations have an internal ethical review process that must also be followed prior to research being conducted in the organization. Students are expected to contact the appropriate department of the organization where they plan to conduct their research and to comply with required procedures for approval to carry out their research. Such contact should be made with the permission and endorsement of the academic advisor (a written letter of support can assist). This information and the appropriate procedures should be communicated to readers through documents appended to the final MRP/thesis.

The file number of the certificate from Brock University's Research Ethics Board must be included in the methodology (or equivalent) chapter.

In addition to the institutional requirements, the Faculty of Education has adopted a Confidentiality Policy that requires students to exclude from their MRPs or thesis any features or information that could identify participants or location. There is also a new copyright policy on the Use of Reproduced Materials. Please refer to Appendix C.
 

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