This is a fairly long post but I think its a helpful one. As I mentioned in a previous post many trainee teachers not only undertake teacher training but also assignments which more than usually earn them credits towards a Masters in Education (M.Ed). Having been in the situation myself having to juggle lesson planning and assignment writing. I was indebted to my M.Ed supervisor Richard Jenkin who provided me with a break down of what could be included in my Masters dissertation. To my surprise this could be adapted to fit almost any assignment you just have to work out the percentage word count you need. The details below are for a 15000 to 20000 word count most trainee teacher assignments are around 6000 words so you would have to adjust accordingly. I have edited the below text slightly as this helped me and many of the trainee teachers that I have tutored over the years. Hopefully you or someone you know will be helped by this post I know it helped me a great deal. I would love to hear form you if you are doing some action research or would like some help with your assignments.
No more than 15 words – preferably a Question with a clear focus*
Is it worthwhile –relevant –feasible?
Will it make a difference to practice?
Chapter 1: Introduction (900 words)
This is an important part of the dissertation and should provide a detailed, focused, contextual overview of the research, explain why the writer became interested in it and justify why it is important. It should begin the ‘journey’ the reader will be taking, explaining where they are, where they are going and what new things they will explore.
What is the aim of your study? This is in 1st person NO NAMES!!
Passion- Why this?
Refer to current practice or literature.
Briefly outline the design of your study
Setting/ context: (2400 words)
If talking about a school look at the SEF: Relevant bits
About the school
How has your working environment shaped the focus of your research?
School context-Don’t just describe it but say why it is important to your research.
- National Developments—Statutory requirements—Govt. Publications
- School Developments-SDP
- School Character —type/ NOR / number of staff/ catchment area/ no.of FSM/ deprivation index/ refer School Panda/ Management structure/ Resources
- School priorities
- Personal priorities—your role ,
Confidentiality –No names of school or people to be mentioned
Chapter 2: Literature review (3000 + words)
This will address the key issues surrounding the area of study through a comprehensive review of relevant research literature and key texts.
At least 20 references make sure you use various sources
What have others ever written about this area of interest? (Travel Guide)
- Show that you have engaged critically with sufficient relevant material—text or web—published in the last 5 years.
- This attempts to prevent teachers thinking in the ‘same old way’
- Reading to show breadth and depth
- Use Harvard Ref. System
- Where is the research evidence to support these ideas
- Be challenging. Who is the author? What is their agenda?
- How do these arguments/ ideas compare with your own?
- Or, how can you test them in this study?
Chapter 3: Methodology and research methods (3600 words)
This should demonstrate a knowledge, understanding and justification of the chosen methodological approach and research methods, through critical analysis and interpretation. The ethical implications of the research should be addressed in this section.
Where are you coming from?
- Is knowledge “objective” out there waiting to be discovered or is it “subjective” and derived from your own thinking? And how do you intend to approach your research.
- What will your personal paradigm about learning – behaviourist, constructivist, cognitive or social?
- Will your research be scientific or action research
- Action research – Innovative/evaluate — find out if your initiative is making a difference— messy —role conflict
- How can I best test out my ideas?
4 stages of knowing have a look at Baxter Magolda
- Why do you want to find this out? What do you hope to learn?
- Personal paradigm—your own set of beliefs and how you intend to approach your research.
- What is your philosophy about learning—behaviourist, constructivist—cognitive or social?
- New Paradigm/ Action research—To find out if my initiative is making a difference-messy –role conflict
Where are you starting from? – give a clearly focused base line.
Action research collecting qualative data people think and feel and reasons why
3 methods attitude statement with 4 options to chose from, focus groups, individual interviews.
- How are you going to gather your data?
- Choose a variety of methods- justify Why? When? Where? How?
‘The more rich and imaginative the data the more light will be shed’
- Questionnaires/ Structured Interviews/ Semi structured interviews
- Narrative-story/ Metaphor/ Pictures-Drawings/ Video
- Observation/ Photographs/ Logs-Diaries/ Transforming Learning
- Quantitative methods/ Focus groups/ Personal construct theory
- Case study/ Content analysis—Grounded theory —– Hypothesis testing
- Consider limitations—Give pros and cons for each method.
- How will you overcome barriers?
- Where are you starting from? –Give a clearly focused baseline.
- Justify the collection of Quantitative and/ or Qualitative data. Refer to Ed research Text
- Are these methods VALID – what right have you got to choose these research tools to answer this question?
- Ethics-anonymity, confidentiality, permission—make children part of research.
- Ethics should be both implicit and explicit throughout as all research is value laden.
Action: (2400 words) Quality of Data* This is what happened
- Describe what you actually did to carry out the study
- How did you ensure that you collected RELIABLE* data?
- How did you process the data?
- Include Raw Data in the Appendix
* It is questionable if Action Research can be RELIABLE since it is personal to you and your class be critical about research.
Chapter 4: The findings/Evaluation (2400 words)
Empirical data are presented to identify major issues and illustrate the complexity of knowledge. Graphs, tables, charts and diagrams are used to identify trends and patterns within and between different sources of data. The strengths and weaknesses of the data should be addressed.
‘What I have found out’
- Put data in order
- Place representative sample in the Appendix
- Analyse your results.
- Comment on accuracy.
- What have you discovered?
- Draw ‘tentative’ conclusions –A.R. ‘This was only true for Class X on Friday pm’
Chapter 5: Analysis, evaluation and discussion (4200 words)
This chapter should systematically summarise, critically analyse and synthesise the data. It should refer to the title of the dissertation and to the literature review however new literature should not be introduced. It should be self-reflexive and reflective, suggesting ways in which the data supported the argument (or not) and how the research could be improved.
Answer the main ‘overarching’ question.
- To what extent has your original question been answered?
- To what extent has your original question not been answered?
- Why do you think they have / have not been answered?
- What did you find out that you were not expecting to find?
- How effective where the research methods in producing reliable data in order to answer your research question?
- How could your research methods be improved upon if this research was repeated?
- Have your original ideas and those of the literature been confirmed or contradicted? Theory and Practice
- How has carrying out this study changed your thinking? This is IMPORTANT
- What can you do now as a teacher that you could not do before you undertook this research?
- Implications for your own teaching/ other staff/ other schools.
- Offer modest proposals
- Questions / Suggestions for further work.
Read through to check spelling, Harvard Index and number pages.
Chapter 6: Conclusions and recommendations
This chapter should summarise the dissertation, challenge theory, suggest possible new areas of research and provide recommendations concerning future practice.