Completing an M.Ed. as a full-time teacher is a daunting prospect: we all have other commitments and a busy schedule. Many people I have spoken to have said that they can’t imagine doing an M.Ed. due to the pressure of other deadlines. As teachers, we have planning, developing, meetings and marking to think about too, and the thought of something else can seem overwhelming. However, I found the M.Ed. to be a positive experience and, done right, it should be fulfilling and valuable.
I started the course straight after my student year at a Scottish University. The university provided an opportunity for PGDE students to gain Masters credits whilst completing the student year. These credits meant that I could complete the course in a shorter timeframe and it also meant that I did not have as much to worry about when I was teaching full-time.
The course is not easy, but it is not supposed to be. It is an opportunity to learn more about education and think about your own personal interests within it. If you are interested in doing it ‘at some point’ my advice would be to commit yourself to it now; there are flexible options available and it can be done part-time.
The aspect of the course which, I felt, required the most attention was the 15,000-word dissertation. For this part of the course, I submitted a proposal and was then allocated a supervisor based on the specific area I was interested in. Most of my advice will focus on the dissertation as it was the most challenging, and rewarding, part of the M.Ed.
Before starting the M.Ed. my top tip is to make sure you are organised. You will need to be able to meet deadlines, and with a full-time job balancing everything can be difficult. Everyone handles workload differently, so the best way is to make sure you get the balance right for you. Make sure you check your emails and the university’s website regularly for updates. I would also advise getting a folder to keep everything you need in. This is useful as you can always look back at the work you completed the previous year – you might also get inspiration for your dissertation topic!
Read the Handbook (Dissertation)
Reading the handbook is very important as it will answer a lot of your questions before you begin. It will tell you the structure of the dissertation and give you information regarding word counts, references and deadlines. I constantly referred back to the handbook when I was writing to make sure I was on the right track. Also, the handbook will often have templates for submitting pieces of work (the proposal etc.) these will need to be read thoroughly and filled out correctly. In addition, you will also find out about the ethic approval requirements of the university. Please remember if you are working with children, you need to get permission from their parents and the school before you can begin your investigation.
Keep in Touch with your Supervisor (Dissertation)
This is something that I, on reflection, wish I had done more of. Please remember that your supervisor is an experienced academic who is there to guide you through the process. The more you keep in touch with them, the more support you can expect back. Make sure you set up regular meetings through email and don’t be scared to ask them about elements of the thesis you are unsure about. Mentors are also there to read short sections of your dissertation before you submit it; they can give you advice on reading and writing critically. However, remember they are busy people and you will need to make sure you are organised and keep in touch with them. It is also a good idea to keep a record of the meetings you have had and the focus of the meetings. This means you can refer to back to the conversations you have had and think about the progress you have made.
Choose your Focus (Dissertation)
This is your chance to choose an area you are interested in learning more about it through in-depth independent research. The dissertation will build on the skills and understanding gained from previous modules. There will be many areas to think about such as inclusion, policy and practice and sustainability. An idea is to revisit the work you completed on previous modules and see if there is anything that would require further investigation. Also think about your current career and professional development. An interest may derive from something you want to achieve in the future or something you want to develop now. However, make sure your you don’t choose an area that is too wide as you do have a word count which will be around 15,000.
Read Widely BEFORE you Start Writing (Dissertation)
If I could turn back the clock, this is the advice I would give myself. As far as possible don’t prejudge your research before you have done your reading. That will focus you on an echo chamber that will support your initial thoughts and not investigate research which might oppose you. You must make sure that you read evidence supporting your investigation and opposing it. By being impartial, it will be easier for you to think about the research question(s) and the focus of your dissertation. Ensure your research questions derive from the reading, rather than from assumptions based on anecdotes or your own beliefs. Remember this should enjoyable and interesting: give yourself time to read and always note down any questions which stem from the reading you are doing.
These are just a few tips that I would give to anyone starting the M.Ed. There is much more to think about and I’m happy to write another blog with more advice and reflections – if that would be of interest!