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Unit information: Dissertation (Teach First) in 2015/16

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Unit name Dissertation (Teach First)
Unit code EDUCM0033
Credit points 60
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Kate Hawkey
Open unit status Not open

EDUCM0026, EDUCM0027, EDUCM0028, Future Leaders in Contexts of Change (Teach First) and Independent Self Study (Teach First)



School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The dissertation is the culmination of Masters study and allows participants to consolidate and apply the skills and knowledge they have developed during the Teach First Masters Programme. The participant will choose, plan out and pursue a topic of professional importance in depth creating an original small-scale investigation, working initially with the unit leader and progressively on a one-to-one basis with a supervisor. Originality of the study will stem from its situatedness in that the participant will develop research questions and theoretical tools to address an issue in their current professional setting. By researching the academic and professional literatures relevant to their topic and situation participants will show learning of how to apply insight to their professional setting. The dissertation requires extensive critical reading and the application of study and library research skills. Successful completion of the unit and the dissertation will enable the participant to develop skills in management and organisation alongside data-handling and analysis in order to formulate a coherent, cogently evidenced argument.

The aims of this unit are to enable the participant to:

  • Draw substantively on research methods' training gained in previous units;
  • Design, conduct and write up a small-scale research study which investigates an aspect of educational leadership in challenging circumstances;
  • Develop a set of coherent research aims and questions that drive investigation and writing;
  • Understand and represent a range of viewpoints that link together appropriately theory, methodology and empirical work;
  • Conduct a substantial and critical literature review independently, recognising the main philosophical and methodological positions within social science research in education;
  • Select and design appropriate tools in order to conduct research;
  • Understand and comply with appropriate ethical considerations and procedures
  • Understand and apply academic conventions to produce a dissertation of acknowledged M-level quality;
  • Develop evidence of independent critical reflection as research practitioners and professional educators;
  • Engage with and value the relationship of guidance from a supervisor.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon completion of this unit participants will be able to:

  • recognise the key issues involved in turning good ideas into good dissertations
  • structure and organise the dissertation as a form of educational research report
  • read critically and evaluate research-related documents, which have employed a range of research approaches and methods based on differing epistemologies
  • consider, apply and defend choices of strategy, method and technique
  • write a dissertation that complies with required criteria, standards and protocols.

Teaching details

Dissertation completion and submission need to be feasible within one academic year, although participants may take two; thus, preparation for dissertation will take place in phase 1 and early development of the project in phase 2, with ongoing supervision to completion in phase 3.

Teaching and learning opportunities will include presentations, seminars, small-group work, independent inquiry and pair-work. Participants will be expected to take part in discussions, make presentations to the group and engage fully in activities. We will use the library to search for and explore useful texts and examples of completed dissertations. The teaching room will be a site for seminars, group-work, discussion and presentation. Distance-learning technologies such as Blackboard as a repository and potential networking space and skype as a platform for on-line discussion and supervision will be important.

Typically the phases will be conducted as follows:

Phase 1 - 1 x 2 hour on-line meeting (introductions and set up dissertation proposal) 4 x 1 hour on-line meeting (staged tutor input to research project preparation and discussion) 2 x whole day meetings, designed as ½ day tutor-led and second half group/individual library study (present proposals; topic of research and literature review preparation) Introduction to supervisors lead to monthly 1 hour skype tutorial Total - 21 hours

Phase 2 - 1 x 2 hour on-line meeting (resume and set up plan of pilot project) 4 x 1 hour on-line meeting (staged tutor input to research project development and discussion) 2 x whole day meetings: 1, designed as ½ day tutor-led and second half group/individual library study to prepare pilot study; 2. whole day conference style presentation of pilot study. Supervisors continue monthly 1 hour skype tutorial. Total - 21 hours

Phase 3 - 2 x whole day mini-conference weekend with conference style presentation of field work (20 mins) followed by discussion (10 mins) per participant. Key note speaker and plenary at end. Supervisors continue monthly 1 hour skype tutorial. Total - 15 hours

543 hours of independent self-study

Assessment Details

Submission of a written dissertation of 10,000 to 15,000 words in compliance with university regulations and GSoE M-level dissertation handbook. Preparatory tasks will be used to stage and support participants’ progress with enquiry and will contribute to the overall word-length but will not be assessed separately. These tasks will include:

Phase 1 1a) A dissertation proposal (1,000 words) 1b) A summary of relevant literature and theoretical framework (3,000 words)

Phase 2 A pilot study engaging with methodological contextualisation, design of instruments, analytical priorities, ethical dimensions (4,000 words)

Phase 3 A presentation of fieldwork with initial thoughts on analytical issues and line of argument (audiovisual)

Reading and References

In line with current practice on other programmes, a substantial archive of relevant papers will be built up on Blackboard with links to useful summaries of research in education (e.g.

In addition the following texts are recommended as starting points:

Altrichter, H., Feldman, A., Posch, P. & Somekh, B. (2008, 2nd. edition) Teachers Investigate their Work: An introduction to Action Research across the professions, London: Routledge.

Briggs, A.R.J, Coleman, M and Morrison, M (2012, 3rd edition) Research Methods in Educational Leadership and Management, London: Sage

Creswell, J.W. (2014, 4th edition): Research Design : Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Los Angeles : SAGE Publications.

Crotty, M. (1998) The Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and perspective in the research process. London: Sage.

Denscombe, M. (2003, 2nd edition) The Good Research Guide: For small scale social research projects (2nd edition) Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.) (2011, 4th edition) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage, London

Simons, H. & Usher, R. (Eds.) (2000). Situated Ethics in Educational Research. London: RoutledgeFalmer.