Monthly Archives: June 2010

Thesis, Portfolio, or Professional Project?

The idea of a comprehensive assessment project is to provide what people in program assessment call a “capstone” experience, a chance to bring together the skills students have developed and the knowledge they have acquired in some kind of culminating synthesis that they can share with others and that demonstrates a degree of research skill and professional expertise in the area.  MTL offers three options to fulfill the requirement, and I want to give my opinion about the suitability of each option, given students’ different aims and life circumstances.

We’ve found the professional project to be a great choice for teachers.  The result, often, is a pedagogical unit useful not only for bringing together material studied throughout the program and critically examining and arranging it, but also for providing new curricular options for school districts, community colleges, and so on.

The portfolio is fine for those students who would prefer not to write a thesis and who would like to benefit from a careful critical review of the research and learning process in which they’ve engaged throughout the program. The disadvantage of this option, as with the professional project, is the fact that you have to select two additional courses to complete the degree.

The thesis is a great research and writing challenge.  For those of you with an intense interest in one aspect of your studies, and who love the challenge of producing a long (60 plus pages or so?), multi-chapter study of a topic within the discipline, this is the option.  Traditionally, it’s served as a kind of gateway task for doctoral study.  The disadvantage of this option is that, in the event you decide to abandon a thesis project you’re working on, you might find yourself needing two additional courses to graduate.  If this option appeals to you, take advantage of every course you take in terms of imagining possible thesis topics that could emerge from the material you are studying.  In your 7005 class, you will do a “mock thesis prospectus” which will give you an idea of the strategic thought processes involved in planning a thesis.

I hope this is helpful in getting you thinking about the different options and which might be best for you.

Going live

A special welcome to those of you just joining our M.A. concentration in multicultural and transnational literatures or our graduate certificate program.  It is exciting to see so much interest in our programs, as another cycle begins:  a couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of “hooding” quite a number of new M.A. graduates at our departmental graduation ceremony.  And it was with great pride that I signed and sent the add-on certificates earned by our students, many of them working professionals, who will apply what they’ve learned in their careers and–many of them anyway–who will go on to further graduate study.

Dr. Ellen Arnold, who advises our distance education students, and I have already been fielding questions from many of you, and we have been making plans for an extraordinary year ahead.  MTL is expanding its offerings to undergraduate students by creating new distance education offerings and focusing existing courses on multicultural and transnational writing.  We continue to benefit from the vibrant new approaches brought by faculty members new to our concentration, and our graduate students will appreciate the growing range and scope of our course offerings.

In less than two weeks, I will join several other colleagues in leading a group of students to London.  I’m teaching a course focused on the experience of those who immigrated to that city, particularly after World War II. In advance of our three-week visit, we’re reading novels such as Brick Lane by Monica Ali, Small Island by Andrea Levy, The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon, and Second-Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta, as well as some plays and poetry.  Our concentration is committed to globalizing our curriculum:  incorporating more and varied study abroad and using ECU’s global classroom to connect with students around the world.

It’s a great time to join us!

Rick Taylor