MA Work Project Module Development

Employability & Enterprise, Postgraduate studies

Brief description

The aim of this project was to create a template for a module allowing students studying for an MA in English to produce an independently conceived project based on and in their place of work.

Background

The idea for the project arose from conversations with students on two MA courses: the University of Glamorgan’s MA in Literature, Culture and Society and University College Worcester’s joint History/English MA in Nineteenth Century Studies. Most of the students on these courses are studying part-time whilst following full-time careers in secondary or further education, and it is therefore natural for them to seek connections between their MA studies and their own classroom practice. The development of the Work Project Module was designed to investigate the potential transfer of learning to the workplace.

Project design

The issues at stake were explored through questionnaires, focus groups, consultations and literature reviews. During the focus groups stage, the project leaders consulted not only with the MA students, but with practising teachers in a number of schools in Worcestershire and South Wales.

Key findings

Respondents saw several potential benefits to their teaching practice from undertaking a work-based project and thought it would give them time to reflect on how best to link their MA with their teaching. They were less certain, however, about how the module might benefit their MA. Students also expressed views on how the module should reflect the ‘postgraduateness’ of their level of study and reflect the ‘Englishness’ of their subject of their study. Concerns about the possibility of the module becoming too ‘educational’ were raised. With regard to assessment, a combination of an oral presentation and extended essay emerged as the most favoured method. Support from the university and the employer was an emotive issue for many respondents. Several were concerned that academic support would be limited given the specialised nature of projects, and different views were expressed with regard to the desirability of support from peers, senior colleagues or managers within schools. Nevertheless, all respondents felt strongly that support for the project within the workplace was essential at some level.

Learning outcomes

The module template which emerged from the project (available in the report) attempts to address both the concerns of the respondents and the suggestions of scholars working within the area of work-based provision in higher education. It should prove a useful starting point for any English academic wishing to develop a work-related learning module within their own MA courses. Although designed largely for those in the teaching professions and for MA courses, it could, with some alteration, also be applicable to other workplaces and to undergraduates and the report discusses some of the issues in doing this.

Report

Project Leader

Dr Martin Willis
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Glamorgan
Pontypridd
Wales
CF37 1DL

Research period

October 2003 to July 2004