Early Childhood Education: Concluding Experiences

Students may elect to take the comprehensive written and oral examination or write a research thesis to fulfill the concluding experience requirement. Guidelines for the comprehensive examination and the research thesis are available from program faculty. Those electing the thesis option may count thesis credit hours to fulfill elective requirements.

Comprehensive Examination

Format and Source of Questions

The written component of the comprehensive examination will include two parts--a time-limited, closed-book section consisting of two questions and a take-home, open-book section consisting of two questions. These questions will come from both students and faculty. Each student will receive an individualized examination; that is, the four questions posed will vary somewhat from student to student.

At the beginning of spring semester in which students are planning to graduate, they submit five questions to their program advisors. At least one question from a student's list of questions will be selected for that student's time-limited section of the exam. Remaining questions will be generated by program faculty. Faculty may also select from the total set of student-submitted questions to complete each student's individual exam (the final wording of which may be modified).

Closed-Book Section

The first week of April students will come to Morrill Hall by 8:00 am (on a predetermined date) to pick up their time-limited, closed-book exam packets. These packets will contain two questions, to be answered in no more than four hours.

The first question in this part will be framed as a hypothetical situation. Students will be expected to respond to the situation, perhaps in the form of a letter or statement to be addressed to a particular audience, and address both the knowledge base relevant to the issue at hand and the strategies for action necessary to rectify the situation. The second question will address a specific aspect of knowledge in the field of early childhood and early childhood special needs. The focus of at least one of these questions will be drawn from the student's list of questions.

Upon completion of the time-limited portion of the exam, students will submit their responses to the Department receptionist. At that point, they will be given the two take-home questions, to be completed and returned in one week.

Take-Home Section

The take-home part of the written exam will consist of two questions to be answered at home, using whatever resources are appropriate (except collaboration). Each response will be 5-10 pages in length (typed double-spaced), not including references. These two questions will both focus on the translation of theory into practice . Students will be asked to explicate a particular theoretical model in the field of early childhood, suggest ways that the model can be applied in early childhood settings, and describe ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the model.

Exam questions will address issues that cut across ages, settings, and abilities. Students in the Early Childhood Special Needs option will be expected to demonstrate knowledge/expertise related to that subdiscipline in their responses.

Thesis Guidelines

Initial Steps

Students may elect a thesis option as a culminating experience for the M.Ed. in Early Childhood. In order to choose this option, the student must:

  1. demonstrate the requisite academic skills necessary for successful completion of the thesis in a timely fashion;
  2. obtain approval from her/his assigned advisor;
  3. locate an available and appropriate thesis advisor.

Once these steps have been accomplished, the student will

  1. define a question or topic suitable for extensive investigation in consultation with the thesis advisor.
  2. identify at least two additional graduate faculty to serve as a thesis committee; and,
  3. request that the academic advisor initiate the process of appointing the committee through the Graduate School.

Developing a Proposal

The thesis proposal must be approved by the full thesis committee prior to initiation of the investigation. The essential elements in the 10 - 20 page proposal, written in consultation with the thesis advisor, include:

  • statement of the problem;
  • review of relevant literature (theoretical, empirical, practical);
  • statement of hypotheses or guiding questions to be addressed in the investigation;
  • description of methodology including purposes and procedures, subjects and setting, data collection methods and instruments, data analysis strategies; and
  • significance of the study, including potential implications for early childhood education.

Upon completion of the thesis proposal, the student will distribute drafts of the proposal to the full committee, incorporating their feedback into the final version. The student will then make an oral presentation before the full committee. Upon approval of the proposal, the student will proceed with the investigation.

Thesis Hours

Following approval of the proposal, the student will register for EDUC 899 Master's Thesis. The total number of credit hours for the thesis will vary from 6 to 10, and may count as elective credits in the student's program of study. The number of credit hours and the distribution of those credits over one or more semesters will be determined in consultation with the thesis and academic advisors.

Thesis Criteria

A primary determination in the selection of a thesis topic will be its relevance to contemporary issues in the field of early childhood and its potential for contributing to improved practice. A range of appropriate thesis topics and methodologies are acceptable, including qualitative and quantitative approaches to empirical investigation. Data collection may rely primarily on a field-based investigation or the synthesis of existing knowledge leading to new understandings.

Thesis Approval

The student will work closely with the thesis advisor during the investigatory and writing stages of the thesis. Additional committee members will be advised of new issues or changes that arise as a result of the thesis investigation. At such point that the thesis advisor acknowledges that the writing has reached a final draft stage, copies of the thesis will be shared with other committee members for final suggestions. When all committee members have indicated at least a tentative approval of the thesis in written form, a date will be established for an oral thesis defense.

At the defense, the student will make a formal presentation summarizing the original intent of the thesis investigation and the results. Following committee member comments and suggestion, as well as approval of the oral defense, the student will complete all final changes to the thesis, whereupon it will be submitted to the Graduate School.

The Graduate School Thesis Manual will provide additional details regarding the thesis format, citation guidelines, submission dates and procedures.