Standards and Expectations for the M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination


The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to culminate the master’s degree sequence with a summative task that synthesizes and integrates content knowledge and skills with those gained during the M.Ed. program. The intent is for the student to identify his/her focus area in the Master’s courses and to establish a relationship among these areas and an argument formed with an anchor text. The exam provides students an opportunity to demonstrate understandings and competencies that are articulated in the objectives for the Curriculum and Instruction M.Ed. and which capture the ideas and skills of the chosen area of emphasis.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Changes are being made to the comprehensive examination.  This summer (2019) you have a choice in which your argument can be based on an anchor text as described below and in the past OR you can make an argument—develop a thesis—without using an anchor text.  Discuss your choice with your advisor.

Application for M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination

Students are required to submit an application to their advisor for the M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination in the semester before graduation.  If you are graduating in May, your application must be received by February 1st; in August by June 15th, and in December by October 1st.  You are also required to submit an application to the program area coordinator (Susan Mintz) and your advisor.  The application consists of an email that indicates (1) you will or have completed all of the required classes along with grades (if available) for each class; (2) your expected graduation date, and; (3) a statement that says that you have read and understand the requirements of the Comprehensive Examination.  You may also choose to take your comprehensive examination the semester after you have completed your coursework by registering for affiliated status. There is a small fee for affiliated status—less than a one credit class. This option should be discussed with your advisor and the program coordinator.

Description of the Comprehensive Examination

The Curriculum and Instruction M.Ed. comprehensive exam requires students to use the knowledge, understandings, and skills accumulated during the degree program to create a 10- to 12-page paper that uses a piece of text to form a persuasive and logical argument.  The text will be chosen in negotiation with the advisor (an empirical study, a conceptual paper, a book chapter, video, letter to the editor, etc.).  OR students may choose to develop a thesis or argument without the use of an anchor text.  As you read through the following task description remember that you have the option to use an anchor text to formulate your argument OR develop an argument based on your experiences and readings throughout your M.Ed. program.  The comprehensive examination provides an opportunity (through summary, analysis, and synthesis) to respond to the text demonstrating the knowledge and skills gained in your M.Ed. program. You may decide to either agree or disagree with the premise of the text.  You may write your paper in the first person so that you own beliefs and learning experiences help to shape your narrative.  Avoid overly academic or stilted language.

A synthesis is the creation of your position that results from an analysis of the diverse ideas presented in the text and combining these ideas with conceptions you have formed through readings and class discussions.

FOR STUDENTS USING AN ANCHOR TEXT:  Your paper should be anchored by a central thesis that assimilates the key learning objectives as well as central readings and course discussions from both core and emphasis area classes. Some of the ways in which students may choose to respond to the text include: 

  • Arguing why the text is flawed;
  • comparing the text to similar texts on the same topic;
  • contrasting the exam text to others with different perspectives;
  • all or any combination of the following: (1) situating the text into a historical context, thus making the highlighted reading part of a larger view of the topic; (2)critically analyzing the premise of the text, using a clearly defined analytic process (not just pointing out ways in which the text could be different);  and (3) drawing logical and original conclusions between the exam text and specific practices in curriculum, instruction, assessment and/or diversity or in your identified emphasis area (not just repeating any conclusions that the author(s) may present in the text).

FOR ALL STUDENTS:  In all instances, the student should strive to make original insights about the thesis or argument (whether derived from an anchor text or not) and demonstrate that s/he sees the relationship between the given text and the student’s course of study. The paper should clearly exhibit the student’s thinking about a clear and specific argument through:

  1. A central thesis statement orienting readers the relationship between the argument and other readings/texts in the program of study. 
  2. Supporting evidence of the thesis or claim.
  3. Your defense of your argument Incorporates the ideas that demonstrates your understanding of the curriculum, instruction, assessment, and diversity field(s).
  4. An identified conclusion.
  5. Clear and cogent writing.
  6. Accurate and appropriate citations with a minimum of five appropriate citations from different sources that were used during the student’s program.
  7. The use of APA style and formatting (6th edition), including an abstract.  See OWL at Purdue  https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/07/  The title page and abstract page do not count toward the overall page limit.
  8. Appropriate headings and subheadings that make your organizational structure clear.

This comprehensive examination will be evaluated by two faculty members--your advisor and another faculty member assigned by the Curriculum and Instruction program coordinator -- and will be assessed using the evaluation matrix found at the end of this description. Advisors are permitted to provide help with assignment instructions and clarification and with selecting a text or choosing not to select a text, but are not permitted to review drafts ahead of time.  Students are not permitted to seek peer review help from colleagues or writing centers, unless this is part of accommodations for a certified disability or English learner status.  Students needing these or other accommodations should request these services from their advisor.

For Students Choosing an Exam Text

Your M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination is designed to demonstrate your synthesis of the M.Ed. program.  The examination text that you choose to anchor your comprehensive examination is an important component of the comprehensive examination.  It is critical to the formation of the required argument/thesis that is the backbone of your paper. The selection of the exam text requires advisor approval.  Here are some suggestions and information for choosing a text. 

  1. Your text can be a video, work of art, chapter, blog selection, editorial, letter to the editor, book, pamphlet, etc.  It should be something that is published or available to the general public and it should be cited clearly using APA citation style.
  2. Before you choose your text, there are some ways you might narrow down the possibilities.  For one, you might consider what ideas or arguments you developed and/or refined during your M.Ed. program and then choose a text that is related to this idea.  Or, you might choose a text that articulates a thread or idea that was has been important to you over time.  You might think about common themes seen in several of your program courses.  The idea or argument might be about diversity or curriculum or a current debate related to education or any number of possibilities.
  3. Your text should be clearly related to your argument and should be robust enough to serve as a touchstone for reflecting on how your classes have contributed to your understanding of the argument you are pursuing (See the comprehensive examination directions.)
  4. Because there are a number of ways of addressing and analyzing the text in the paper (even before you discuss how your program influenced your thinking and response), you might keep the following processes in mind as you choose the anchor text:
    1. You can compare the text to similar texts on the same topic.
    2. You can contrast the text to others with different perspectives.
    3. You can situate the text into a historical context.
    4. You can critically analyze the text using a specific analytic process (e.g. 5 tips to improve your critical thinking at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dItUGF8GdTw)
    5. You can contrast the exam text to others with different perspectives
    6. Or you can draw logical and original conclusions between the exam text and specific practices in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and/or diversity or in your identified emphasis area and not just repeating the author’s conclusions)
    7. You may disagree with the text and explain what is flawed in it, based on what you have learned in your M.Ed. program

For All Students: Preparing an Argument and Making Links to the Program

Remember that the key to a successful comprehensive examination is a clear thesis—an argument that is gleaned from your experiences/understandings or an anchor text and is the core of your essay.  The preparation of this argument is important and you need to review the big ideas that you have interacted with in your program.  Making explicit links to what you have experienced and learned in your M.Ed. classes is critical for being able to support your argument and your essay should explicitly link your program experiences to your argument.  Read the following rubric carefully during your comprehensive examination process.

In summary, your paper should be anchored by a central thesis that assimilates the key learning objectives as well as central readings and course discussions from both core and area of emphasis classes. 

Submission of Comprehensive Examination

  1. Before you submit your examination, review the M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination Checklist and the Comprehensive Examination Rubric.
  2. Attach a copy of your text to your submission.
  3. Send the examination via email to your advisor and the program coordinator (Susan Mintz at slm4r).
  4. Be sure to keep a copy of the email.

Assessment Rubric for M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination

Criteria

 

 

 

Outstanding

Satisfactory

Unsatisfactory

 

Scholarly Aspects

 

 

 

Central Argument

For summer, 2019, students may choose not to use an anchor text.  However, an appropriate and viable thesis must be provided and supported.

A clear summary of the text is provided with a well-developed, appropriate argument representing field of study, M.Ed. objectives, and exam text.  Nuanced and sophisticated argument; reasonable, well-supported and consistent claim. Vibrant examples.

A clear summary of the exam text is provided with an adequately developed topic or issue relevant to the student’s field of study, M.Ed objectives, and exam text; Includes a cogent and appropriate thesis that is reasonable, consistent, and based on provided evidence and examples.

There is no summary or an inadequate summary of the exam text. Topic or issue is not well developed and is murky and inconsistent along with not central to field of study, M.Ed. objectives and/or exam text.  Support and evidence for ideas are weak; too few details and examples.

Supplemental References (Supporting Texts)

Uses appropriate supplemental references including some from program courses and experiences in thoughtful ways to ground the exam text in either theory and/or practice and are effectively aligned with the central argument

The paper uses one or two appropriate supplemental references to ground the exam text in either theory and/or practice.  The supplemental texts are described and summarized well and are clearly aligned with the central argument.

 

Although supporting texts may be used, the paper does not use supplemental references to ground the exam text in either theory and/or practice.  There is little attention to resources beyond the exam text that are aligned with the central argument.

Support for Claims

Generalizations and conclusions are robust; clearly related to experiences in M.Ed. program and with the exam text and other supplemental sources cited; Show particular insight and depth of understanding of the M.Ed. program.

 

Generalizations and conclusions are largely accurate, robust, and reasonable and consistent with the exam text and other supplemental sources cited; Some explicit connections to the M.Ed. program made through comments about curriculum, instruction, and diversity.

 

Instances of over-generalization and/or inaccurate conclusions that exceed the exam text and other supplemental cited sources; Conclusions are basically unsubstantiated. Little connection to concepts, skills, and experiences in program of study. 

Original Insights

(Synthesis)

Several original and personal insights about an issue/topic are made.  These insights are highly developed and distinctive and are based on conclusions about the program of study and/or anchor text and personal educational experiences.

Some original and personal insights about an issue/topic are made. The insights are accurate and reasonable and are based on conclusions about the program of study and/or anchor text as well as personal educational experiences.

 

No original and/or personal insights about some issue/topic are made.  The paper focuses on summaries or the conclusions of others.  There is no narrative to personal educational experiences both in and outside of the program.

 

Rhetorical Aspects

 

 

 

Clarity of Writing

The writing communicates clearly and elegantly and addresses the task prompt completely. The essay demonstrates sophisticated and accurate vocabulary to good effect. There is a clear, consistent, and appropriate tone throughout that is appropriate to the scholarly audience.

 

The writing communicates effectively and uses varied and accurate vocabulary. The paper answers the text prompt. The tone is appropriate, clear, and mostly consistent and is appropriate to the scholarly audience without using jargon or overly academic vocabulary.

Readers do not always understand what the paper means or how it is related to task directions.

Vocabulary is basic may be inaccurate.  The tone is inconsistent and is not appropriate to a scholarly audience.  An educated reader would not be able to define the argument being presented.

Stylistic Elements

The paper consistently adheres to APA style  including an abstract and accurate and appropriate number of references and citations within the text (i.e. more than five). Headings and subheadings show the logic of the argument.

For the most part, the paper adheres to APA style; includes an abstract and accurate and appropriate references and citations within the text (at least five).  The logic of the argument is supported through headings.

The paper does not adhere to APA may not include an abstract and has too few or inaccurate references and in-text citations. Headings are not used to demonstrate the logic of the argument.

Technical Aspects

 

 

 

Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation

The paper consistently uses proper grammar, correct spelling, and correct punctuation

For the most part, the paper uses proper grammar, correct spelling, and correct punctuation.

In several instances, the paper does not use proper grammar, correct spelling, and/or correct punctuation.

 

 

Decision:

__          The comps are rated as outstanding, this is considered to be a “high pass” and no further edits are required;

__          The comps are rated as satisfactory, this is considered to be a “pass”; minimal edits may or may not be required and are specified below;

__          The comps require revision, this is considered to be a “marginal pass”; edits needed are specified below;

__          The comps are rated as unsatisfactory, and are rated as a “non-pass” status for the reasons outlined below. Please meet with your advisor to review the issues outlined below and make a plan to rewrite. Note: Only one rewriting option is available to the student so it is strongly advised to seek necessary support before the second comprehensive exam administration.