How to Approach the Summative Assessment: ‘Theory for the Job: Comparing (theory 1) and (theory 2) to understand (issue)

Modern Educational Thought, 2019-20.

How to Approach the Summative Assessment:

Theory for the Job: Comparing (theory 1) and (theory 2) to understand (issue)

The assessment for this course will consist of a critical essay of 4,000-4,500 words addressing the following task:

Choose a contemporary educational issue that interests you and explain why it matters with reference to social justice and equity models and principles. Draw on both primary and secondary sources to outline two theoretical approaches from the course that could contribute to a deeper understanding of this issue. Explain how each theory’s concepts and arguments might relate to your issue. From this analysis, build an argument for why one approach offers more explanatory power for this particular issue. 

This assessment task is designed to walk you through the phases involved in theoretical work behind any good piece of educational research or scholarship. This kind of thinking might help in your dissertation as well.

We can break this assignment into three steps:

Step 1 Choose a contemporary educational issue that interests you and explain why it matters with reference to social justice and equity models and principles. 

 

Step 2 Draw on both primary and secondary sources to outline two theoretical approaches from the course that could contribute to a deeper understanding of this issue. Explain how each theory’s concepts and arguments might relate to your issue.

 

Step 3 From this analysis, build an argument for why one approach offers more explanatory power for this particular issue.

 

It will help to structure your paper into these sections, using headings and sub-headings and paragraphing to organise clear, purposeful steps in your argument.

Here’s some guidance for each step:

Step 1: Choose a contemporary educational issue that interests you and explain why it matters with reference to social justice and equity models and principles. 

 

 

Think about educational questions or problems that intrigue or worry you. This might be the question or problem driving your dissertation, or something else.

You could consider educational ‘big themes’ as a starting point and think about how your issue resonates with one or more of them. For example:

  1. Education’s contribution to social change and continuity
  2. Explaining educational purposes and policy
  3. Explaining curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment
  4. Explaining learning and the role of language
  5. Explaining educational populations

Choose an issue that involves some dimension or problem of social justice and equity. Social justice and equity were presented in the first lecture as the core values and everpresent themes that cut across all other theoretical themes in educational theory. However, don’t forget that the topic of social justice and equity has its own theoretical debates, and competing models. Any thinking in educational research will need to consider social justice and equity and reflect on how to theorise these values as necessary context for this first step.

In your paper, be sure to briefly outline your particular issue of interest, how social justice and equity are implicated, then explain or justify why your problem matters in the field of education.

Here is an example of an issue: How does a student’s home language impact on their capacity to access the curriculum and what are the implications for migrant or minority populations? This is the ‘contemporary settings’ part. This issue could be understood through the themes of ‘Populations’,’ Language or learning’, or ‘Curriculum, pedagogy and assessment’. It will also implicate considerations of social justice and equity. You don’t need to solve the problem in this paper – your job is to bring theory to help you to better understand the issue. You will go on later in the paper (Step 3) to argue that one theoretical perspective within the theme offers a more powerful or productive way to understand your issue.

Some other examples:

  • The Scottish Government’s policy on closing the resilient gap in educational attainment between the most advantaged and most disadvantaged groups in society.
  • The growing influence of the OECD and its PISA tests on the purposes of school education.
  • The underrepresentation of minority group women in higher education.

You might draw on a few references to present your issue and its social justice and equity considerations but keep the majority of your paper for the theoretical steps that follow.

 

Step 2: Draw on both primary and secondary sources to outline two theoretical approaches from the course that could contribute to a deeper understanding of this issue. Explain how each theory’s concepts and arguments might relate to your issue. 

 

Select two or more theoretical approaches that have been introduced in the course. Use the recommended course readings for the theories and theorists that we have covered in the course. Remember, it’s not how many references you include, but how deeply you understand the theory. The word count does not include your references for this assignment.

It is important that you include both PRIMARY sources and SECONDARY sources:

Primary sources (the primary texts) are the original texts by the theorists we have studied, such as Bourdieu, Nussbaum, Durkheim, Marx and Foucault. These can be difficult, but it is important that you start to work with primary texts at Masters level.

Secondary sources are other authors writing about the theories of Bourdieu, Nussbaum, Durkheim, Marx, Foucault, and so on. Importantly, secondary authors may also use theory from the primary authors and apply this theory to questions and issues in education. You can learn a lot from this because secondary authors often explain the theory (the primary text) in a helpful way.

Summarise your understanding of Theory 1, in terms of its key concepts, how these relate to each other, and how they relate to your issue. Synthesise what you’ve learnt from both the primary and secondary texts you read.

Then do the same for Theory 2.

Make sure that you carefully define each theoretical concept and explain how the concepts connect to build the theory.

Step 1 and 2 will be graded in relation to Intended Learning Outcome, 1 and 2:

  1. Demonstrates understanding of the selected approaches in relation to the selected theme.
  2. Draws on both primary and secondary literature productively.

Step 3: From this analysis, build an argument for why one approach offers more explanatory power for this particular issue.

 

Having outlined and explained two or more theoretical approaches that help you understand your issue in the preceding section, the final section of the paper asks you to make an argument for selecting one approach – your preference – based on what is described as ‘explanatory power.’ In other words, you need to compare/contrast how the theories help explain your particular problem, then argue why one theoretical approach offers a better, more insightful or more valuable explanation.

Step 3 will be graded in relation to ILO 3 and 4:

  1. Critically differentiates the selected approaches from each other, in terms of their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Presents a cogent, well-structured and scholarly argument, to articulate and defend a preference.

Checklist for MET Assignments

 

 

Have you provided a short introduction? (please note that this should be quite short)

 

Have you addressed all parts of the assignment task? (steps 1-3)

 

 Have you made your own preference clear and argued for it logically?

 

 Is there a conclusion that draws the discussion together and provides an ending?

 

Have you removed your name from every page and replaced it with your student number?

 

Have you used font size 12 point?

 

Is the text double or 1.5 spaced, with 1-inch (2.54cm) margins?

 

Have you provided a word count?

 

 Have you numbered each page?

 

 Have you checked that each citation (e.g. Smith, 2008) in the text has a date and that its reference appears in full in the reference list?

 

Have you checked that each end reference appears in the text?

 

 Have you used Harvard or APA format and conventions consistently?

 

 Are your references in alphabetical order?

 

 Do all direct quotes in the text have page numbers?

 

 Have you paragraphed your text (one sentence is not a paragraph) and created clear links between the paragraphs?

 

 Have you checked spelling and read your text out loud for accuracy and sense?

 

Have you provided a cover sheet with the Course Name? (Modern Educational Thought), your Student ID number? (Not your name), the word count? (Excluding references)