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Effective study tips for your Master of Education

James Davis

A Master of Education is a mandatory qualification for becoming a teacher in Australia. So what can you do to get the most out of it?

Ever since the diploma of education was phased out, the Master of Education has been a premier method of becoming a teacher. It’s a longer course than its ancestor, requiring two years of full time study to complete, with most containing a research component. If you’re already a student in one of these courses, you know this all too well. What you might not know are some of these creative ways you can bolster your ability to succeed in a Master of Education. Most will take some additional effort, but you’ll quickly find them to be a useful way to get even more out of your education and serve your future students.

Study historic education policies

Throughout your research project you’ll be required to develop the theoretical infrastructure governing modern education. To this end you’ll come up with a topic you deem relevant and under the guidance of your supervisor develop a method to test your claims or argue your case. It’s very difficult to do this without some historic context, however. Having a firm understanding of what policies have been implemented across the world past and present and why they do or don’t work is an excellent place to start.

Go out of your way to learn about specific policies, take a guess at how successful they were and then read on to learn what happened. In this way, you can develop your judgement of what has been successful and why to a better extent than if you adhered strictly to readings designated by the course. For instance, you could look into the 1849 law established in New Hampshire, USA allowing the allocation of tax money to public libraries and the effect it had on its population. There are countless examples throughout history of policies yielding positive and negative consequences. Becoming acquainted with them is a worthy pursuit, especially when it comes to completing a research project that may require reference to historical precedent.

This sort of practice is also excellent for refining knowledge of contemporary education policies and systems. Some courses, like the one offered by the University of Adelaide, even have units dedicated to this very thing. Their aim is to inform future teachers of how educational policies are formed and why, so the extra historical context is another invaluable tool you can employ.

Experiment with designing elements of a curriculum

Master level education courses will contain plenty on curriculum development, but putting your mind to the task of actually building one, or at the very least elements of one, is an excellent way to develop. Even if it’s just a lesson designed to teach a small element of one topic, utilising a powerpoint presentation, video, interactive media or otherwise. You will have to think about curriculum building and delivery throughout your career, so starting now and going beyond the required readings and projects of your degree will help you get far more out of it. The discipline you build these pieces of a curriculum around doesn’t matter as much at this stage. What matters most is the act of thinking about the process. What would be the best way of delivering this information? Is this something that I can involve my students in with a practical exercise? If so, how? Should it be individual work or in a group? These are all questions that the previous piece of advice can help you with too. After all, this is partly why theoretical and policy frameworks are taught throughout this degree. So you can apply them.

This piece of advice is best applied intermittently as you gain more knowledge. The same element of a curriculum you may have devised earlier on in the program might be something you wish to alter significantly part way through, and again near the end. It’s a way to measure your growth as an aspiring educator, as well as a thought exercise that can help you apply new knowledge immediately.

Try to use your pedagogical repertoire as soon as possible

In a similar vein to the previous suggestion, applying your knowledge is a surefire way to consolidate it. The problem is the fact you’re not yet qualified to teach in schools, so it may seem as though you’ll have to wait for work placement and preliminary teaching opportunities to use them. Fortunately, this isn’t exactly the case. There are some actions you can take to use your techniques sooner, regardless of which age bracket you aim to teach in. Granted, these will ask some compromises of you (particularly concerning the teaching of adults!) You will find them to certainly be better than nothing, however.

  • Offer to tutor previous courses at university. If you’re doing a Master of Teaching, then the odds are high you’ve studied something else. If your grades were sufficiently good in one or two particular units throughout undergrad, think distinction average or higher, you should have a sound case for getting in. University students can be a far cry from your specialisation, particularly if your focus is primary teaching! This shouldn’t stop you from utilising universal elements of your pedagogical repertoire however. Student-focussed, inquiry-based learning is just as valid an approach with a 19 year old as it is with a 10 year old, given a few… minor alterations in approach! The point of this exercise is to see if you can put your theory into practice.
  • If you have relatives or siblings with children, you could offer to tutor them in relevant subjects if the parents thing it’s necessary. Don’t press the issue, of course. If they accept however, it’s a way to learn just where you stand in your education.

If you’re an experienced teacher looking to upskill or conform to new qualification requirements, this likely isn’t a necessary step, but can still be useful. Although you may be well acquainted with your old teaching practices, this would give you the opportunity to see how the new ones fare and whether or not you’re capable of employing them. Practice is a wonderful way to measure and develop anyone’s abilities, no matter the experience level.

With these pieces of advice, your experience during the Master of Education should be even more rewarding than it is already. The underlying message for each of these is simple: find practical applications quickly for the knowledge you gain and you’ll find yourself better able to use it in the real world, while also gaining a better understanding in an academic context. Good luck!