Thesis and Capstone Requirements for Teaching Programs

At the end of most teaching programs, students complete a capstone project or write a thesis to earn their degree. Both culminating experiences give students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of their field. A student earns credits through their capstone course that count toward the total number of credits required for graduation. Postbaccalaureate programs often give students the option of completing a capstone project instead of writing a thesis. Local schools or community sites may also support capstone projects, and some schools allow a group of students to work together on their project.

At the end of most teaching programs, students complete a capstone project or write a thesis to earn their degree.

Students who opt to complete a capstone project must document their experience and submit a written summary of their work. Learners complete a more research-oriented thesis in addition to regular classes. Writing a thesis often includes an oral presentation or "defense" before a panel of academics familiar with the subject matter of the thesis.

What's the Difference Between a Capstone and a Thesis in Teaching Programs?

Unlike a thesis, a capstone project addresses a practical problem or concern for which the student attempts to find a solution. A capstone project usually consists of an actionable proposal. A thesis, on the other hand, adds to the body of knowledge about much broader issues in the student's field of study. Capstones involve developing a hypothesis, doing the necessary research to prove or disprove the hypothesis, drawing conclusions, and relating these to the core of existing knowledge on the subject matter. Undergraduate programs often include a capstone requirement for graduation, while postgraduate studies may require a thesis.

Teaching Capstone Format

Most schools assign a minimum of three credits to an undergraduate capstone course. Students must select a topic or problem to study and resolve, typically within the course of a semester. Capstone projects often examine issues and concerns with a narrow focus.

The final form of a capstone project varies. However, students must often submit 10-15 pages describing their project and outcome. Most graduate-level programs that allow students to complete a capstone project instead of writing a thesis give students up to two semesters to fulfill the requirement.

Choosing Your Teaching Capstone Topic

A capstone project gives students the opportunity to apply classroom learning to practical situations related to their study. Capstone topics often connect to the concerns and challenges that currently exist in the field, with the course's professor advising the project. However, some programs allow experts in the student's capstone topic to act as an adjunct adviser for the project. As a result, students often find networking opportunities as they work on their capstone projects. These connections may benefit students after graduation in terms of pursuing the project further, possible employment, or professional referral.

Completing Your Teaching Capstone

Once you narrow your options, meet with your capstone adviser to discuss the project.

Every capstone project begins with choosing a topic. If a subject particularly interests you, list that as your top choice for the capstone. Explore other current issues in the field and come up with one or two additional areas to investigate. Once you narrow your options, meet with your capstone adviser to discuss the project. He or she can guide you in further sharpening your focus and coming up with the final framework or design for your project. Some programs permit students to carry out their capstone projects in their place of work. Find out if your program allows for this, as it can help you manage your time more efficiently.

Presenting Your Teaching Capstone

Undergraduate capstone projects often require a presentation before a panel of three to four members. The student's adviser sits on the panel, along with the person who worked closely with the student in the field. Sometimes, the department head and other academic personnel with a connection to the project or the student also joins. Some schools hold these panel presentations within the context of a bigger event and may make the presentation open to the public. On occasions, students choose the manner of presentation, which largely depends of the nature of the project. For example, they could demonstrate a teaching method by conducting a mini-class or present their findings through a video or slideshow.

How Is a Teaching Capstone Graded?

Schools follow their own procedure in grading capstone projects. As part of a course, capstone projects can result in a failing grade but may depend on how the student performs in the other parts of the course. Most schools allow students to retake a capstone course. However, since students receive a clear grading rubric before they begin their project, most capstone projects turn out to be successful and deeply rewarding endeavors.

Teaching Thesis Format

Most graduate-level programs give students up to a year to complete their thesis -- from topic proposal and presentation to the final defense. A thesis is not usually administered as a course and must be completed before a student can graduate from a program. Most schools require students to enroll in a research course before beginning their thesis, as a thesis requires research-oriented written communication. Students work on their thesis on their own, rather than in groups, and remain under the close supervision of an academic adviser.

Thesis Topics for Education Majors

Deciding on a master of education thesis topic can prove a daunting task. The vast and vibrant education field develops and changes at every level. It can benefit you to begin with a topic that holds your interest. After all, you will work with this subject for a year -- sometimes longer. A thesis should add to the existing body of knowledge in your field, so choose a topic that you feel you can examine in fresh light. Thesis topics for education majors vary and can include not only current issues in the field, but also future directions in light of technology, federal policies, and global factors.

Completing Your Teaching Thesis

In addition to selecting from a range of education master's thesis topics, you will also need to choose your adviser carefully.

In addition to selecting from a range of education master's thesis topics, you will also need to choose your adviser carefully. First of all, your adviser should be knowledgeable about your thesis topic to guide you properly throughout the process. Second, you will meet with your adviser several times during the school year, which requires a good working relationship. The adviser's input is key to a successful thesis writing experience. Your adviser needs to approve your thesis topic before you can begin your research. It remains standard practice for students to report their progress to their advisers at regular intervals during the thesis writing process. This may involve pre-set times (once a month) or whenever the student completes the research and writing needed for a specific section of the thesis.

Presenting Your Teaching Thesis

During a thesis defense, a panel asks questions to ascertain your mastery of the thesis subject matter. It does not involve arguing or defending the merits of your work. In most instances, a defense proves largely formality since the adviser has already evaluated the paper many times during the work process, and the panel receives your work prior to the defense. As with a capstone project panel, a thesis panel typically comprises of the adviser and other faculty members with a deep familiarity with the thesis topic. Most schools do not open a thesis defense to the public.

How Is a Teaching Thesis Graded?

At the beginning of the thesis writing process, your adviser will instruct you on the thesis evaluation process to help you better interpret writing standards. Thesis grades come in the form of quality evaluation -- excellent, very good, good, or satisfactory -- instead of a letter grade. A good adviser will not let you defend a thesis until he or she approves all materials, so failing a thesis defense rarely occurs.