Education Dissertation Topics

Education Dissertation Topics

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Example education dissertation topic 1:

An analysis of the effects of the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees on a recruiting university: A London Metropolitan University case study

There are two types of university within the UK higher education sector: recruiting universities (those that must actively seek out their potential undergrads) and applicant-rich universities (oversubscribed throughout subject area). The introduction of £9,000 tuition fees has already resulted in a number of changes to the UK HE sector undergraduate intake including, for example, a reduction in the number of GAP years undertaken. This dissertation chooses to look at a specific recruiting university and through an analysis of various intake trends seeks to evaluate the effect that the introduction of £9,000 fees has had on one of the least well performing (in terms of The Times league tables) institutions in the sector.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Deardon, L., Fitzsimons, E. and Wyness, G. (2011) The impact of tuition fees and support on university participation in the UK. IFS Working Paper, London: Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Wilkins, S., Shams, F. and Huisman, J. (2012) ‘The decision-making and changing behavioural dynamics of potential higher education students: The impacts of increasing tuition fees in England', Educational Studies, not yet published.

Example education dissertation topic 2:

Student perceptions in a market led educational sector: An evaluation of student service expectations - a comparative study between 1st, 2nd a 3rd years at the University of Birmingham

As undergraduates travel through their course of study their expectations of the services delivered by their university alters. The need for greater IT equipment, longer library opening hours and other support services are just three examples. The rise in the number of libraries now operating either 24/7 or 24/7 during the examination period is testimony to the change in student demands over the last twenty years. Moreover, the marketization of places and the increase in tuition fees has increased the potential for students to see themselves as purchases of a service and to, accordingly, demand that their wants are noted and addressed. Using primarily new primary data collected through interviews this dissertation analysis changing perceptions of needs at the University of Birmingham - a university that, in a time of student economic hardship, has awarded its own VC a 7% pay rise. This is a contemporary study that though focused on a specific redbrick institution has implications for the sector as a whole.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Clinton, M. (2009) ‘Managing students' and teachers' expectations of higher education: A psychological contract approach', Higher Education Research Network Journal, London: King's Learning Institute.
  • Shaver, B. (2012) ‘Meeting undergraduate students' expectations of the university experience', Thesis, California State University, available at: https://csusm-dspace.calstate.edu/handle/10211.8/119 [accessed 26 May 2012].

Example education dissertation topic 3:

‘Predominantly white, Anglo-Saxon and Euro-centric': to what extent does a comparative analysis of take-up rates of GCSE History within inner-city Bradford and Bristol support this contention?

An analysis of the GCSE History syllabi offered by the three major examination boards reveals that the majority of options offered for study revolve around Britain and Europe. Further, whilst there are non-European options (for instance Medicine through time and Native Americans) analysis of the number of students taught each option reveals that well in excess of 80% of students are taught a Euro-centric and British syllabus. This dissertation asks whether this preponderance for ‘white' study has an effect on the number of minority students choosing to study the subject at GCSE level and does so by a racial analysis of student uptake numbers in two cities with very different ethnic profiles: Bradford and Bristol. This is therefore a dissertation that combines education theory, issues of diversity and statistical analysis.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Haydn, T. (2011) ‘Secondary history: Current themes', in, Davies, I. (ed.) Debates in history teaching. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Harris, R. and Haydn, T. (2012) ‘What happens to a subject in a ‘free market' curriculum? A study of secondary school history in the UK', Research Papers in Education, Vol. 27(1), pp. 81-101.

Example education dissertation topic 4:

A literature and practice based review: Should deaf children be educated within the deaf community?

There is a school of thought that sees the inclusion of greater number of deaf children into mainstream secondary education as discriminatory. This is because it removes such children from their cultural heritage. At the same time, there is, within the maintained sector, a limited number of resources for SEN provision. Given the inclusion agenda adopted by the previous Labour administration this dissertation addresses the contrary needs of inclusion versus parental choice within a context of ensuring the best education provision for individual children.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Armstrong, D. (2005) ‘Reinventing inclusion: New Labour and the cultural politics of special education', Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 31(1), pp. 135-151.
  • Norwich, B. (2008) Dilemmas of difference, inclusion and disability. London: Routledge.

Example education dissertation topic 5:

A statistical comparison of the rate of top grade awarded at school and university levels from 1979: A consistent lowering of secondary standards?

The suggestion that ‘A-levels are getting easier' is not only perennial but also tends to be based on a comparison of previous examination papers. This dissertation takes an alternative view of this problem by proposing a hypothesis. ‘If students are performing better (rather than their grades being artificially boosted) then ceteris paribus, there should be a corresponding rise in the awarding of top grades at the next stage of their education career'. After all, there is a correlation between ever increasing A grades at GCSE level and at A Level. Accordingly, through the analysis of statistical data on A levels and degree classifications this dissertation seeks to provide an answer to the aforementioned perennial question.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Fazackerley, A. and Richmond, T. (2009) ‘Science Fiction? Uncovering the real level of science skills at school and university', Policy Exchange, Vol. 22, pp. 1-23.
  • Hodgen, J., Brown, M., Küchemann, D. and Coe, R. (2010) ‘Mathematical attainment of English secondary school students: A 30-year comparison', Working Paper, King's College London/University of Durham.
  • Mattei, P. (2012) ‘Raising educational standards: National testing of pupils in the United Kingdom, 1988-2009', Policy Studies, not yet published.

Example education dissertation topic 6:

An inadequate preparation for degree level courses: A study of student perceptions of the appropriateness of AS and A2 levels for undertaking Arts and Humanities courses at the University of Warwick.

The modularisation of A-levels and the shortening of examinations has led, within a number of arts and humanities questions, to a reliance on short answer questions at both AS and A2 level. In contrast, at university level there is an expectation that students will be able to coherently marshal their arguments into free flowing prose and produce an array of 3,000 - 5,000 word essays. An increasing academic body of literature suggests that the leap between the writing requirements of A level and undergraduate study has grown and that, accordingly, the new A levels do not adequately prepare students for the rigours of independent study in the manner that the old pre-1999 A levels did. Using interviews, statistical data and a review of literature this dissertation adopts a mixed method approach to answering this question.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gallagher-Brett, A. and Canning, J. (2011) ‘Disciplinary disjunctures in the transition from secondary school to higher education study of modern foreign languages: A case study from the UK', Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, Vol. 10(2), pp. 171-188.
  • Maunder, R., Gingham, J. and Rogers, J. (2010) ‘Transition in Higher Education: Exploring the experiences of first and second year psychology undergraduate students', Working Paper, British Psychological Society.

Example education dissertation topic 7:

National Curriculum History - ‘Could do better'?

At the 2010 Conservative Party Conference, the new Coalition Government's Education Secretary, Michael Gove, informed delegates that Professor Simon Schama would advise ministers on overhauling the History National Curriculum (HNC) to ensure that no pupil leaves school without learning ‘narrative British History' (Sparrow and Vasagar, 2010). These two announcements, and the pending White Paper, suggest that the HNC is set - again - to undergo profound change. Notwithstanding the introduction of Curriculum 2008 (which was essentially a revamping of Curriculum 2000), such a profound change to the manner, purpose and subject matter delivered by the teaching of History within primary and secondary schools in England and Wales would result in the HNC being changed for the fifth time since 1988, when the then Education Secretary, Kenneth Baker, introduced the Education Act (1988, No 1459, C 55). This dissertation explores the proposals for change and the results that they are likely to have upon the teaching of the subject within the classroom.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gove, M. Rt. Hon. (2010) ‘All pupils will learn our island story', Conservative Party [online]. Available from: http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2010/10/Michael_Gove_All_pupils_will_learn_our_island_story.aspx [accessed 21 May 2012].
  • Haydn, T. (2012) ‘“Longing for the past”: Politicians and the history Curriculum in English schools, 1988-2010', Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society, Vol. 4(1), pp. 7-25.
  • Higgins, C. (2010) ‘Right wing historian Niall Ferguson given school curriculum role' The Guardian [online]. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/30/niall-ferguson-school-curriculum-role [accessed 21 May 2012].

Example education dissertation topic 8:

An analysis of the reasons cited to explain the growing number of university ‘dropouts' within both the 1992 and Russell Groups of universities.

Within the statistics published by universities each year are the dropout rates of undergraduates. Using Freedom of Information protocols this dissertation will firstly obtain numbers of drop outs for a range of individual courses. These figures will then be compared across institutional types and senior academic members of staff interviewed as to why the rates of students dropping out on certain courses and within certain universities fluctuate whilst with others they are more constant. There is a number of data protection and ethical issues that need to be addressed within this study and these would form a substantial part of a methodology chapter.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hovdhaugen, E. and Aamodt, P.O. (2009) ‘Learning environment: Relevant or not to students' decision to leave university?' Quality in Higher Education, Vol. 15(2), pp. 177-189.
  • Jackling, B. and Natoh, R. (2011) ‘Student engagement and departure intention: An Australian university perspective', Journal of Further and Higher Education, Vol. 35(4), pp. 561-579.

Example education dissertation topic 9:

Citizenship within the classroom: An investigation as to why pupils should study it.

The decision to introduce formal citizenship education into the secondary classroom is, in many ways, a further revamp of previous citizenship-inspired programmes such as PSHE: Personal, Social and Health and Education. In an increasingly diversified education system this dissertation evaluates the core curricular aspects of the Citizenship syllabus and assess through the conducting of questionnaires with KS3 pupils their beliefs as to why they study the course. These are then contrasted with the intentions of those within the political and educational elites who commissioned the subject.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gearon, L. (ed.) (2009) Learning to teach Citizenship in the secondary school: A companion for the student teacher of Citizenship (2nd edn). London: Routledge.
  • Osler, A. (ed.) (2005) Teachers, human rights and diversity: Educating citizens in multicultural societies. Stoke on Trent: Trentham.

Example education dissertation topic 10:

Health care education: Facilitating problem-based learning with inexperienced students.

Though there are clear areas of similarity and overlap in the teaching of adults and children, there are also significant differences. This is where a sound grasp of the theory and methods of facilitation underlined by andragogy is needed so as to maximise the learning potential of each adult learner. The specific challenge faced by educators that is addressed by this dissertation is how best to ensure active participation of all adult learners within a group-work/role play exercise: this particular curriculum task moulds the need to solve a problem based learning outcome with the need to work successfully in a group environment. Using a range of theories as well as qualitative research this dissertation provides a practical guide to best practice of andragogy.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • McClimens, A., Bosworth, D., Brewster, J. and Nutting, C. (2012) ‘Contemporary issues in the training of UK health and social care professionals — Looking after people with a learning disability', Nurse Education Today, not yet published.
  • Merriam, S. B. (2001), Andragogy and Self-Directed Learning: Pillars of Adult Learning Theory. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2001: 3-14.
  • Pratt, D. D. (1993), Andragogy after twenty-five years. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 1993: 15-23.

Example education dissertation topic 11:

An evaluation of the effectiveness of ‘traffic lighting' in improving classroom management: A case study of two ‘at risk' schools in Coventry

As a means of classroom discipline, the ‘traffic light' approach espoused by Young has, too many within the sector, revolutionised classroom management. Allowing the immediate focusing of additional resources upon children most in need of support, the traffic light system not only empowers the practitioner and the learner (on task) but also enables immediate informal assessment to be carried out in the classroom setting. This dissertation looks at the positive effects that the introduction of the system has had with specific regard to two schools on the ‘at risk' register in Coventry and evaluates them against national benchmark figures.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ginnis, P. (2002) The teacher's toolkit: Raise classroom achievement with strategies for every learner. Carmarthen: Crown House.
  • Marquardt, M. (2006) Action learning. Reston, VA: ASTD.
  • McKenna, N. (2005) Daring to dream: Raising the achievement of 14 to 16 year old asylum-seeking and refugee children and young people. London: Refugee Council.
  • Young, E. (2006) ‘Exploring formative assessment: some approaches and techniques to reflect on'. Highland Virtual Learning Community [online] Available at: http://www.hvlc.org.uk/ace/aifl/docs/highlandmodel/ExploringFormativeAssessmentPractices.pdf [accessed 26 May 2012].

Example education dissertation topic 12:

Towards pupil-centred learning; what benefits can ‘thinking-partners' and ‘two stars and a wish' have upon the setting of realistic and attainable goals for individual learners

Cumulatively, ‘thinking-partners' and ‘two stars and a wish' enable pupils to take a more proactive and dynamic approach towards their own educational achievement. The former involves peer group teaching and assistance whereas the later, in contrast to more traditional approaches of marking, gives specific targets for future improvement. Evaluating pupils perceptions | (along with those of seasoned practitioners) this dissertation evaluates the pedagogical theories behind both techniques through actual classroom observations and interviews - thereby synthesising theory with practical application.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Moon, B. and Mayes, A. S. (1994) Teaching and learning in the secondary school. London: Routledge.
  • Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (2007) National Curriculum 2007. London: QCA.
  • Torrance, H. and Pryor, J. (2001) ‘Developing formative assessment in the classroom: Using research to explore and modify theory', University of Sussex British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 27(5), pp. 615-631. 

Example education dissertation topic 13:

With 20% of pupils on Special Needs - is ‘special needs' now in ‘special measures'?

One in five pupils is, as of May 2012, now regarded as having some form of ‘special needs'. The number of pupils with individual leaning plans has however not grown as significantly over the last ten years. Questioning the underlying assumptions of special needs provision, this dissertation evaluates whether a change of approach is now needed in the recording and assessment of pupils ‘special needs'. In so doing, it argues that resources need to be focused more on those with the most challenging learning difficulties whilst others need to be encouraged to take greater responsibility for their own learning progression: through the re-introduction of more traditional responses to perceived difficulties in grasping curriculum matters.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Dyson, A. and Gallannaugh, F. (2008) ‘Disproportionality in special needs education in England', Journal of Special Education, Vol. 42(1), pp. 36-46.
  • Warnock, M. and Norwich, B. (2010) Special educational needs: A new look. London: Continuum.

Example education dissertation topic 14:

An analysis of the case for introducing payment by results within the secondary education sector

With the exception of the London weighting, teachers within the maintained sector are paid according to a national pay scale. There is no incentive within that scale to either improve subject knowledge beyond that which one takes into the classroom. Neither is there any additional reward to those whose classes are deemed ‘outstanding' by Ofsted. Whilst noting that catchment areas differ in socio-economic terms this dissertation asks whether the time has come to introduce ‘payments by results' in which teachers would be rewarded for the ‘value added' contribution that they make to children. This is therefore a dissertation that brings together concepts in the assessment of children (value added) with longer standing political issues regarding performance and centralised pay scales.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bradley, S., Johnes, G. and Millington, J. (2001) ‘The effect of competition on the efficiency of secondary schools in England', European Journal of Operational Research, Vol. 135(3), pp. 545-568.
  • Lavy, V. (2007) ‘Using performance-based pay to improve the quality of teachers', The Future of Children,Vol. 17(1), pp. 87-109.

Example education dissertation topic 15:

‘The rise of the perpetual student?' - An analysis of the extent to which the introduction of tuition fees has led to a marketization of degrees in which it is the best interests of a university never to fail a student

Though the majority of undergraduates take three years to complete their degrees there are, according to official statistics, a growing number who either change courses twice or the repeated use of ‘mitigating circumstances' take upwards of five or six years to complete their first full course. The number of students falling into both categories has risen markedly since the introduction of tuition fees under the previous government. This dissertation charts the rise in numbers and also interviews a number of students who have either had to repeat years twice or changed their mind as to their chosen study. This dissertation also interviews course directors and through so doing seeks to answer the question as to the extent to which the rise in such ‘perpetual students' has been motivated either by a fear of graduating and therefore having to pay back tuition fees or by the fact that students now increasingly see themselves as consumers of higher education.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Guskey, T.R. (2000) ‘Grading policies that work against standards...and how to fix them', NASSP Bulletin, Vol. 84(620), pp. 20-29.
  • Lieberman, D.A. and Remedios, R. (2007) ‘Do undergraduates' motives for studying change as they progress through their degrees?' British Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 77(2), pp. 379-395.

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