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Culminating Project

The final project is a product of learning systematically developed during the student’s time in the MA program. The completed project will serve as a reference/source instrument for the student as well as those individuals involved in the same academic discipline.

The quality of work is a major consideration in judging acceptability. The finished product must evidence originality, organization, clarity of purpose, critical analysis, accuracy and completeness of documentation. Independent thinking should characterize every aspect of the project; mere cataloging, compilation, description, or other superficial procedures are not adequate. There should be a theoretical foundation for all projects, obtained from the literature written about the given subject matter.

Committee Formation

Each student is responsible for setting up their individual advisory committee. After deciding which option and topic to pursue, the student contacts a member of the graduate faculty who does work in that area to determine his/her interest/availability to serve as the committee chair. Together, the two then come up with possible additional members for the committee. The advisory committee is comprised of at least two members; the committee chair must come from the graduate faculty in the Department of World Languages and Cultures. At times, a third committee member may be warranted, if that member would bring additional guidance or expertise to the project (for example, a member from outside of the Department of Foriegn Languages and Literatures). The student contacts the other potential member(s) of the committee, describing their project, and determining if they are willing to serve on the committee. The committee formation is completed online by the student using the MyPack portal.

Note: Students who plan to pursue a PhD in French or Spanish at another institution should consult with their advisor/mentor about additional reading to prepare for such a program, and consult the potential graduate schools to see if they accept this type of final project as a bona fide culminating requirement in their programs.

Chair Responsibilities

The chair guides the student through development of the project idea, completion of the project, preparation for the culminating project, exit interview details and the assessment portfolio. Specifically:

  1. Assist the student to identify additional members to serve on the committee
  2. Work with the Graduate Services Coordinator to enroll the student in FLX675 with you as the instructor.
  3. Work with the student to encourage work and to review progress on the project. Once the project is sufficiently prepared, direct the student to send the final draft of the project to the other committee members.
  4. Work with the student and the Graduate Services Coordinator to set up the culminating project review date and time. (See the guidelines under Graduation Process.)
  5. Remind the student to collect and submit the assessment portfolio. (See the guidelines under Graduation Process.)
  6. The chair works with the student to locate another committee member if a committee member (including the chair) must step down.
  7. Remind the student to take the online written interview prior to the culminating project review.
  8. Conduct the culminating project review (CPR). (See the guidelines under Graduation Process.)
  9. Submit the CPR paperwork to the Graduate Services Coordinator.
  10. Upon successful completion, enter the grade of “S” for the students for the FLF/FLS 675 course, or submit a grade change if the student took the course in a previous semester than the one in which the project is completed.
  11. If the student has not satisfactorily completed the project and the grade deadline is approaching, enter a grade of IN. Submit a grade change (via MyPack portal) once the student completes the project.

Types of Culminating Projects

Option #1: Write a Critical Essay

  • Option a: A 25-30 page, theoretically-informed research paper on a literary/cultural topic, or a data-based study on a topic in applied linguistics or sociolinguistics.
  • Note – these are often significantly longer than 30 pages, and they are usually the best option for those considering going on for a PhD

Option #2: Design, Implement, Evaluate and Disseminate Results of an Action Research Study 

Students will design and conduct an action research project in a school setting. The primary focus of the project will be to explore ways to enhance student learning. Action research is based on real-world experience and is intended to bring about change in practices. As such, action research can provide teacher/researchers an in-depth, practical look at issues related to teaching and learning, their students, and the dynamics of the classroom. Full information regarding this option is found in the NC State ARP Guidelines. In brief, the Action Research Project must contain the following elements:

  • Section A—OverviewA.1 The critical question(s) of my action research project I hope to understand more about is/are:
    A.2 The setting for this action research project:
    A.3 The story behind this action research project:
    A.4 A synopsis of the problem, dilemma, and/or issue, centering this action research project:
    A.5 A synopsis of the strategy to be used, the intervention to be tried, the innovation to be implemented, the evaluation to be conducted, or other action to be applied in the study. 
    A.6 Time line for the action research project:
    A.7 Reference list for the action research project.  Include articles, books, research studies, etc., relevant to your action research project.
  • Section B—Methodology:  How the problem, dilemma, and/or issue will be addressed.B.1 Data & Documents to be collected—the data/documents you collect may include, but is not limited to the following.  The data you collect should illustrate a positive impact on student learning.
    B.2 Description of how data will be collected.
    B.3 How I will include others in the interpretation of my action research project:
    B.4 Brief statements of how the data and documents will be analyzed:
    B.5 How this design deliberately plans for trustworthiness?
    B.6 How I am gaining appropriate permissions?
    B.7 Possible interruptions, distractions, and difficulties and the plan for dealing with these?
  • Section C—Conclusions & PossibilitiesC .1 What were the findings/results of your action research project?  What positive impacts on student learning did you find?  Support your findings/results with data to back your claims.
    C.2 Statement of how I will share what I have learned?
    C.3 What actions I expect/hope to be the result of my action research project?  So what, now that you are finished with this project, how will your findings change the way you teach or students learn in your classroom?  Support your actions or next steps plan.

Additionally, the student must disseminate the findings of the project per the Project Guidelines. Length and scope of the project are collaboratively established by the student and project advisor(s). Both are to consult and faithfully follow the NC State ARP Guidelines as you brainstorm, plan, execute, summarize and disseminate your action research project. Note that the Action Research project may stem from research done in a graduate course, but the substance and scope of the culminating project must be substantially beyond that produced in any single course.

Option #3: Develop and Implement a Significant Product of Learning

This option may grow out of the first two options. It is one where you develop an artifact of learning that is unique to you and your situation. This could be:

  1. a series of multi-media, or web-based lessons to accompany a unit in a French, Spanish or ESL class, that will serve as supplementary, independent activities for students, accompanied by a critical analysis of the project
  2. a manuscript that you will submit to a professional journal for review
  3. an application for a particular grant where you must review the literature, create a budget and explain your project.
  4. a new French or Spanish course for high school students with an emphasis on multi-cultural young adult literature, accompanied by a critical analysis of the course design and approach
  5. a critical edition of a literary text
  6. a translation of a literary text, accompanied by a critical analysis

Option 4: Develop and Present a Teaching Portfolio

Candidates selecting this option are asked to put together a portfolio according to specifications provided by the student’s advisory committee. The portfolio offers candidates the opportunity to sample and present their actual classroom practice over a specified time period. Each specific portfolio entry is designed to reflect activities that teachers engage in naturally during their work and was developed in collaboration with practicing teachers who verified their feasibility in school settings and their value as both assessment entries and vehicles for professional discussion and growth.

The portfolio consists of several different entries, each of which asks for direct evidence of a particular aspect of the teacher’s work and an analytical reflective commentary on that evidence. The portfolio is completed in the classroom and includes student work, videotapes and other teaching artifacts. The videos and student work are supported by commentaries on the goals and purposes of instruction, reflections on what occurred, the effectiveness of the practice, and the rationale for the teacher’s professional judgment. Teachers report a wide variation of time spent on the complete portfolio, yet most state an expenditure of 200 – 400 hours.

Teachers are required to describe, analyze, explain, and reflect on their practice. They must provide insight into not just what is happening in their classroom, but the rationale for those events and processes. They are required to systematically analyze student work, particularly student responses to assignments, class work, assessments, and other instructional materials. And through the use of videos, teachers can provide as authentic and complete a view of their teaching as possible and portray how they interact with students, the climate they create in the classroom, and they ways in which they engage students in learning.

In addition to completing the classroom-based entries, candidates document their work outside the classroom with families and the larger community and with colleagues and the larger profession. They must emphasize the quality of the contribution, show evidence of their accomplishments, and comment on the impact and importance of those accomplishments for student learning.

** Students who enter the MA program with National Board Certification may not choose this option. See the NC NBPTS Site for additional information.