Culminating Project Process

Each student enrolled in the M.Ed. in Higher Education program at UNCW is required to complete a culminating project that demonstrates their engagement in an original line of inquiry. While the traditional academic finale for graduate work in a Master’s program is a thesis, the culminating project provides students with an opportunity to develop a unique representation of what they have learned throughout their program while also producing a product that has the potential to enhance their professional profile. Each student will identify not only the topic in which they focus their culminating project, but also the format that will represent their work. In order to support students’ work on the culminating project, all students will enroll in a two-course sequence (EDL 596 & EDL 597) during which the culminating project will be developed and completed. Additionally, each student will work with a faculty mentor (committee chair) and defend their culminating project before a committee that includes all Higher Education faculty mentors.

EDL 596: Culminating Project I (3 credits)

In EDL 596, students will delve into the literature that informs their culminating project and conceptualize their methodological approach to the project. Feedback from both faculty members and peers will contribute to a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment that enhances learning and innovation. Here is a summary of activities that will be completed in EDL 596:

  • Develop project timeline;
  • Develop project proposal (to be shared with Higher Education faculty);
  • Develop and revise extensive literature review on project topic;
  • Identify ideas for project methodology and final deliverables;
  • Approval of project proposal.

EDL 597: Culminating Project II (3 credits)

In EDL 597, students will engage in their respective project’s completion and prepare for their defense. Feedback from your faculty Chair will provide support throughout the project’s completion. Here is a summary of activities that will be completed in EDL 597:

  • Finalize project methodology and deliverables
  • IRB proposal and approval (if necessary)
  • Conduct project steps (e.g., data collection, reflective journals, grant development, etc.)
  • Prepare multiple drafts, including final product, for review by faculty Chair and committee of
  • Higher Education faculty
  • Prepare poster for final defense
  • Revise and submit final project to Chair and committee

Possible Project Formats

  • Academic, technical, or other professional report: Report prepared for an office, program, administrator, professional organization, or other appropriate stakeholder that is based on empirical data and/or critical review of literature.
  • Alternative format presentation: Video, website, art display, visual re-presentation, poetry, performance, or other appropriately formatted presentation that represents what the student learned from engagement in an original project grounded in empirical evidence and/or critical review of the literature.
  • Assessment project: Development and completion of an assessment project in collaboration with an office, program, or administrator in an educational setting. Students must prepare a presentation and report for the respective area in which they complete their assessment.
  • Auto-ethnography: Reflective journals and critical analysis about the student’s personal and professional development as a leader in his/her/their respective field.
  • Critical Review of Literature: Exhaustive review and thematic analysis of the literature on a focused topic in the student’s discipline. Students must prepare a written report that discusses their findings and aligns with standards for scholarly publication.
  • Curriculum plan or adaptation: Development of a complete curriculum plan or adaptation for a specific discipline or grade level. The adaptation of traditional modes of instructional delivery to innovative modes is also acceptable.
  • Grant: Completed and submitted grant informed by findings from a project developed in collaboration with a faculty member, administrator, campus organization, community group, and/or government agency.
  • Scholarly publication: Publication of a research project in a scholarly journal or other peer-reviewed publication (e.g., book, book chapter).
  • Traditional thesis: 5 or 6 chapter academic report that includes an introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, and discussion. Students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree are encouraged to utilize this format.