897 Project Guidelines

Guidelines for the MAS-Science for Educators Program Final Project

Requirements and Guidelines

The final project for the Masters of Applied Science provides a significant opportunity to apply your scientific knowledge and understanding to an area relevant to your interests. The product of this project is an original work that reflects a scholarly understanding of science and learning. Projects can take many forms, but all projects must demonstrate substantial intellectual contributions to the field of science and learning.

Requirements for completing your Final Project in AGRI/NRES 897

The Final Project is a combination of two courses of study within AGRI/NRES 897 taken for 4-6 credit hours. The first course (taken for 1-3 credit hours- to be determined by you and your advisor) requires an independent study during which you will devise an original question or issue (topic) that you will address with your Final Project. While taking this course you will complete a literature review pertinent to your approved topic. Guidelines for the literature review are available below. Finally, you will outline and devise a timeline for the completion of your Final Project and related reflection piece which you will undertake during the second course. This will also include the development of a rubric –approved by your advisor –for guiding your project, progress and completion.

During the second course (taken for 3 credit hours), you will complete your Final Project and reflection piece per your approved outline. Upon completion of this work, you will submit to an examination by the Graduate Committee for the MAS- Science for Educators specialization.

This is the final requirement for completion of the MAS program and –upon approval of the Final Project– the Graduate Committee will recommend you to the Graduate Studies office for conferral of the Master of Applied Science degree.

The success of a final project will be determined by its creativity, rigor, synthesis, and application of coursework as laid out in your earlier developed rubric. Failure to meet these standards or to meet deadlines associated with individual aspects of the Master of Applied Science program will result in a No Pass grade.

Guidelines for developing and completing your Final Project in AGRI/NRES 897 Completing your MAS project should be a rewarding experience. It is an opportunity for you to showcase your understanding of science and learning in an area that matches your intellectual and professional interests. Pick a topic which you are truly interested in and is an original contribution to the field of science. Below are guidelines developed to assist you in completing this and other tasks related to your Final Project.

The requirements for the course involve multiple steps:

  1. development and submission of a topic and literature review;
  2. development and submission of a proposal, including goals, objectives and a rubric;
  3. submission of progress updates;
  4. development and submission of a portfolio including a reflection piece.

Typically, a 3 credit hour course can take 150 hours of in-class face-time and study outside of class. The MAS degree project will likely take a similar amount of time to complete. How do you know if your project has sufficient quality and depth to receive a passing grade? Projects completed with the goal of "being good enough" are rarely good, or enough. Students who complete their projects in accordance with their approved proposal and invest quality time and effort, will likely receive passing grades. It is likely that you will submit multiple drafts before you have completed the project. Students should work towards the goal of completing a project that they are proud to submit.

Topic Development

The process of developing your topic is challenging in the pursuit of academic rigor and its unique contribution to the field. Your unique contribution can be regionally or locally unique. Your best bet in identifying a specific question or issue that you will address in your research and portfolio is found in beginning with big picture ideas and working downward to a particular detail. Addressing a single detail within a much larger issue will lead to a higher likelihood of success. The topic chosen should be of interest to you and the result of your work should be applicable to your own teaching.

You will work with your advisor to develop potential project topics during your first term of study in NRES 897. This may take several attempts and should result in a feasible study topic for the time involved. You must then work with your advisor to develop and Final Project proposal.

Proposal: Goals, Objectives and Rubric

Once you have decided upon and received approval for your topic, you will need to do some additional reflection prior to developing your two to three page proposal. With the Master of Applied Science, students are seeking a degree which allows them the freedom and flexibility not only to gain greater content knowledge, but also learn about the ways in which they can directly apply that knowledge within their profession.

In contemplating your proposal, you must consider your end goals upon completion of your degree. You should take the time to draft and edit these goals. Some helpful question to ask yourself may include: Why are you pursuing this degree? What do you hope to gain by completing this degree (in terms of your personal interests, satisfaction or professional needs or interests, etc.)? How do you intend to use your degree and the knowledge gained?

To put this in perspective, there are two common ways students approach the development of their memorandum of coursework (a) to enhance existing knowledge or expertise within a topic or field of study (e.g. Earth Sciences) or (b) to gain new knowledge in topic areas outside of those in which the student already has extensive training and knowledge or expertise (e.g. courses that they must sometimes teach but have had little or no formal education in themselves). The choice you made at that stage of your degree may also, then, affect your decisions related to the development of your Final Project.

Similarly, you need to work with your advisor to create objectives which you intend to achieve during the development of your Final Project. This will then be reflected in your rubric. The
rubric must be an explicit guide created by you and approved by your advisor laying out the measures by which to determine whether and to what degree you have met your objectives. The rubric will be an individualized benchmark plan that must be approved by your advisor and included in your Final Project proposal.

Please note that we anticipate some degree of change or adjustment to your objectives, rubric and Final Project plan as you move through your research and project development. This is a normal part of growth and research and you will not be penalized for changes as long as you gain approval for them from your advisor. Once your proposal is approved you must embark on your literature review.

Literature Review
The literature review is an opportunity for you to explore what has been done in your topic area to date and identify where your proposed project fits into that body of work. You will be inquiring about your topic in the broader scientific literature, integrating your topic into that broad stream of literature, and applying what you have learned from your literature review into your final degree project.

Your literature review should be at least five and no more than ten pages in length and should follow the style prescribed by your adviser (e.g. MLA, APA, Chicago, etc). The bulk of your literature review should come from primary sources accessed through the UNL Library system. The resources in the library system are available to distance students. Details can be found at the following website: http://libraries.unl.edu/disted. You are encouraged to seek the assistance of a librarian as you conduct your literature review. The librarians who specialize in particular subject areas are found here: http://libraries.unl.edu/subjspecialists.

Progress Updates
As time goes on, you will be required to submit multiple updates on your progress. The number of and deadlines for updates will be determined by you and your advisor during your proposal submission. These updates ensure you are progressing at a successful rate for the School of Natural Resources. Additionally, they ensure your personal success by holding you accountable and giving you a sense of where you are and what you have left to accomplish.

Portfolio and Reflection Piece
Your Final Project should yield a permanent addition to your professional portfolio as well as the completion of your degree. The Final Project will consist of a curriculum portfolio which will include your literature review, the curriculum-based products you have designed for the project and a final paper to serve as a reflection on the work you have conducted both on the Final Project and throughout your time as a Master’s student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

You and your advisor will determine exactly what products you will be producing in relation to the particular goals you have for your degree. The paper will reflect on your journey through the project- the research you conducted, the development of the products and your personal intellectual growth during this process. The reflection should also extend toward your intellectual growth in relation to your coursework: what you learned, observations of changes or expansions of your perspective on science in general or the subject matter, new approaches you
have learned or practiced, and other pertinent information. This reflection should also include the importance of two primary concepts that should have been integrated in many if not all of your courses: “Inquiry, Integration and Application” (I2A) as well as “Everything is Connected to Everything Else” (ECEE) within the context of your own work.

The Final Project and paper will vary in length depending upon the components as determined by you and your advisor. General guidelines for the paper include: 12pt font, 1” margins, double spacing, pagination, a cover page, citation of sources (in the style used for your literature review), and a bibliography.