Rich Houle just graduated from the LTS Program in December 2015. His capstone MA project was “Agency and Autonomy In English Academic Vocabulary Learning: A Student Centered Teaching Portfolio”.
What is your MA project?
My project is a teaching portfolio of activities to support learning the English Academic Word List. The emphasis of the portfolio is vocabulary learning, rather than vocabulary teaching, through strategy instruction and incorporating newer computer technologies such as vocabulary profiling, concordancing, and wikis.
Why did you choose this topic?
After a slight gap (24 years) between my graduate and undergraduate career, I started taking classes in the LTS program part time as a non-matriculating student. The first class I took in the program was English Grammar, where I developed an interest in vocabulary due to my attempts to read the notices in French posted in the hall outside the classroom. It seemed to me that meaning was primarily embedded and carried by words, and then shaped by morphology and syntax. In the Language Teaching Methods class I chose vocabulary acquisition as topic for the research paper, and I discovered a whole world I never knew existed! When I started the LTS program as a full time student I wanted to choose a topic that would use the research I had already done (having no wish to do much more work than I had to) as well as reflect the experiences I would have as a student in the program.
What advice would you give to new LTS students about their MA projects?
By the time you have completed your second term you will have (hopefully!) completed a research paper and a project or two. Mine these for ideas for a project. That way you will have some concept for a topic by the end of fall term, and you don’t have to research a whole new area from scratch. You want to do as much reading as possible by the time Spring term starts. Also talk to your professors: they are very nice and they schedule time in their week just for this purpose. As soon as you have a committee, schedule time with them. They are there for you. Lastly I will quote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a project from my cohort): DON’T PANIC.