My mentor originally suggested this programme to me in 2015 as she was an alumni of the programme, full of praise for its structure and content. As I work full-time, I was apprehensive as to whether I would be able to make space in my life for a masters degree at a time where rapid development and progress in the nursery school was taking up a lot of my professional energy. However, my curiosity and thirst for learning got the better of me and with enthusiasm I began study in 2016.
The programme is divided in to four main modules and a dissertation. Each module is worth 30 level 7 credits (dissertation is worth 60) and is assessed via written assignments. Study school weekends are held (three in year 1, two in year 2) in Sheffield and their cost is fully included within the course fees. My cohort have been staying at the Rutland Hotel, whose staff (shout out to Jason and co!) have taken such superb care of us, I only wish when I was studying at home I could be fed so well! The whole set up is conducive to focusing on the task at hand – learning!
As I am currently writing my dissertation, I can confirm that the modules are carefully designed to be highly interesting in their own right, but certainly build on knowledge to enable students to launch in to their final research projects with a well-honed (we hope!) set of research and writing skills. I thoroughly enjoyed the small-scale research study of module 3, which I later used as the basis to develop a seminar programme for multi-agency professionals working within the sector in my home county of Norfolk. As professionals, your lived experiences and vocational knowledge are very much respected – I would note that the content of the course is challenging but in a way that makes you feel it is a rigorous and worthwhile qualification to achieve.
Throughout the programme, I have felt so professionally invigorated despite occasional bouts of doubting my ability to even read English at the tail-ends of hand in periods! The cohort I’ve had the pleasure of studying alongside travel from far and wide (as far away as Hong Kong and Bermuda!) and as a result all bring to the table a plethora of knowledge regarding international approaches. The study weekends are valuable not only for their lectures delivered by research-active academics (Liz Chesworth, Marika Gatt-Sacco, Liz Wood, Nathan Archer and Cathy Nutbrown to name just a few) but for the conversations between students. The concept of “critical friends” is a key one and has often helped me to crystallise my thinking in readiness for the assignments.
The practicalities (use of a library, online study materials, student cards) are all carefully thought out, easily accessible and are a fine example of how distance study should work.
Whilst this is perhaps a premature review (as I have yet to submit my dissertation!), I had my final study weekend in February and I am confident that Sheffield University has prepared us well for this final hurdle. I am quite sad to be finishing, though I’m uncertain whether I am so morose that I shall be signing up for the doctoral programme just yet!
Please contact me if you have any questions about the Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education at Sheffield; I recommend it highly but know that choosing a masters whilst working is a difficult decision and you might have queries not easily answered on the university website!