To get your master's degree in education, with an emphasis in special education, you will have to write a thesis. Theses generally range from 30 to 60 pages. They serve the same purpose as a chapter in a dissertation, which is to have the graduate student identify a particular issue in her area, research the current literature on it and write a report that offers an original take or evaluates current techniques.
Principals and Teachers
One way to narrow a topic so as to make the research and writing appropriate for the relatively short length of the thesis is to specify a study group. This could include students themselves, teachers, parents and even principals. For example, a good choice would be a thesis examining the attitudes of elementary school principals toward the inclusive classroom, or toward students with autism spectrum disorders, or towards a specific technique like RTI -- Response to Intervention. For research on teachers' input, possibilities include attitudes on inclusion and instructors' role in academic performance, rural attitudes towards the inclusion process and teacher perceptions of students with reading disabilities.
Other thesis topics look at types of interventions and inclusion practices to establish which are most effective, including theses which evaluate established best practices. Graduate students writing such theses examine issues such as whether inclusive classrooms translate to social inclusive social interaction or whether academic achievement improves the self-image of students with disabilities. Techniques such as co-teaching and body learning, or movement in the special education classroom, can also be assessed for effectiveness. Research on chair placement in classrooms can be important, as the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities argues.
Since the point of the thesis research is to encourage the candidate for a degree to conduct original research in a specialized area, many theses are going to be rather idiosyncratic or unique in their approach. The narrowness of a topic should not dissuade you from researching it if your thesis adviser thinks it is a good idea. You could focus on areas like story-based instruction about hand washing, best practices for students with significant intellectual disabilities, inclusive education in Catholic elementary schools or best practices for students with written expressive disorders.
It's important to remember there are endless possibilities for thesis topics in special education and you should choose one that interests you, but which you can research objectively. For instance, an interest in the role of parents could lead to a topic like parental involvement in urban or poor special education elementary school settings. Along the same lines, you could research urban preschool settings for the learning disabled who are members of ethnic minority groups. The perceptions of teachers about the over-representation of African-American students in special education would be an excellent topic, as would teachers' beliefs about Hispanic special ed students.
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