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Facets of Mastersness: a Framework for Master’s level study

In considering the answers to the question, "What does it mean to be a Master’s- level student and how are they supported in making that transition?”, the Learning from International Practice project has developed a framework to help make sense of some of the different dimensions of ‘Mastersness’.

This framework was adapted from work carried out by Susan Warring's (Whitireia Polytechnic in New Zealand) analysis of learning levels between qualifications.  From her work she distilled a series of categories that the Working Group thought that with some adjustment and augmentation, could be used for considering the attributes of Master’s level study.

This framework comprises of a set of characteristics that along with case studies from Scotland and beyond aim to help practitioners conceptualise, develop and enhance their Master’s level provision. It is also being developed into a tool to be used in a workshop setting to help stimulate debate and discussion about what teaching and learning activities support the development of 'Mastersness' in students.  This is explored in more depth in the paper 'What is Mastersness?'

The framework is presented in diagrammatic form below.  Each ‘facet’ is an aspect or characteristic of the learning processes that the Working Group think underpin the concept of ‘Mastersness’.

Facets of Mastersness: a Framework for Master’s level study

The Working Group have also come up with definitions for each facet of ‘Mastersness’. These are given in the table below.  We hope that the model will stimulate discussion and debate about what Mastersness is.

We are very interested to hear what colleagues think of the model.  In particular, the relevance of the 7 facets to your conceptions of what constitutes Master’s level study (Mastersness) and the content of the definitions given below.

If you want to contribute your views and opinions then please visit our project blog which is hosting the discussions.  A more detailed paper has been produced that allows for deeper exploration of the facets.  

Facet Definition
Abstraction Extracting knowledge or meanings from sources and then using these to construct new knowledge or meanings
Depth (of Learning) Depth of learning, i.e. acquiring more knowledge and using knowledge differently.  For example, engaging in a narrow topic in depth, engaging in up-to-date research or taking a multidisciplinary approach and examining something familiar and presenting it in a new innovative way.
Research and enquiry Developing critical research and enquiry skills & attributes
Complexity Recognising and dealing with complexity of knowledge - including the integration of knowledge and skills, application of knowledge in practice -  conceptual complexity, complexity of learning process
Autonomy Taking responsibility for own learning in terms of self-organisation, motivation, location and acquisition of knowledge

Dealing with unpredictability in operational contexts - recognising that 'real world' problems are by their nature 'messy' and complex, being creative with the use of knowledge and experience to solve these problems

Professionalism Displaying appropriate professional attitudes, behavior and values in whatever discipline/occupational area chosen (from academic to occupational subjects), including learning ethical behaviours, developing academic integrity, dealing with challenges to professionalism, recognising the need to reflect on practice and becoming part of a discipline/occupational community 

Susan Warring, (2011) "An analysis of learning levels within and between a degree and a diploma: New Zealand case study", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 19 Iss: 4, pp.441 - 450