K-12 Master's in Education: Curriculum

Great teachers have one eye on innovation and the other on transformation. They pay close attention to the education system as it is, and they observe how their students react and respond to it. They use that information to incorporate and design teaching philosophies and structures that respond to but also transcend the expectations and limitations of school system and student alike. They recognize their students’ limitations and possibilities, and they push for the best and most empowering outcome for all involved.

While many teachers have natural talent that develops over time in the classroom, most of them depend on devoted study, profound mentorship, and ideas for innovative action to take their skills to the next level. Teachers who hunger to move beyond their natural and hard-earned talent often choose to pursue a master’s in education or a doctorate degree in education.

Common Degree Requirements for Master's in Education, K-12 Programs

To earn an education degree at the graduate level, graduate students most often engage in a three-pronged program, one that includes coursework, independent research, student teaching and/or a qualifying exam.

The coursework is generally comprised of core and elective courses in interdisciplinary subjects. In many education graduate programs, coursework enables students not only to deepen and broaden their knowledge, but also to specialize in a particular area of education. This coursework also informs their research and guides their preparation for the qualifying exam.

The supervised teaching often coincides with the teaching certification process and is completed by students yet to earn their certificates or teachers entering new specializations. Through supervised teaching—often delivered in the form of practicums or assistantships—teachers practice and apply the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-life situations.

The thesis, dissertation, or final exam tests and demonstrates the cumulative knowledge and graduate-level proficiency of students. Through the course of the program, graduate students commonly receive supervision and mentorship from a program teacher (typically one with a PhD) with interests in a similar research area. Such teachers guide and support graduate students as they conduct research and put together a project designed to contribute to the body of knowledge and research in the field of education. However, some degree programs, such as the M.Ed. in some cases, do not require students to conduct independent research. Greater description of different types of graduate-level education programs are given in the next section.

Teacher Education Degree Program Options

Numerous options exist for educators interested in graduate-level study. Here are some:

  • The Master of Education (M.E. or M.Ed.): The M.E. or M.Ed. are typically pursued by teachers who already have a teaching license and some experience teaching in the classroom. M.E. programs are meant to help prepare teachers to pursue administrative or leadership roles in the field of education. This is more of a practical-based degree.
  • The Masters of Art in Teaching (M.A.T.): The M.A.T. is commonly pursued by licensed or not-yet-licensed teachers who would like to enhance their careers as teachers by conducting research and applying their knowledge to the field and practice of teaching. This is more of a research-based degree.
  • The Masters of Science in Teaching (M.S.T.): The M.S.T is similar to the M.A.T in that it is pursued by current and soon-to-be teachers alike. However, the M.S.T is designed to help prepare teachers to pursue research-focused careers rather than teaching-focused careers (though professionals with M.S.T.s might also teach).
  • Masters of Arts in Catholic Education (MACE): As one would imagine, the MACE is similar to the M.A.T., but its curriculum emphasizes administering education within the Catholic school system.
  • The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.): The Ed.D. is typically pursued by people who want to work in the field of education as researchers or other professionals, often times in leadership or administrative capacities. This degree is considered a research- and professional-based degree. Professionals with this degree often focus on identifying and solving current problems through research and practical application.
  • The Ph.D. in Education: The Ph.D. is commonly pursued by people who want to work in the field of education as educators (often at universities) or researchers. This degree is considered a research-based degree. Educators with PhDs often focused on advancing knowledge in the field of education through extensive research.

These are some of the many ways to earn a master’s of education and to develop the skills that may help you make a huge difference in your field.

Common Coursework in Teacher Education Degree Programs

So what do graduate students study in teacher education degree programs? The answer varies by program, of course, but there are some subject-matters consistent across many programs. Here are some of the subjects you may study in a graduate-level education program:

  • Educational leadership and administration
  • Critical issues in education
  • Curriculum theory
  • Theories and models of reading
  • Theories and models of writing
  • Theories and models of STEM subjects
  • Historical, cultural, and social foundations and influences of education
  • Politics and education
  • Foundations of language and literacy
  • Linguistic and cultural diversity
  • Educational psychology and human development
  • Teaching with digital technologies

These are just some of the wonderful topics educators explore in graduate-level programs. As you can see, the programs are interdisciplinary and give educators tools understand and affect today’s educational system and student-body.   


masters in education programs

Sources: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm#tab-4 | http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm#tab-4 | http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-4 | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_of_Education

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