MA in Education Handbook

MA Handbook 2022 

MA Handbook for entry before 2022 

Sonoma State University’s School of Education offers five advanced credential programs and five areas of concentration within the Master of Arts in Education degree.  Each of these programs reflects the philosophy, purpose, and goals of the School of Education Social Justice Framework developed by the School of Education faculty. 

We have prepared this handbook to assist candidates in the successful completion of a Master of Arts in Education degree.  It is intended to serve as a guide and a framework for success.


In our MA program students critically examine educational theories and research through a variety of empirical, theoretical, and cultural lenses to develop an informed educational vision and innovative pedagogy in a variety of educational settings.  Candidates have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and colleagues to examine and influence current educational practice through research, project development, and advocacy.  We expect graduates to emerge from their work at Sonoma State University as leaders who advance social justice in education.

The five areas of concentration within the MA in Education offered at Sonoma State University are:

Throughout your graduate studies, we ask that you meet each semester with the program advisor in your area of concentration to plan collaboratively your progress in the MA program.  You may also confer with other graduate program faculty and the Director of Graduate Studies for advising and guidance in your coursework and professional development. To contact current program advisors, visit the Advising Page

Courses in the School of Education MA Program have been designed to align with and support the social justice mission of the School of Education:

Vision: Advancing social justice in schools and communities through excellence in education

Mission: The School of Education provides transformative educational experiences through teaching, research, and key initiatives. We prepare undergraduates, graduate students, and credential candidates to advocate for social justice in their learning and throughout their careers so students, schools, and communities flourish.

Core Values

  • We believe that examining and respecting human differences is central to educational inclusivity.
  • We believe that collaboration and community partnerships strengthen our work.
  • We are committed to equity and access in education for all.
  • We promote meaningful learning through theoretically sound and research-based pedagogies.

Pathways to Program Completion

Pathways Requirements 

The graduate program of study will require 30-36 semester units of coursework, depending on the MA in Education pathway selected.  There are three pathways to program completion:

  • Thesis or thesis project
  • Cognate
  • Individualized examination 

We encourage you to become knowledgeable about each of the pathways so that you can pursue a program of study that meets your professional and intellectual goals.

In all three pathways, graduate students take at least 18 units in the program area of concentration + electives and at least 6 units (EDUC 570 and 571) of graduate core courses.  All graduate students work with a three-member committee, and most closely with the committee chair, to complete a culminating activity that is presented to the committee in a public forum.  In addition to these points in common, there are distinct differences among the three pathways to program completion, as briefly described below. Additional information about each culminating pathway is offered later in this handbook.


The thesis/project pathway is a 30-unit course of study, including 12-18 units in students’ program area of concentration + electives and 12 units of core courses (EDUC 570, 571, 598, and 599).  In order to prepare for the thesis/thesis project, students must take Education 598 (Developing a Thesis/Project) and 599 (Supervised Study for the Thesis/Project) as their final two courses in the MA program.

The thesis is a written product of a systematic study of a significant question, problem, or issue in education.  The thesis project is also a written document describing a significant undertaking appropriate to education and requiring a great deal of independence and self-direction on the part of the student.  The thesis/project option requires an extensive write-up, including an in-depth literature review.  Students must also present their thesis/project to their three-member committee in a public forum.  A thesis could be based on a quantitative research study, a qualitative research study or a mixed methods research study. Examples of a thesis project include curriculum design,creating and implementing professional development experiences, program design, or various types of creative activities.


The cognate pathway is a 36-unit course of study, including 18 units in the students’ program area of concentration (with electives), 9 units of core courses (EDUC 570, 571, and 572), and a 9-unit cognate course of study.  The cognate course of study is a group of courses, which students choose in consultation with a committee chair that allows students to examine areas of interest related to their MA concentration and culminating activity.  In order to work with their three-member committee on the cognate project, students must take Education 572 (Supervised Study for the Cognate Project) as their final course in the MA program.

The cognate project (e.g., professional article, video, website, field-based product) is a significant undertaking through which students connect their cognate course of study with the program concentration, and/or work in the field. Projects should arise out of candidates' goals and professional interests and may take virtually any form. The project may address, for example, implications of the cognate course of study for the classroom, or be reflections on teaching practices involving the use of new technologies, or the application of scholarly research and educational theory in a particular setting. A written reflection that includes the theoretical context and literature review for the project must be included.  Students must present the completed project to their three-member committee in a public forum.

Individualized Examination 

The individualized examination pathway is a 33-unit course of study, including 24 units in the students’ program area of concentration + electives, and 9 units of core courses (EDUC 570, 571, and 573).  For the electives, students, in consultation with their committee chair, choose courses that allow them to examine areas of interest related to the MA concentration and to focus on for the examination area(s) of study they have chosen.  In order to work with their three-member committee as they prepare for the examination, students must take Education 573 (Supervised Study for the Individualized Examination) as their final course in the MA program.

The individualized examination addresses areas of study identified by the student in consultation with the student’s examination committee.  The exam is written by the student’s committee (a chair plus two other members) and consists of three questions related to the student’s area(s) of study, including one question selected from questions submitted in advance to the committee by the student.  When the student is ready to take the examination, he/she receives the questions from the chair and has 72 hours to complete the written examination and to return it to the chair.  Within two weeks of completing the examination, the student must meet with the committee for an oral examination in which the committee asks follow-up questions for clarification and elaboration.

Program Checklist 

Beginning Your MA Program

  • Apply and be admitted to MA Program in one of the five program areas
  • Read MA Handbook
  • Attend Orientation
  • Meet with Program Advisor to develop a Program Plan
  • During first semester, begin collecting artifacts for program portfolio

Throughout MA Program 

  • Meet regularly (at least once per semester) with Program Advisor
  • Update Program Plan if you make changes in your program plan
  • Notify School of Education about any change of address or other contact  information
  • Take MA core courses EDUC 570 (early in your program) and EDUC 571 (preferably after EDUC 570) 
  • Take program courses
  • Continue to develop program portfolio by collecting artifacts from classes
  • Begin thinking about ideas for culminating activity: thesis/project, cognate project, or individualized examination

Preparation for Program Completion 

Regardless of your pathway, toward the end of the MA program, all candidates must:

  • Constitute a committee
  • Schedule an Advancement to Candidacy (GS01) meeting at which you will:
    • Present program portfolio 
    • Present culminating project proposal
    • Bring the appropriate forms
  • • File for Graduation, according to university deadlines
  • • Schedule a Final Presentation meeting at which you will:
  • Make any required revisions in your final project. If completing a thesis/project, submit the final copy to the University Graduate Studies Office by the university deadline. 
  • Complete Online Exit Survey

Thesis/Project Checklist

  • Take MA core course EDUC 598 in final semester of coursework, offered in spring only.
  • Read brochure, Working with Human Subjects, if your thesis/project will involve working with human beings 
  • Complete online training in Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Take EDUC 599 and work on thesis
  • Meet with committee chair regularly
  • Enroll in EDUC 578 (Project Continuation), if neccessary, until thesis/project completed (see Continuous Enrollment Policy)
  • Complete and present thesis/project at Final Presentation
  • Bring Thesis/Project Title Page to Final Presentation
  • Work with Graduate Studies Office on thesis formatting and submission 

Cognate Checklist 

  • Work with committee chair to solidify cognate course of study and complete coursework
  • Read brochure, Working with Human Subjects, if your cognate project will involve working with human beings
  • Complete online training in Responsible Conduct of Research, if necessary
  • Take EDUC 572 and work on cognate project
  • Meet with committee chair regularly
  • Enroll in EDUC 578 (Project Continuation), if neccessary, until cognate project completed (see Continuous Enrollment Policy)
  • Complete and present cognate project at Final Presentation

Individualized Examination Checklist 

  • Work with committee chair to determine exam foci and plan elective courses
  • Take EDUC 573, work with committee to develop exam questions, and study for exam
  • Enroll in EDUC 578 (Project Continuation),if neccessary, until exam taken and passed (see Continuous Enrollment Policy)
  • Take written exam
  • Meet with committee for follow-up oral exam


There are many people to whom you may turn for help with advising as you progress through the MA program. Be prepared to seek out the help you need. The SOE faculty members are helpful and will be glad to assist you with your questions; however, you should initiate advising appointments with the appropriate faculty. At all times, be an advocate for your graduate work and ask for the guidance that will help you succeed.

General Advising 

For the most general questions about the MA program, you may wish to contact the Director of Graduate Studies for the School of Education. 

The Director of Graduate Studies can answer general questions you may have. The topics might include:

  • Who is your program advisor?
  • What are the pathways to completion?
  • What are the different MA concentrations and how to choose one?
  • How do you switch from one concentration to another?
  • What are the deadlines for filing paperwork?

Program Advising 

When you were admitted to an MA concentration, the letter was signed by a member of the faculty who is the program advisor for that concentration. The advisors are listed on the Graduate Studies Advising Page. 

Your program advisor is the one to ask all questions about your area of concentration.  These might include:

  • What is my program plan?
  • What classes should I take this semester?
  • Who should I ask to be my committee chair?

Committee Chair as Advisor 

The role of a committee chair is discussed in depth later in this handbook.  However, it is important to know that the PROGRAM ADVISOR is your point of contact for assistance with the program until you have selected a committee chair.  Once you have a committee chair, it is best to funnel all your program questions to that person.  Your committee chair will know you, your interests, and your individual program the best. In particular, your committee chair is the person with whom you will coordinate electives you may take or your cognate course of study (if you choose that route). The earlier in the program that you identify a committee chair, the better you will be able to plan your courses.

The Committee & FAQ's

The Committee 

Your committee consists of three individuals whose purpose is to advise you on your culminating activity.  The committee also evaluates the final product.  Your committee chair must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the SSU School of Education. A following section of this Handbook contains a list of School of Education tenured and tenure-track faculty and their areas of interest. 

You should consider a chair who has interests and/or expertise in areas related to your culminating project; this person need not necessarily be someone you have had as an instructor in the MA program. 

Your second committee member should also teach at SSU, although that person may teach in any SSU department—within or outside the School of Education.  The third member may be someone from outside the university, but he/she must hold at least a master’s degree. An outside committee member must submit a curriculum vita or resume to the School of Education in order to serve on a committee. It is your responsibility to relay this information to the potential committee member. In special cases, subject to approval by the SSU Graduate Studies Office and the SSU Graduate Studies Office, the second committee member may also be from outside the university.

Students seeking approval to include two community members on their committees should submit a proposal, signed by the committee chair, to the School of Education Graduate Studies Committee.  The proposal should include a convincing rationale for this request.  An acceptable proposal would need to demonstrate that both community members have expertise that cannot be found among Sonoma State University faculty.

Whom should you ask to serve on your committee?

First, understand that you will be asking busy faculty members whether they are willing to work with you. It may not be possible for a particular professor or instructor to accept your invitation to be on a master’s committee. 

You will invite the chair from the list of tenured and tenure track faculty members in the School of Education.  Consider someone who understands your topic, someone you trust, and with whom you are comfortable.  Your chair will be an important person to guide you through the culminating project.  Your chair may help you set up timelines, assist you in developing your portfolio, and will be your first point of contact when you have questions about completing your MA degree.

Then, discuss other potential committee members with the chair.  It is usually a good idea to get the chair’s approval before asking anyone else to serve on the committee.  Third members may be from outside the university and can add a perspective that you might not find among SSU faculty.

When should you form your committee?

You should form your committee a few months before you advance to candidacy.  You need to be far enough along in your MA program so that you will have met many of the School of Education faculty; at the same time, you want to ask people to work as members of your committee in time to work with them in planning your culminating activity.

How should you approach prospective committee members?

If you would like to invite someone to serve on your committee, you should contact the person and ask if he/she would be interested.  You should write a 1-2 page tentative plan of your culminating activity and include that plan with your invitation. 

How often should you meet with committee members?

Usually, graduate students meet a minimum of two times with their entire committee: When they present their portfolio and proposal to advance to candidacy (GSO1 form) and at the end when they present their thesis/project or cognate project, or have their oral exam(GSO2).  Some committees meet one or two times in between.  In addition, students often meet informally with their chair or other committee members for input throughout the process.  Many graduate students audio record these meetings in order to aid their recollection of the rich discussions that characterize these meetings.

Advancement to Candidacy & Final Presentation

Advancement to Candidacy (GSO1 form)

Typically the first meeting of the full committee, the Advancement to Candidacy meeting (often referred to as the GS01 meeting) is an important opportunity to gain insights and approval for your research or project ideas.  Usually students will have already shared their ideas with individual committee members, but when everyone is together in the same room discussing your project, the conversation can be exciting and inspirational.  During this meeting, you will present your portfolio and your proposal, hear your committee’s suggestions, and either get the go-ahead to conduct the work you plan to do for your culminating project or be asked to make revisions in the portfolio and/or proposal. This is a time for you to take the lead, ask important questions, and articulate your interest in the work you plan.

After working on it with your chair, and at least a week or two prior to the GS01 meeting, give each member your portfolio and the proposal for your project. The length of the proposal will vary, depending on the pathway you have chosen and on how far along you are in the process.  Be sure to consult with your chair prior to the meeting to determine the length and depth of your proposal.

Usually it is up to the student to poll the committee to arrange a time to meet. Be sure to fill out and bring to the meeting the required form listed in the MA Program Checklist in this Handbook.  The forms are linked on the School of Education website and the University Graduate Studies Office website in Academic Affairs.

The Advancement to Candidacy/GS01 meeting usually consists of three parts, although your committee chair may ask you to provide additional items or information.

  1. Program Portfolio: You will present your portfolio to your committee.
  2. Culminating Project Proposal: You will present your plans for accomplishing your project goals, and conclude with questions you have for your committee. Your committee members will have questions and suggestions for you.
  3. Forms: Members of your committee will sign your completed GSO1 form and any other form required by specific concentrations.  The GSO1 form will be submitted by your committee chair to the School of Education Director of Graduate Studies.

The Program Portfolio

To advance to candidacy, all students must complete a satisfactory program portfolio and present it to their committee at the same meeting where the student presents a proposal for the culminating activity. 

The portfolio is intended to be reflective in nature and should show personal, professional and intellectual growth over the course of the MA program. It should demonstrate how your MA program has prepared you to undertake your culminating activity (thesis/project, cognate project, or individualized examination). The portfolio also enables a student to meet the university-wide requirement of having achieved writing proficiency at a graduate level.

The goal of the portfolio reflection is to articulate for your committee how the entire experience of the MA program has contributed to your learning and growth as a professional. In addition to successful completion of program courses, it serves as an assessment of program learning outcomes 1-6. Your final project write-up and presentation serve as an assessment of program learning outcome 7.

  • PLO 1: Students can articulate how the MA coursework has contributed to their personal, intellectual, and professional growth in relationship to the social justice framework of the School of Education.
  • PLO 2: Students demonstrate how their breadth and depth of knowledge about advancing social justice in schools and communities has changed in regard to reading and applying educational research. 
  • PLO 3: Students demonstrate their ability to critically analyze multiple historical, philosophical and theoretical perspectives in relationship to issues of educational and social inequities.
  • PLO 4: Students can explain how the MA program has contributed to their understanding of equity and access for all learners.
  • PLO 5: Students can explain how the MA program has contributed to their ability to be an advocate for social justice in education. 
  • PLO 6: Students demonstrate the ability to write at a graduate level. 
  • PLO 7: Students complete a culminating activity in which they cogently demonstrate:
    • their ability to draw from appropriate and adequate peer-reviewed research
    • connections between their project and their work as an educator
    • the significance of the project to the local educational context 

The portfolio must include the following components:

  1.  A 4-5 page double-spaced narrative reflection on your journey and revelations throughout the MA program and should:
  •  Make specific references to courses, experiences, and assignments
  • Address the following areas, aligned to the School of Education Vision, Mission, and Core Values:
    •  How has your MA program contributed to your personal, intellectual and professional growth in light of the vision and mission of the School of Education? (Program Learning Outcome 1)
    •  How has the breadth and depth of your knowledge changed about advancing social justice in schools and communities (Program Learning Outcome 2):
      • By reading and applying educational research generally
      • By reading and applying educational research in your program area concentrations
    •  How has your MA program increased your ability to critically analyze multiple historical, philosophical, and theoretical perspectives in education, particularly in relationship to issues of educational and social inequities? (Program Learning Outcome 3)
    • How has the MA program contributed to your understanding of equity and access for all learners and your ability to be an advocate for social justice in your community of practice? (Program Learning Outcomes 4 and 5)

2. Include artifacts from at least 4 MA courses to support the narrative. (Program Learning Outcome 6

Portfolios may be in paper or electronic form; ask your committee chair what format is preferred.

Proposal for Culminating Activity 

In a document separate from the portfolio, you must demonstrate planning toward the completion of your culminating activity (thesis/project, cognate project, or individualized examination). Described below are the general requirements for the proposal, however, more specific details may be included with the discussions of each type of culminating activity in later sections of this handbook.

  • A list of the individual(s) who have agreed to be members of your committee
  • A description of your proposed thesis/project, cognate project, or individualized examination area(s) of study and a timeline for how you will accomplish this work. Writing the description should help you initiate your work on this activity, although it is almost inevitable that your focus will evolve as you learn more about the topic you have selected.  The Culminating Activity Description should address the following questions:
    • How did you become interested in the topic that you intend to explore?
    • What do you intend to study, to do, or to find out?  A preliminary literature review should also be part of the description.
      • For a thesis, you will probably need to formulate a guiding question or problem statement.
      •  For a project, you should give a brief description of what you plan to do or create.
      • For an individualized examination, you should describe the area(s) of study you plan to explore and the questions you would like to answer.
  • How might the culminating activity be applicable to advancing social justice in education?
  • How will you accomplish the task that you have set for yourself? 
    • If you are planning to write a thesis, you should explain how you intend to conduct research in the field to answer your guiding question or resolve your problem statement.
    •  If you plan to do a cognate, you should describe how you expect to create and use the project. 
    • If you will be taking an individualized examination, you should describe your plan for researching your area(s) of study.
  • What do you envision as the potential significance of this culminating activity in your MA program?  Why is it important that you carry out this work and how is it related to issues of social justice in education? How will your work advance theory and practice in your professional field? What is your proposed timeline for completing the culminating activity?

The Final Presentation (GSO2)

This public meeting is the culminating moment of your MA course of study. You are encouraged to invite family and friends. Some candidates choose to use the University Faculty and Graduate Research Symposium, held each spring, or the School of Education’s own smaller showcase event each fall as the forum for their final presentations. In some cases, presentations made at school sites, school board meetings, or parent education nights can serve as this final presentation. Talk with your committee chair about the option that is best for you.

At this meeting, you present your work and discuss your ideas with your committee and everyone else in the room. It is an exhilarating experience to share your ideas and engage in intellectual discussions of your work. 

Be sure any written work (e.g., thesis/project, any written work connected to cognate project, etc.) has been approved by your committee chair so that you can give it to your committee at least two weeks before this meeting.  Committee members typically wish to become familiar with your work and give you feedback on it before the final presentation takes place.

At the final meeting, the committee chair signs the GSO2 (Completion of Requirements) form, and the entire committee signs the thesis title page and abstract (for thesis/project, if selected). 

Before the School of Education will submit your GSO2 form to the University Graduate Studies Office for final processing, you must complete the School of Education Exit Survey online. Your feedback provides us with the information we need to keep improving the program and the learning experiences of graduate students in the School of Education.

Pathways to Completion: In Detail

The Thesis/Project

The thesis documents a systematic study of a significant and researchable question in education. In writing a thesis, the student learns about the existing state of the research in the chosen area, then selects an area for further study. This study is usually undertaken through conducting qualitative and/or quantitative research.

The thesis project is also a significant undertaking appropriate to education. The student who selects the thesis project will also conduct an extensive literature review, but will follow the review by developing curriculum, a website, a video, or some other original item that is grounded in the research that exists.  The student who selects the thesis project does not need to conduct a research study to evaluate the educational piece that has been created. The work of the thesis project is in the creation of the project, which is grounded in the research. The thesis/project requires an extensive written product that will be housed in the SSU Library. 

All theses/projects share the same foundation with these opening chapters:

  1. Introduction: overview of the study, including research question(s)
  2. Literature Review: comprehensive review of theory and research relevant to the study that illuminates candidate’s theoretical framework or captures what is already known about the topic

The research thesis, in which the student replicates previous research, conducts his/her own study, or in some way explores the topic in a novel way, continues with the following chapters:

  1. Methods: description of research design, including methodological framework, research sample/participants, and methods of data collection and analysis
  2. Results: Analysis of data
  3. Discussion: implications, conclusions, and suggestions for further research

The thesis project is a way for the student to systematically review the existing research on a topic, then develop an original piece of curriculum, a practice, a handbook, or some other informative and original work. Your committee chair can guide you on the structure, but typically chapters 3, 4, and 5 include the following:

  • Description of procedure for developing the project
  • The project itself: the curriculum, website, video, etc.
  • Reflections and conclusions: e.g. results of project implementation, suggestions for further work in this area, etc.

Thesis/Project Proposal 

In most cases, the proposal will have been written as part of the student’s portfolio prior to enrolling in EDUC 598. In the proposal, the candidate should include the following:

  • Rationale for thesis/project
  • Thesis question(s) or project goals
  • Proposed areas of study for literature review
  • Tentative research methodology for thesis or procedure to complete project
  • Timeline for completion of thesis/project
  • Significance of this thesis/project
  1. After receiving the committee’s approval and, when necessary, approval for conducting research with human subjects, the candidate conducts the research study for the thesis or develops the project. 
  2. Throughout the process, the candidate regularly seeks the advice and approval of the committee chair and, as appropriate, the other committee members.  In some cases, the committee will meet as a whole with the candidate one or more times before the thesis/project is completed.  For candidates conducting research studies, it is imperative that they discuss their data with their committee chair as they are collecting and analyzing it.
  3. When the thesis/project is completed, the candidate and committee members schedule the thesis/project presentation (GSO2 meeting).  A draft of the thesis/project must be submitted to committee members at least two weeks prior to the final meeting. At this presentation, the candidate provides an overview of the thesis/project and responds to questions posed by the committee and others attending the presentation.

Thesis/Project Criteria  

  1. Candidate submits thesis/project to committee two weeks prior to scheduled final meeting.
  2. Committee members evaluate the thesis or project according to the criteria listed on the Thesis or Project Review form.
  3. If all committee members agree that the thesis/project meets all the criteria, the presentation will proceed as scheduled.
  4. If some criteria are not met, the chair will meet with the candidate to explain the problems with the thesis/project and to instruct the candidate to revise as needed.
  5. Candidates have three opportunities to complete the thesis/project satisfactorily.
  6. Once the committee has determined that the thesis/project is satisfactory, the committee will meet with the candidate for the final meeting.
  7. At the conclusion of the final meeting, the committee meets privately to make one of the following recommendations:
  8. Thesis/Project is finished and ready to be submitted to the University Graduate Studies Office.
  9. Thesis/Project will need certain minor revisions before being submitted to University Graduate Studies Office.

Cognate Pathway

The cognate is a 9-unit course of study which students pursue in order to augment or complement their program concentration and MA core courses.  The three courses cannot be a random set of classes; rather, they must be somehow related to one another and together constitute a coherent course of study. These courses may be within or outside the School of Education, and they may be upper division (300 or 400 level) or graduate (500) level, as long as the total number of upper division units in the MA degree program does not exceed 12.  The cognate course of study must be documented and signed on the MA Degree Program Plan form, with a short rationale for this course of study attached to the form. 

There are many potential cognate courses of study. Often, students use the cognate pathway to take courses in educational fields outside their program area of concentration.  Students may also choose to take courses in SSU departments outside the School of Education.  Students must consult with their committee chair to discuss ideas and plan for the cognate course of study.

The culmination of this pathway is a significant undertaking through which students synthesize their 9-unit cognate course of study with the MA core courses, program concentration, and/or fieldwork.  Most students who choose the cognate pathway create products directly related to their work in the field and which directly contribute to their professional growth. 

The culminating experience can take less time to complete than a thesis: it is expected the student will lay the groundwork for the activity through the 9-unit cognate course of study.

Examples of cognate activities—all of which must be informed by program and cognate courses—are educational websites; in-service videos; professional presentations; creation, analysis, assessment, and/or implementation of curriculum; and other applications of ideas explored in program and cognate courses. 

A 10-20 page written reflection, which includes the theoretical context for the work, must accompany whatever product the student has created.

Elements of the Cognate Culminating Experience

  • Ties together candidate’s cognate and program area courses
  • Illuminates the theoretical and research basis of the project
  • Includes a written reflection on what was learned and how the project potentially advances social justice in education

Cognate Proposal

The cognate proposal must include the following:

  • Rationale for cognate culminating activity and connection of cognate course of study to the activity
    • A short review of the literature is appropriate in this section
    • A discussion of how courses selected for the cognate are related to the final project is also necessary.
    • A discussion about the relationship between the project and social justice in education.
  • Goals for the activity
  • Description of proposed activity
  • Educational significance of proposed activity (to the candidate and to the profession)
  • Action plan and timeline for completing the activity

During the semester when the candidate is registered for 572, he/she meets regularly with the committee chair to discuss progress with the activity.

Cognate Final Reflection 

After completing the activity, the candidate writes a double-spaced 10 – 20 page reflection on the cognate experience. This reflection should:

  • demonstrate a professional knowledge base in the areas addressed
    • draws deeply from peer-reviewed and other appropriate research
    • articulates connections between research literature and culminating activity
  • draw connections between cognate course of study, program area coursework, and culminating activity, clearly showing how the three aspects of the cognate pathway informed each other
  • describes cognate activity effectively
    • evaluates the experience of developing the cognate project.  What happened?  How did the project change over the time of implementation?
    • discusses the results of the project.
    • provides examples of what has occurred and/or what might follow from the culminating activity
  • demonstrates activity’s value relative to candidate’s work as an educator and to the local educational context and its application to social justice in education

Cognate Project Criteria

  1. The candidate submits the cognate product and reflection to committee members for their consideration. 
  2. When the committee chair and other committee members agree that the product and written reflection are satisfactory, the final presentation is scheduled.
  3. The culminating activity and written reflection are evaluated according to the criteria listed on the Cognate review form. Each criterion must be met for successful completion of the MA degree.
  4. If any of the criteria are not met, the chair will meet with the candidate to explain the problems with the project and/or written reflection and to instruct the candidate to revise as needed. The GS02 form is not signed until another meeting is scheduled. 
  5. Candidates have three opportunities to complete the project and written reflection satisfactorily. 
  6. Once the committee has determined that the project and written reflection are satisfactory, the committee will meet with the candidate for another final presentation.  

Note: If the culminating activity that the candidate has developed is a formal presentation (i.e. inservice, workshop, scholarly presentation), then the committee may evaluate the activity at the presentation itself—which could, in some cases, also function as the final presentation meeting.  

The Individualized Examination 

The individualized examination is the culmination of a candidate’s independent in-depth study of a number of educational theories and issues.  The exam consists of three questions and addresses areas of study identified by the candidate in consultation with his/her examination committee.  Within two weeks of turning in a satisfactory written exam, candidates meet with their committee to take an oral exam to discuss and clarify issues addressed in the written exam.

Individualized Exmination Propsal

Prior to taking EDUC 573, the candidate composes an individualized exam proposal and presents it to the committee, which must include the following:

  1. Proposed areas of focus for individualized examination
  2. Rationale for chosen areas of focus and their connection to issues of social justice in education
  3. Plan for exam preparation (remaining courses to take, research to conduct, etc.)

While registered for EDUC 573, the candidate meets regularly with his/her committee chair to discuss the areas of focus and to become familiar with the pool of questions from which the three exam questions will be selected.

The candidate, in consultation with the committee chair, may submit three potential questions, from which the committee will select one for the exam.  The chair, in consultation with the rest of the exam committee, develops a pool of 3 - 5 questions from which the committee will select two for the exam.  This pool of questions will be given to the candidate at least one month prior to the exam date.

On the date previously selected by the candidate and committee chair, the candidate will receive the three exam questions.  The candidate will have 72 hours to answer the three questions and return the completed exam to the committee chair.  The exam must be word-processed.

Individualized Exam Evaluation 

  1.  Committee members meet to decide who will read each question.   Each question must be read and evaluated by two committee members.
  2.  Committee members read and evaluate assigned questions according to the nine criteria listed on the review form. Each question is graded “PASS” or “NO PASS.”
  3. Committee members meet to compare evaluations of questions.  If members disagree on whether or not a candidate’s response is satisfactory, the third member will read it to help resolve the disagreement.
  4.  If one or more responses are unsatisfactory, the committee will meet with the candidate to explain the problems with the response(s) and to instruct the candidate to rewrite as needed.
  5. Candidates have three opportunities to complete all responses satisfactorily. Candidates who do not pass the examination may petition to take a new examination after completing a period of study of no less than one semester (specifics determined by the committee).
  6.  Once the committee has determined that all responses are satisfactory, the exam is returned to the candidate prior to the oral exam, which must take place no later than two weeks after the candidate completed the written exam.
  7. At the oral exam, committee members again evaluate the candidate’s responses according to the same criteria as were used for the written responses.  The committee may either evaluate each question individually or consider them all together. 

University Policies

Important policies for Graduate Students

GPA Expectations

All courses applied to the program must be completed with an overall GPA of 3.00, and no course for which a final grade below C is assigned may be used to satisfy this requirement.

Full Time Load

Eight units of graduate-level coursework is considered a full-time load. However, students may take up to 15 units without special authorization. It is not recommended to take more than 12 units of graduate-level courses.

The Financial Aid office considers 8 units to be full-time for graduate students.

Graduate students wishing to take over 19 units must have the endorsement of the department and the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Acceptable Courses

Courses used toward completion of one degree (BA or previous MA) may not be applied toward completing another degree.

No fewer than one-half of the total units required shall be in graduate (500 level) coursework. In CTL concentration, no more than 12 units may be uppper division courses. 

At least 21 units must be completed in residence at Sonoma State University. Up to 30% of the program units may be taken in transfer from another university, with department and program approval. This is usually equivalent to 9-10 credits, depending on the pathway chosen.

Courses taken through Extended Education services at any university cannot be applied toward an MA degree unless the courses were awarded graduate level credit by the university where the courses were taken.


Graduate programs must be completed in no more than 7 years, which is computed as 14 semesters, not inclusive of summers.

Coursework that is more than seven years old may not be used toward the degree unless it is validated through examination or comparable experience. The department will determine whether sufficient cause exists to warrant the re-validation; if not, the coursework must be retaken or new coursework substituted.

Completing the Final Project

You have four semesters in total to complete your culminating activity, which means that you have three semesters after taking your final course (EDUC 572 or EDUC 573 or EDUC 599) to complete your culminating MA thesis or project or exam. In other words, you may only enroll in EDUC 578 (Project Continuation) THREE TIMES. A grade of RP (Report Pending) is provided to students for the semester students are working on their culminating project. The RP grade will remain until the student submits the thesis or project or individualized exam for review. A grade of CR (credit) is assigned by Admissions and Records when the GS02 form has been received and processed by the University Graduate Studies Office, after you have completed the School of Education Exit Survey. Neither your committee chair, nor the School of Education Graduate Director can make this grade change.

See “Continuous enrollment requirements” for information on how to enroll in courses if you do not finish your project in one semester.

Students who do not complete the culminating activity in a timely fashion may be required to re-enroll in thesis or project units, and in some cases, to re-apply to the university and to the program.

Students who do not finish the degree within 14 semesters, not inclusive of summers, may petition the Graduate Studies Office for a one-semester extension of time with appropriate reasons. These petitions must be filed before the expiration of the four-semester time limit.

Continuous Enrollment Requirements (EDUC 578)

All Sonoma State University MA students who have begun their final projects must maintain continuous enrollment at SSU through completion of the degree.  This continuous enrollment policy serves to ensure that students will be able to receive the advice and supervision of faculty and that students will be able to use university facilities such as the library and computer labs.

EDUC 578: Project Continuation through the School of Extended and International Education is the most common way to maintain continuous enrollment after program classes have been completed. To register and pay the fee, please call at 707.664.2394, Monday-Friday, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm. It is not necessary to enroll in this class during the summer. If you have completed all courses and are not enrolled in EDUC 578, you will not be able to graduate.

Students who wish to maintain eligibility for financial aid must maintain regular half-time enrollment and pay half-time fees.  Students should use PeopleSoft to sign up for EDCT 578, EDEC 578, EDRL 578, EDEL 578, or EDSP 578, depending on their program area of concentration.

Students who do not maintain continuous enrollment and subsequently return to the university will be required to apply for readmission and, as a condition of readmission, will be assessed a continuing enrollment charge of for every regular semester of the period during which they were absent from the university. 

Filing for Graduation 

Attend to university deadlines for filing for graduation.  Filing for graduation triggers a check of your progress and will ensure that you have completed all requirements for finishing your degree.

Graduation application deadlines are:

  • February 1 for spring and summer graduations
  • September 15 for fall graduation

Leave of Absence

If you expect to take more than one semester (not including Summer) away from your MA program, please file leave of absence forms for both the University and for the School of Education.

Without these forms, if you are not enrolled in classes for more than one semester, you will likely have to reapply to the University and possibly to the specific program within the School of Education. Check with your advisor in the School of Education to see if you need to reapply to the School of Education.

Course Descriptions

MA Core Courses

EDUC 570: The Reflective Educator (3 units)

The focus of this course is on philosophical, historical, social, and psychological perspectives in education and how these perspectives have informed the struggle for social justice in education.  Students will examine these perspectives while being encouraged to examine and reflect upon their own professional practices in education.  Grade only. Prerequisite: admission to MA in Education program. School of Education graduate students are encouraged to take EDUC 570, The Reflective Educator, early in their MA graduate program.

EDUC 571: Research Paradigms in Education (3 units)

This course focuses on students as critical consumers of research and includes among its goals the development of skills in the analysis and critique of educational research.  The course addresses research areas for practicing educators as opposed to the needs of professional researchers, and serves to acquaint students with basic principles and techniques of educational research. Grade only. Prerequisite: admission to MA in Education program. EDUC 571, Research Paradigms in Education, may not be taken during the first semester of a graduate student’s MA program except with the permission of the instructor and the appropriate department graduate advisor. Decisions regarding all EDUC 571 enrollment exceptions shall be based on the student’s previous experience and knowledge of research methods and the student’s progression/advancement in their MA program.

EDUC 572: Supervised Study for the Cognate Project (3 units)

This supervised independent study provides students with guidance in the completion of their cognate project.  Under the direction of the committee chair, and in consultation with all committee members, students will complete 1) a project that synthesizes their cognate coursework and connects it to their MA Program Concentration, and 2) a scholarly reflection that accompanies the project. It is not a class that meets. You work with your committee chair and other committee members. Cr/NC.  Prerequisite: advancement to candidacy.

EDUC 573: Supervised Study for the Individualized Examination (3 units)

This supervised independent study provides students with guidance in preparing for the individualized examination.  Under the direction of the committee chair, and in consultation with all committee members, each student will determine the areas of study to be addressed in the examination, choose relevant readings, and conduct a concentrated study of those areas to prepare for the exam.  Following completion of the written exam, students will take an oral exam in which committee members ask follow-up questions to the written responses. It is not a class that meets. You work with your committee chair and other committee members. Cr/NC.  Prerequisite: advancement to candidacy.

EDUC 598: Developing a Thesis/Project (3 units)

This course develops students’ abilities to carry out a thesis or project and provides basic information for writing the thesis/project proposal and/o implementing the thesis/project. The main goal is to provide students with knowledge to begin their thesis/project.  Grade only. Prerequisite/co-requisite: completion of all MA coursework (except EDUC 599).

EDUC 599: Supervised Study for the Thesis/Project (3 units)

This supervised independent study provides students with guidance in the completion of their thesis/project. Under the direction of the committee chair, and in consultation with all committee members, students will complete the thesis or project that was developed in EDUC 598 (Developing a Thesis/Project). It is not a class that meets. You work with your committee chair and other committee members. Cr/NC.  Prerequisite: advancement to candidacy.