Award for ELT Masters Dissertation

The British Council is pleased to announce the new British Council ELT Masters Dissertation Award for work with the best potential for impact on ELT practice. This award recognises and promotes the achievements of Masters students on UK universities Masters programmes. The scheme is an opportunity for institutions to promote their programmes and for recent graduates to establish themselves in the field.

About the award

British Council Master Dissertation Award with Best Potential for Impact on ELT


In 2012 the British Council announced a new ELT Masters dissertation award for work with the best potential for impact on ELT practice. The idea behind it was to draw greater attention to the fact that much of the work that is done in the field of ELT has practical implications. In addition, the scheme was designed to present an opportunity for institutions to promote their programmes and for recent graduates to establish themselves in the field. The first year of the award attracted the interest of 19 UK institutions. 

The Judging Process

The judging process was collaborative and included the students and lecturers from the 19 institutions. First, each institution submitted a dissertation marked at distinction level. In support, the student or, in some cases, the student’s tutor wrote a two-page summary of the dissertation that included a statement of the practical potential of the ideas presented in the dissertation itself. 
There was a wide variety of topics and research methods chosen for each dissertation. It included studies of collaborative practice in EFL classrooms, investigations of varieties of English used across different parts of the world and how non-sighted students might be given greater access to undergraduate programmes in ELT. Some dissertations were written from the teacher’s perspective. Others took their lead from learners’ experiences from different backgrounds and age ranges. 
Overall, there was a very high standard. Many statements and dissertations were excellent in terms of research and literature coverage, but remained academic rather than practical and were thus not linked strongly to a notion of ‘impact’. Others seemed focused too strongly on highly specific contexts and as a result did not lend themselves to being replicated more widely.
There were three rounds of judging. In Round One, the institutions were divided up into four ‘teams’. Each team was sent five summaries to read and rank from highest to lowest. The writers of the top two statements from each group then went forward to Round Two. This involved two teams of lecturers from the same 19 institutions each reading four complete dissertations, which they ranked according to the potential of the research to change the attitudes, practices or policies of individuals, classrooms or institutions. The best dissertation from each group then went forward to the third and final round to be judged by a British Council panel. 

The Results

The winner of the 2012 British Council Master Dissertation Award with Best Potential for Impact on ELT is Michelle Vyncke from King’s College, London. The runner-up is Jo Gakonga of the University of Warwick . Their work was highly-praised by the judges. Michelle Vyncke’s approach was thought of as:  
Strong and sharply focused. Despite its small scale, the study has clear potential for impact on policy and practice across British HE in relation to provision for international students, and these implications are carefully argued. The study deserves wider dissemination. 
An excellent demonstration of her own central thesis, showing subtle criticality, authoritative argumentation and with rich data well mined. Likely to have a strong positive impact.
Full of trenchant and timely messages to Western Academics, and carrying the potential to open up a much-needed debate about critical thinking.
The judges said the following of Jo Gakonga’s study:
Well motivated, and provides clear evidence of the advantages of asynchronous online study for teacher development, and details of how pre-CELTA course participants benefit from it.
Addressed a pertinent issue in language teaching and offered useful pedagogical solutions and insights for teacher training as well as for online learning and teaching. The quality of research carried out was also very high.
This was an interesting study and I think ways of developing language awareness in pre-service teachers are to be applauded. The course described was interesting and is a model which could be developed outside of this one.
You can read their dissertations in full by clicking on this link. You can also read all the summary statements. 

Looking to the Future

The winner of the Best Masters Award has gone through a lengthy and thorough process of scrutiny. However, we know that there is always room for improvement. So, we are very grateful for the feedback that we have received from the judges on how to streamline the submission process and to define more clearly the impact criterion. This will be included in future versions of the award, which we hope will attract even more universities and, perhaps, be widened to include international institutions.


Award for Masters Dissertation with best potential for impact on ELT: FAQs


What is the purpose of the scheme?

To recognise the potential for impact on ELT of Masters dissertation research. By impact we mean the potential of the research to change attitudes or priorities of individuals or institutions with regard to the development of policies and practices at local or regional or national levels. The scheme may also encourage students to focus on areas of research that will have impact. Publication of Masters dissertations will raise the profile of ELT related Masters courses from UK universities worldwide.

Who is eligible?

To be considered for the award the dissertation must have been completed in the 2011-12 academic year at a tertiary level institution in the UK recognised as an accredited degree-awarding body. Any submission will have been marked at distinction (70+) level. The dissertation can be completed in any mode (e.g. full-time, part-time or distance learning). 

Does eligibility depend on nationality or residence?

No, the scheme is open to all Masters students at UK universities. The nationality and residence of the student are not relevant. 

What is the application process?

The institution submits one dissertation that it judges to have high potential for impact along with a 2 page summary of the dissertation. This summary includes a statement of the practical potential of the ideas presented in the dissertation. The application should also include a commitment from the institution to participate in the evaluation process and permission from the author to publish the dissertation or summary online. 

What form should the summary take?

The summary should be written in Arial 12 and single-spaced. One side should summarise the dissertation. The other should outline the potential for impact. 

What is the evaluation process?

Every institution submitting an abstract will form part of the evaluation panel. The first ranking round will be based on the two page summary. The evaluators will be asked to read about ten summaries. The second round will be based on the full dissertation. The evaluators will be asked to read up to five dissertations. There will be a minimum of two raters per paper.

Who will make up the evaluation panel? 

The participating institutions will nominate one person to sit on the evaluation panel. The evaluators should have experience of supervising Masters dissertations on ELT related topics. The British Council will advise participating institutions on the suitability of the nominated evaluators.  

What is the deadline for applications?

The deadline is 12/11/2012. 

What about copyright?

The author agrees to the papers being used for educational purposes globally, and retains rights to publish in other formats. The British Council owns the copyright of the compilation, and the author retains the copyright of their dissertation. 

What will happen with the dissertations judged to be the best?

The dissertations will be published online by the British Council. 

Does the dissertation and summary have to be written in English?

Yes, all submitted documentation should be written in English.

Are dissertations which focus on English Literature eligible for the scheme?

No, this scheme focuses on English language teaching.

Who can I contact for more information?

Queries should be sent to