Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) (M.A., Licensure)

Culminating Project

You will complete your master’s program with a culminating experience to showcase the knowledge you’ve gained through the program. You can choose from two options — to write a thesis or to write two starred papers.


A thesis is generally about 60 pages. You are encouraged to research an area of interest from your course work or from your previous teaching experience for the project.

Starred paper

Each of the two starred papers are usually about 30 pages each. When writing the starred papers you are generally taking two papers written for your previous course work and expanding them. Generally one of the papers will include data collection and analysis while the other paper could focus on review of research or a specific topic.  

Culminating project committee

Whether you are doing a thesis or starred papers, you will need to set up a committee to review your thesis.

You will be responsible for selecting three faculty members to join your committee and asking them to serve on the committee. You will also be responsible for scheduling two meetings with the committee — a preliminary and final conference.

Thesis committee

The chair and second reader are normally faculty members of the TESL/Linguistics faculty of the English department and should be faculty members whom you have taken classes with. The chair most likely would be someone who has a scholarly interest in the topic of your research.

Starred paper committee

The chair and second reader might be professors from the courses within which the original papers were written. The third reader would be from outside the English Department. The committee chair might recommend a third reader to the online student who would not be very familiar with other faculty members at St. Cloud State.

Culminating experience meetings

At the preliminary conference, your culminating experience committee will review your proposed thesis or starred papers. At the final conference the committee will analyze your finished thesis or starred paper and ask questions. For both meetings, the following procedures will be followed:

  • The committee will be called to order by the committee chair.
  • The student will be asked to summarize the proposal or the final project.
  • Faculty members will comment and ask questions of the student.
  • After this period of questioning, the student will be asked to leave the room so that the faculty can discuss their decisions about the proposal or the final project.
  • After the student returns, the chair informs the student of the results of the committee meeting, the faculty sign the appropriate documents and give the student corrections if they have made them.

Preliminary conference

In the preliminary conference you will meet with your three faculty members who will give you feedback on the proposal for your thesis or starred papers. Online students could conduct this meeting via an Internet conference that you set up with the committee chair.

Final conference

You will again be responsible for contacting your three faculty members and arranging a time for your final meeting. Your chair can arrange for the room if you are an online student.  

Before the meeting, you should have prepared and distributed electronically a full draft of their thesis or starred papers. During this meeting, the faculty members will ask questions about the completed theses or starred papers. By accreditation requirements in the United States, this final conference should be a face-to-face meeting, even for online students. In other words, you need to do one of the following:

  • Come to St. Cloud for the final conference.
  • Arrange for the three faculty to come to the student.
  • Set up a video conference.

For more information about the culminating project or committee conferences, email the TESL Director Jim Robinson.

Culminating project examples

Examples of past student's culminating experience projects are available in The Repository. These can be reviewed for ideas about formatting and designing your own thesis or starred paper. 

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