All students on the Certificate Program complete a supervisor-guided, independent research dissertation, providing for the in-depth exploration of a key theme in Orthodox history, life, thought and practice.
The precise topic for the 5,000-word dissertation is chosen by the student in conjunction with his or her supervisor for the module, and approved by the Institute administration. Topics may be proposed that deal with any facet of Orthodox study commensurate with the level of study.
During up to two terms of study, students engage in independent research and writing under the guidance of their supervisor, to produce their detailed written dissertation for submission. Dissertation essays are generally read and marked by multiple members of the Institute's faculty.
To bring students into a deeper dialogue with a theme in the study of Orthodox life, theology, history and thought — concentrating reflections, prayer, reading and writing on a specific topic and propelling students into a deeper understanding of the Church's teaching through a critical examination of that theme; to exercise academic precision in the study of an Orthodox theme and grow the understanding of, and approach to, the life of the Church through the research and writing of the project.
Learning on the Module:
Learning on this module is intrinsically self-directed, and takes place primarily through independent study, reading and research under the guidance of a supervisor. Students have access to the on-line audio/video lectures of past modules they have taken, as well as textual resources; and interaction with their supervisor on this project may be effected through in-person meetings, live video tutorials (e.g. via Skype), phone calls or other methods.
As a result of the module, within the constraints of the time available, students should be enabled to:
- Determine a suitable theme of focused study and craft it into a concise dissertation title supported by a proposal, abstract, syllabus and bibliography;
- Explore their theme at a level commensurate with study that capstones the increasing clarity and focus of having been engaged with the Certificate Program for at least five modules;
- Interact with an assigned or self-selected supervisor in a way that reflects appropriate academic demeanour and an Orthodox approach to pastoral counsel;
- Produce a written dissertation that effectively explores the question(s) put forth in their proposal at an in-depth level, exposing and examining Orthodox teaching in a personal manner;
- Make use of primary and secondary sources in a capable manner, including referencing and citations that follow a prescribed format;
- Be able to articulate the contents of their dissertation in an oral context (for exaple, via questioning in tutorial or a viva situation), if called upon to do so.
Completion of this module requires completion of each component part, in accordance with the Institute's standard Module Completion Requirements. Assessment is based on the following categories of work required of the project within the two-term timeframe of its offering (exact details, and instructions on each, are provided in the Virtual Learning Environment's resource suite):
- 10% of overall grade: Proposal and syllabus. Approval of a successful Proposal and syllabus (which includes a title, abstract, table of contents and bibliography) is a prerequisite of obtaining a mark in this category (as well as continuing on the Dissertation Project), and the mark is assessed based on the strength of the proposal, the clarity of focus it represents, and the evidence of student engagement in the preparation of the project.
- 10% of overall grade: Study and supervision reports. Students submit two 'Research and supervision update' reports during their project, providing updates on the progress of (a) reading and research on their approved topic, (b) their approach to organising, preparing and executing their writing, and (c) their interactions with their supervisors. Assessment is made of the evidence of engaged activity on dissertation work, interactions with the supervisor and the taking into account of guidance received, effective time management of the project as a whole, etc.
- 80% of overall grade: Dissertation text. The major work of the Dissertation Project is the dissertation itself: a document of no more than 5,000 words. It is assessed on its Orthodox academic content (70%), evidence of independent study (20%) and written style (10%). Extensive guidance and support is offered at all phases of writing, to help ensure students submit a dissertation text that best reflects their learning and growth.
Complete documentation, including formal expectations, guidance, rubrics and standards are provided to enrolled students for each component of the Dissertation Project described above, ensuring that all assessment methods and expectations are well understood and will bring out the best in student learning.