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For every student, achieving a distinction for a master’s dissertation is an impressive result, but a Commendation from the British Council is even better. In this story, find out how our MA TESOL student Chiho (Takeda) Young-Johnson went about her dissertation, and the amazing recognition that she gained.

The British Council English Language Teaching (ELT) Master’s Dissertation Award

Every year the British Council launches the ELT Master’s Dissertation Award to recognise and promote the achievements of students on UK university master’s programmes. Each UK institution can submit one distinction-level dissertation along with a summary of its content and potential impact. By publishing the dissertations on the British Council website, the high quality dissertations become additions to the canon of research in ELT and accessible to practitioners around the world, thereby raising the profile of the authors and universities alike. The scheme is an opportunity for recent graduates to establish themselves in the field. 

In the 2022-23 round of this award, our student Chiho (Takeda) Young-Johnson received a commendation on her dissertation entitled A comparison of Aptis trained raters and Japanese teachers’ holistic scores and judgments of Japanese students’ Aptis writing performance.

Chiho’s tutor, Dr Erhan Aslan, commented: 

“This recognition, which some of our former students have also achieved in previous years, attests to the effective teaching and learning environment in our programme and the excellent quality of their work.”

Chiho graduated with a first degree in History and was therefore unfamiliar with conducting research in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), but at Reading she benefited from the ‘ample staffing of teachers and academic support.’ 

Here Chiho describes preparing for her dissertation:

“Through two semesters of coursework, I systematically learned the basic skills of dissertation writing […]. I was able to see how research is supposed to be done, which allowed me to proceed with my master's dissertation with confidence.

"My first semester was a struggle to keep up with assignments. Each week I was required to read one research paper and sometimes I did not finish preparing for in-class discussions.

"In the second semester, I became accustomed to reading more academic papers as I was given a large number of reading and writing assignments in the Language Curriculum Design module. Moreover, throughout the second semester, I took the Academic Practices module and the Research Design module.

"These modules helped me clarify what I needed to do to write my dissertation. [I] discussed my topic with my professors and classmates during breaks and after lectures. Everyone in the department, including my professors and classmates, listened to me kindly and was supportive.

"At the University of Reading, unlike the education I had received in the past, students submit a proper research plan. At the beginning of the semester, as with other reports, the teachers showed me some good samples of the past final assignment, which were very helpful and helped me clarify my ideas."

Academic support whilst writing the dissertation

"During the dissertation writing period, there were no classes so I could concentrate, but it was also a time when I realized how grateful I was to have someone I could easily talk to when I needed help. My supervisor, Dr. Emma, always gave me quick, detailed and clear feedback on my email questions, which was a major factor in keeping me motivated."

Applying for the British Council ELT Master’s Dissertation Award 

"My professor told me that a female Japanese graduate had won a dissertation award recently.  […] Since then, I have always carried her dissertation with me and compared the quality of her dissertation with my own. In my first meeting with Dr. Emma, I told her that I had decided to take this award and she agreed, guiding me and leading me to win this fabulous award."

Preparing for publication and future plans

"I am currently in the process of revising my master's thesis for publication. I am also returning to Japan to form a research team of several English teachers to conduct new research on the L2 writing test. It was a great confidence boost to be able to use my skills for my master's dissertation in Reading to complete new research and present it at an international conference. 

Next month, I will start my PhD at Georgia State University in the United States. I would like to be involved in as many research projects as possible and contribute to the improvement of English language education in Japan, which has been consistent since before I entered the University of Reading.”

Find out more about MA TESOL and how to apply.

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Patrick Amoyaw

Studying an MA in Applied Linguistics at Reading, and having the opportunity to work as a support teacher at a number of placement schools nearby, has helped prepare Patrick for his future career.

Satomi Suzuki

Satomi has recently been nominated by the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics for the British Council’s Master’s Dissertation Award programme.