Journey to Mastersness: the light bulb moment

Jacqueline Shanley, Jayne Dalley-Hewer

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The qualities required from master’s level study or ‘mastersness’ have been described in the literature but the pathway to achieving these qualities is not clear. This paper aims to investigate the journey to ‘becoming a master’ by exploring the learning experience of master’s students. A purposive sample of 7 students who had successfully completed master’s modules participated in semi-structured interviews which explored their experiences and perceptions of master’s level learning. Thematic analysis was completed by two researchers in order to identify key themes. The study revealed the detail of students understanding of becoming a master and how this develops. It highlighted that students perceive ‘finding their own voice’ to be the key theme with discussion, reading, thinking and time being significant factors of this process. Of these elements, discussion was felt by participants to have the most profound effect on the development of an understanding of mastersness and finding their own voice. We discuss how these findings may facilitate the student transition to master’s level study by making the journey explicit to students
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-21
JournalPractice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • mastersness
  • transition
  • postgraduate learning
  • discussion
  • critical thinking
  • threshold concept


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