Relativeness of happiness (or utility)

I realised it had been a while so I thought I’d read my last post before writing this one. It’s funny, the last post is so full of hope and optimism. This one, even though I’ve done a conference submission and finally submitted my ethics application is not so happy. It’s nothing major, it’s just, well the book didn’t have what I thought. It had some, but not all the submissions so I can work with what I’ve got but it means I’m still reliant on the NAA to finish moving buildings.

I’ve also been running myself short on time. I’ve not done all the analysis I was hoping to have done simply because, well, life. Someone asked me the other day why I wasn’t full time. At the time I was short on an answer. Now I know. I need time to think about what I read, I need time to write what I’m thinking, delete it, and write it again (and again). I will need all the eight years they gave me (well seven and now I’m down to three…..). I also want to have a life while I do my thesis because having space enables cogitation. I talk to people about my thesis all the time and everyone I speak to provides a new insight (except for a really annoying person at work who keeps telling me their experience is vital for my thesis, but really they are not even in the same space). Through these insights building and enhancing I change what I’m reading and exploring. All this leads me to the end (well the end that’s close enough when it comes time to submit).

Interestingly one path I’m now exploring is the utility of education, not the expectation. So instead of trying to understand what actors and institutions expect of university education I’m thinking of how what they say indicates utility. This is useful as it enables me to explore their motivation explicitly through a lens already recognised for its complexity. Utility is totally dependent on the individual’s perspective of what increases their wellbeing.

So, this post really should be happy because I’ve made some milestones, but it’s not simply because I don’t feel the progress and take the set backs too much to heart. Just like my thesis where education is relative, so is my happiness apparently. Maybe I just need to revaluate what increases my utility. Tonight it might be wine.

And……face palm!

For several months I have been chasing documents (see Research is a time sink) and today a miracle occurred. Well, that’s a bit far, but still something so cool. Although it is also a face palm moment as the document I needed was online the whole time…..

Someone sent me a document and a link. The first tells me the big piece of information I’ve been looking for (there are not 600 submissions to the 1988 inquiry so heavens know what the department is on about) and the link is to a book that has all the submissions! So today I joined the National Library and Friday I plan to get out there and borrow myself a book.

What all this has taught me is I’m not very good at research. Actually, I am good at analysis and synthesis but I am very bad at finding things. This reinforces how important Bruce has been to my thesis. Without him feeding me many good sources early on I would not have made any progress at all. It also has taught me I should rely more on others who are good at finding things. And this means reaching out more to ask for help. Something I’m not great at. But today, being sent this little gem, has made me think I should get better at it and fast!

So a big thank you to Natalie at the House of Representatives. You’re very good at finding things!

The past is my future

Today I’ve been doing ethics. My god. Really? The form is insane when I’m not involving anything critical or sensitive. I just want to ask some people about accounting education. What’s the risk in that? Well apparently a lot. Like their office space….seriously there are some good things to think about and the form does let me put N/A a lot because I’m not drugging little children for fun. But it is still annoying.

So to minimise the pain I’ve been going back to old material to cut and paste to save time. This has been a good idea. Turns out all the historical stuff you write isn’t too bad. It really is a good idea to write lots and then revisit after time has past. I’ve been able to lift whole sections of my confirmation proposal which I thought at the time was pretty awful. So feeling not too unhappy today and I also am optimistic about my constant writing approach.

Sometimes people say I write too much as I do about 50 drafts of everything, however, today I’ve learnt by doing 50 drafts I get to pick and choose material on demand. Yes it is time consuming, but I think there might be something useful to come out of it all. And that’s no bad thing.

Another amazing thing today was to read the work of Doug. It’s lovely to read someone’s ideas after you’ve conversed on topics as you can see more fully how and why they are where they are. Hmmm, that’s not quite coherent. Doug – thank you for letting me read your draft on PAC (or as I say TPACK). I learnt stuff and I learnt a bit about your brain. And that’s a privilege for me. Thank you.

Sharing the Literature

I attended a seminar last week organised by my faculty on literature review and approaches. It was quite interesting and a nice way to think about literature. The idea of drawing it in pictures and tables hadn’t really occurred to me before but Marjan shared her thesis work and I can see how it was useful for her. She was able to pictorially show her literature:

And I got a bit excited. I thought I might be able to do something similar as I’ve done this type of mapping for myself but hadn’t thought to include in my thesis. She also used tables to show how she’d analysed the literature in relation to how different literature defines concepts differently and how she chose to adopt her definitions. Again I think this could be useful for me as I too am using definitions. Although I’m thinking a table format might detract from my narrative approach to the whole discourse concept. I see my thesis as being an embodiment of the concepts themselves. If I’m positioning my thesis to argue language is important and how we use it impacts the perceptions we create, by using tables in place of prose I alter my own meaning. But then again I could be modelling clarity of communication through tables in a way people hadn’t previously considered. This would perhaps make my thesis a model of good practice for education communication. But then again am I sending the message prose is too hard and inaccessible in today’s world? Or am I recognising in this Information Revolution we are in, that language should be presented in many forms to increase its value to others? Hmmm….obviously a good seminar as it got me thinking!

Also of interest in the seminar was the issues people were having with their own literature reviews. Insights into the struggles of others enables me to understand and  contextualise my own approaches. I’m starting to see why working around other HDR students would be useful. Maybe  I need to be more sociable and talk to people.

I was so late and Doug was very kind!

Yesterday there were texts confirming breakfast today and then this morning I forgot regardless. It’s been that sort of week….but Doug was kind and waited while I jumped on the bike and rode out to say hello. And wow, am I glad I did.

Talking with smart people is just inspiring. He shared all the research and work he’s doing and I spoke to my paper I’m trying to do because there are massive links between the two. He spoke about visualisation of the problem through A3 diagrams and this opened the door for my brain to see my accounting accreditation problem as a picture. Through the visual I can represent the complexity. He also spoke of HR accreditation and its voluntary nature which enables me to recognise the power dynamic in accounting accreditation which I hadn’t previously considered. In that, the professions have power over academic institutions in relation to accreditation because without accreditation a Bachelor of Accounting is not a viable product. He also opened my mind to the internal processes of the university when it comes to accreditation. I have only been looking at the profession perspective, but what on earth happens inside the ‘little black box’ that is a university?

Most valuable of all Doug said, “Accreditation is not changing what you have, it’s about justifying what you have.”. This statement captures the difference between intent and practice. Accreditation is about setting and maintaining professional standards but if it is about measuring inputs and not outcomes, then it becomes a process of ticking boxes rather than an opportunity to enhance or amend the education already in place. Why is this the case? Because accreditation is yet another time consuming activity to be undertaken by time poor academics. Without time, there is limitations on reflection and education is improved through reflection.

Of course at the moment this is merely my opinion. Now to do some research and see if I’m right! You never know, maybe my cynicism is too far this time.  But a big thank you to Doug for waiting for me (I was 25 minutes late!) and for his ideas. It’s always a pleasure.

How do the professionals do it?

Hats off to every academic out there. You are incredible. How you sustain any mental health normality on the roller coaster that is publishing is beyond my understanding. Today it is official. Leo and I made it. From an initial chat in September 2015 we are now a paper in January 2017. I mean I thought the APS was slow, but this has been a mind blowing experience and a roller coaster of emotions.

First the research doesn’t do what you expect (took us three different approaches to the data to get it to work) then there is the writing, editing, clarification, editing, rewriting (and that’s just Leo and I). Then comes the rejection, then the acceptance with edits, then the extra edits and then the publication. I’m tired just writing this.

So, kudos to you academics. You are awe inspiring (awesome).

On a different note, I had a thought last night about my title. I know I get hung up on it (see here and here and here and here and others…..) but for some reason having a title is really important. Anyway, I realised yesterday while doing my literature review for what feels like the 100th time, accounting is about giving an account. An account is like a story, which is a narrative, which is a discourse. This led to a title of:

A critique using accounts of Australian university education from those involved in a Bachelor of Accounting

This won’t be my last title, but I like it. It has a simplicity I’ve been missing and basically says what I’m doing. I want to bring simplicity back, I lost it a bit last year, but it’s mine if I want it. Comments on the title more than welcome! Writing is a lonely business and I’m an extroverted thinker.

 

The past is a funny thing

I’m going through old emails (currently at September 2015 – and yes there were things I was supposed to have done). I hate email and as such, I don’t do it a lot, and then I find myself finding a whole range of research documents I emailed myself (and others have emailed me) and now I have 18 unread emails in my PhD folder which is about one week’s worth of work. And I worry there’s something awesome in there that would have kicked serious arse at my confirmation, but you know, spilt milk and all that.

Anyway, here is the gem I found: s2b21415091709150. This was my original proposal to the ANU probably about a decade ago now. There’s no date, but I do have a book somewhere with the notes I made when I met with a lovely academic at the Crawford School who basically said I didn’t have a thesis. It’s funny, looking at this document I can see how right he was. Looking at this document I also see how in all this time I’ve not really moved from my fundamental position. Education is flawed because of a failure in communication and incentives, not a failure of intent.

A timely reminder for me. The trimmings and theory may change, but the core, the whole point, is a constant.