Christmas comes early

On Friday 7 December I got an email from the very kind and patient Bronwyn at the House of Representatives telling my I have my boxes! I can now go and see what they actually contain and if it’s useful for my research (here’s hoping!).

It has taken two years to get these boxes from my initial archives request. If they don’t contain what I hope they do, this thesis is going to become something different. Something containing no archival material at all!

Advertisements

Life is better with a friend

Today was presentation number two for AARE 2018. This time I had Steph and it was so much better. We were in a session with highly complementary papers and at the end of the two hours it felt like the whole room was happy to be there! The other presentations were interesting and will make good references for Steph and me. To add to the joy our presentation was well received with some good feedback and general consensus more research in this area is needed. What was great was how the room let us know what is important to them in our data so we will now focus a little more in those directions.

Also had more revelations about Monday. (Bit tired of continually thinking about my mistakes but I’m assuming once I get all the lessons I can from the experience the brain will put it into long term storage to be forgotten.) I think the key to balancing my additional research with my thesis is just use my papers with Leo as my case study in my thesis. There’s nothing to say I can’t do that and it will fit in nicely with a little tweaking in focus. So now I have data for Government and universities through parliamentary records and for industry from my own research. I won’t have the time comparison for the industry perspective but I’m not sure that will matter given it’s the case study. If this has legs (and I’ll need to confirm with the supervisors) then I might really be on track to have draft one complete next year! Now that would be grand.

Off to a celebratory dinner with Steph tonight. Pity our research really doesn’t align with my thesis otherwise I could use it too. Hmmm…I wonder if it could…..

Misspeaking leads to revelations

Yesterday I presented on my thesis in public for the first time (my confirmation doesn’t count as only those who had to be there were, yesterday people could have left!). It was a wonderful and horrifying experience with the later the greater emotion.

Wonderfully people seemed interested in my work. They nodded a appropriate times so either they though I had a good point, or were just feeling sorry for me, either way I’m taking it as a win!

Horrifyingly I tried to do too much in one presentation, it became too confusing and to top it all off I misspoke. Of course I didn’t realise it at the time, it dawned on me about an hour later. This meant I couldn’t fix it at the time and I can’t fix it now. For about 24 hours I was thinking about it over and over again feeling horrified and embarrassed, but then I realised what I could learn.

A thesis outside the natural sciences (and maybe within the natural sciences, I don’t know, but from the outside their work seems a lot more clear cut and exact so I’m assuming they don’t have this problem) must use language exactly. If a word is written or spoken, the author must be clear on the meaning for themselves and their audience. de Saussure tells us this is not actually possible but I really need to try to do better than I did yesterday.

I misspoke for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t know what I meant because I’m no far enough into the thinking on my thesis. Secondly, I chose stupid words. The English language is diverse and fulsome. I could have chosen a whole range of words to better express my ideas. Better still, I could have shut up.

I have been careless with words. I recently submitted a draft of my theory chapter (again…..yes….again) and it was shit. I have chosen that word precisely. The reasons were exactly the same as above. My own thinking was falling short of my ability to express my ideas and my choice of language was inadequate. I am half way through this thesis and really want my first draft done by the end of next year. I can no longer be careless with my thinking or with my words.

This blog will the exception of course. Here I can just dump what’s in my brain and hope for the best. I see my last post was almost three months ago. A lot has happened on the thesis over that time and I’ve not been writing it here. I’ve been writing, just not here. The lovely AARE people reminded me on Sunday blogging can be a really interesting and important part of the thesis journey if you use it. And I know I’ve said this before, but I really think I need to put thoughts here more often. Especially if I’m going to start thinking more clearly and choosing better language elsewhere. I’ll need a place to ‘throw out the trash of my brain’. See, it’s already starting….

Thinking hurts in so many ways

Over the weekend I travelled to Armidale to work with Leo on our data. It was an incredible experience in a range of ways. The first was the experience of the Australian country side. It’s so easy to forget the majesty of our country in our day to day lives. There were dust storms and real storms with forests and agriculture passing by. And that was just the trip there!

Actual data analysis with another human being was a whole new experience. We had data on the wall (because I’m like that – cut up the interviews and stuck onto the big sticky notes for transport and coding collection), we had data on the lap top and then we had a white board. About three hours in I declared the need for a walk. The data was there, it was rich, we knew that, but we had basically nothing to be worthy of an academic paper. Leo kept asking “why do I care?” and we kept coming up with he didn’t.

A walk around some of the campus, a discussion about evolution, and we returned anew.

At the end of the day we have two papers with a definite amount of ‘Leo caring’ in them. We got to this point by letting the data talk to us. We used phrases like ‘but what’s the story here?’ ‘what’s this actually saying?’. By actually reading over and over again what we had, and moving some of the data around the coding, we identified an overarching narrative. In the end it was grouping data on the white board that made us realise the story. Learning outcomes as a data set didn’t link to anything else. That became our story.

However, amazing as it was it’s now Wednesday and I’ve only just recovered from the trip. Yes there was the drive, but it was the thinking that took energy. It was uplifting and depressing at the same time. It was energising and draining at the same time. It was an experience I’m keen to do again. Researching together is more fun than researching alone. Thank you Leo.

Now onto working with Steph – we’ve been accepted at AARE to present on data we’re collecting at the moment. It’s a lot harder than we thought. Getting a survey link out through official channels is not easy. However, we battle on and will have a story to tell at AARE and that’s all that matters.

I’ve also had my first paper on my thesis for a conference accepted by AARE so I’ll be doing two presentations in December. Bit excited and nervous. It’s one thing to present on work you share, another to present on your own work. See above, research is easier with a second brain. I’m still not sure my brain is good enough on its own. This is not imposter syndrome but years of experience where success is greater with others than by myself.

On a different note, the hunt for data release continues. I first reached out on 14 April 2017 to the House of Representative and 12 February 2017 to the National Archives. I keep thinking it’s two years in November. Apparently I’m wrong. It just feels that way…archival research is a challenge.

HERDSA – another learning experience

Two weeks ago today I was at HERDSA with the wonderful Stephanie. I learnt an awful lot in one day.

Firstly I had a realisation of how I used to go to conferences thinking everyone is so incredible and perfect. Now I go and and can see gaps in how they did their research, or aspects I would have emphasised and they didn’t. I like to think this is my growth as a researcher. Again, I return to the not knowing to knowing process. I now know enough to be dangerous to myself and others because I don’t really know enough but I know something. Hmmm, okay, I’m referring to the Dunning-Kruger effect . When I started my thesis I was totally at 100% confidence. I knew what I wanted to do, how awesome it was going to be, and totally how I was going to do it. Then I spent the first two years plummeting into zero confidence as I learnt how little I knew. Now, my confidence is growing, but it is the confidence that comes with knowing how little I know, so I have lost a lot of that self-assuredness (cockiness even!) that comes with lack of experience confidence.

What I am doing now though is asking better questions. I even asked a key note speaker a question she thought was interesting and it gave her pause. It was about whether or not we should accept university education as it has become and embrace it in some way as academics, rather than fighting (it was a little more finessed than this, but that’s the gist). This shows me I’m on the right track. I’m still travelling, and have a long way to go, but I’m at least heading the in the right direction.

The session Stephanie and I ran together was amazing. We were expecting three people as we were the last session before the conference dinner and went for an hour and half. It was a workshop rather than academic presentation and we were not hopeful, especially when we had our three people two minutes before starting! However, we ended up with 16 people, an amazing amount of data, and all the indications we’re onto something. Feedback from a lovely woman called Michelle Picard who is doing some interesting research linked to the work of Stephanie and mine has really helped me shape some ideas around the literature. Meeting people like her at conferences is inspiring and depressing as I am getting most of my research support from people I meet outside my university! Although, the session I ran with with Steph told me if I want support I should get of my arse and organise it…

Lastly, I had an interesting experience where Steph and I had a drink after our session with one of the participants. She made the observation how well Steph and I had worked off one another in the session and asked how long we had been working together. She was shocked to find out it was only the second occasion we had met in person. I’ve been thinking about this comment and I think that’s why it’s taken so long to post about the conference. Teaching (which is what conferences are, researchers teaching other researchers about their research) is a very personal act. Team teaching (Steph and me running the session the together) is even more personal if it is to be effective. It must be done with someone with whom there is complete trust or it will become a contest of egos. Research collaboration is the same. It is effective only in trust. So, if that’s the case, how can governments and administrators measure success or failure of trust to measure effectiveness of teaching? That’s a KPI that’s impossible to measure. This is why I think more and more about performance frameworks in education and just how impossible they are. I fear I have found a rabbit hole I have no time to go down. Well, no time today, maybe tomorrow.

Side note: I have been informed by the House of Representatives I may have access to my data within the month! But she also said not to hold my breath…one and half years and counting…

Un-pressing pause (this is not the research we are looking for)

It has happened. Someone has let me know my research is as meaningless as I think it is. To be fair they just said it wasn’t in line with their research requirements, but I do like to add some drama!

This rejection means I’m stuck at the University of Canberra. So, what to do? I’m at an institution who thinks my research is useless (but they accepted me when they thought it wasn’t – a change of VC does that) and who I think is useless because they (administrative types) treat part time social science students like scum.

I think, and I reserve the right to change my mind, I just suck it up, stop being a princess about it all (yes – totally gendered language and all you SJW’s can rant all you like), and just write the thesis. After all, I’ve been accepted at another conference, I’ve had one paper published, have another two in the pipeline, and have still managed to do some thesis work all while I’ve been pressing pause.

I think this should remind me that while I’ve been rejected (and painfully as I really wanted to be accepted and had found a really like minded, yet not, potential supervisor, who would have been great), I am actually okay. I can do research. I can write. And I’ve done all this while not being involved at the University of Canberra at all.

I now un-press pause and will get to work. After all I owe Steph at University of Adelaide some slides for our conference workshop!