Promotion time – 3MT

So, apparently I’m doing this: https://uc3mt2017.eventbrite.com.au/

For those interested in research it’s not a bad night. You learn some pretty interesting work people are doing. Also, you get to hear me rabbit on for three minutes about my thesis (non existent thesis…..but you know, the thought is there.)

One of the greatest values of the 3MT is not the night itself but the process I go through to think about my work in three minute block. What is my research actually about? What is the value? The approach? And above all, why should anyone care?

It’s a good discipline and this year I actually reframed my research questions based on the thinking I did for 3MT. I believe the best thing about my research and my approach is the way it makes my brain work in different ways. The exploration in my research is leading me to explore in life. The concise nature of 3MT is helping me refine and articulate my ideas, and in turn this helps me think about how I communicate more broadly with others.

Not sure I ever want to complete my thesis given how awesome this journey is!

Oh wait, the theoretical model I need to do…..yep, okay, it can finish now…..

Progress of a kind

As a high school teacher doing a PhD I thought school holidays would afford me the luxury of two weeks of writing, research and general activity. It did, but it related mainly to how to teach Year 9 and 10 in second semester, what car to buy and filling a skip full of rubbish accumulated over twenty years. Not quite the thesis productivity I was after.

I did achieve some……I met with my secondary supervisor who as always hit the key points right on the head making me come ever closer to my actual thesis question. I was proposing a whole ‘promise of university education’ clever theme for my 3MT and Linda pointed out it’s not really a promise, more of an objective. Promise, she pointed out, was a little vague. Government, universities and industry are anything but vague about what they want from a university education. They state it clearly in documents. The issue arises in the interpretation of these documents and the associated incentives. So basically my thesis is looking at the contrast between the stated objective and the alignment, or otherwise, with the incentives Government, universities and industry create. This is a much tighter idea than I’ve ever had and it means I can still do the historical comparison of documents I’ve been hanging out to do – so that’s progress!

Progress has also occurred with the document hunt of 1987-88. Lovely Natalie at the House of Representatives is totally on top of how to get the documents released. I had no idea how hard it would be. She has to write up a paper to the Speaker of the House who will then approve (or not) the release of the papers. Of course the interesting thing is we still don’t know if the papers are the right ones for me so this could be almost a year of work down the drain (I started this in November 2016).

During the two weeks I did conduct two interviews for my next paper with Leo. Was hoping to do a bit more but apparently universities were also having a break. It was exciting and interesting. I really cant thank the two people enough for their frank and fearless input. I have also been accepted to speak at a conference (if I make modifications to the paper) in November! So that’s progress too.

So while there was a dream of writing the next draft of the methodology chapter over the two weeks as well as the theory section for the paper with Leo, I think it’s okay the dream got diverted. At least I have a plan, I can see some progress and it’s not like I played Civ V non stop (although I really wanted to!). The last two weeks have seen progress. Not the kind I wanted, but progress non the less.

Colloquium Write Up – July 2017

I have just returned from the RMIT Colloquium, and given it was my second time I went back in my blog to look at what I said last time. Apparently I was not inspired to be creative with the title so I thought I’d go the same way again!

Despite my lack luster title, the two days were incredible. Doris and Niamh were simply inspiring . Between them they have revolutionised how I plan to present my thesis. Theory became clear including how I might just be able to vertically integrate my theories (if I’m clever!). I also have ways to think about presenting my analysis and ‘operationalising’ aspects of my question. Precision was also discussed. Qualitative research needs precision to be believed. This was a new perspective, but one I will carry forward (may even become a banner on my wall!).

One of the most valuable experiences from these types of events is hearing about the research of other students and their struggles and victories. It is mainly at conferences I hear these stories simply because I’m a part time student and see no one from my university cohort. I have given up trying to find people locally to network and spend time with. It’s easier to meet amazing people at conferences!

I also spent time building networks for interviews as we got our ethics clearance. Very exciting. Means I need to get busy to meet my new timelines, but there’s nothing wrong with hard work.

One moment at the colloquium changed my world view through a subtle adjustment of my thoughts about people. At a break out session we were talking about why governance boards fail. Niamh simply asked, why does any group fail? We discussed group work at university and how you end up with all the different personalities doing battle. I tried to argue that members of boards are trained professionals and should work towards the benefit of the organisation, aware of managing their personalities. However, it was the wisdom of Niamh in which my moment of clarity arose. She didn’t say anything, she merely looked at me. The look was kindly, insightful, tinged with a little pity, and loaded with meaning. Something in my brain shifted.  Human nature is, simply, human nature. Boards are made up of humans, therefore they are bound by human nature and will succeed or fail based on the nature of the humans of which the board is composed. I have always ‘known’ this, but in Niamh’s look I ‘knew’ it. My thesis is about human nature. All it’s complexity, machinations, beauty, horror, manipulation, innocence, charm, strength and weakness. That makes it hard to complete. Hard, but not impossible. I simply have to be precise, clear and strong enough to make it meaningful to others. What could possibly go wrong?

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.