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.

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.

Where I am in the literature

Yesterday there was a great session where Ben and Doug spoke about how to situate research within the literature using the work of Locke and Golden-Biddle. Fortunately Doug had given me a copy of the article so I knew where they were going (in fact I’ve used it as a reference in my thesis already!). the presentations were great because they showed thinking. They showed how other people consider the options for their research and how they build their understanding of their research problem. I also have an idea for structuring my literature review. Bonus!

I also liked the forum because I asked basic questions and people were really informative and patient with their responses. Additionally I got to thank Bruce publicly for the amazing support he’s given me and continues to do so.

What made me sad was at the end in casual chat I was reminded how academics are their own worst enemy. Ben mentioned how he had been nervous and I asked why, given his presentation was so good. Another academic remarked that it’s always scary presenting to colleagues because you’re exposing your research to your peers and that can be really bad. I was reminded how some people do not know the line of critique and being critical. I hope I never lose the courage I have to talk about my research, anywhere, to anyone. I know I almost lost it after my confirmation, but I held onto it, and will now nurture the courage more than ever.

Are we there yet?

My last meeting with my supervisor (on 23 Dec) ended with him telling me not to work on Christmas day but instead to enjoy myself. Well, I did. It was great. I also met with my coach before the end of the year and he gave me some great advice including structure for my proposal which works for me much better than the one provided by the university. He also gave me a theory framework template which helped me make a leap forward in my understanding. It’s like every now and then someone tells you something or shares something and it’s like your brain grabs hold and goes “Oh! That makes all this other stuff make much more sense now!”. He also gave me a book on theory by Blaikie which really helped piece together missing links too. I don’t agree with his position on postmodernism (spoiler alert Blaikie doesn’t like it) as I think he’s making the complicated more complicated and not realising that by understanding post-modernism is about understanding not explaining, it actually works quite well.

See that’s the break through my brain has had (among others). I finally understand why I’m post-structural (which is not the same as post-modern).  I want to understand university education in the context of commodification by understanding the expectations of universities, Government and industry which requires me to understand the political, social and ideological relationships between them. I seek to understand through language, expectations, context and relationships. I don’t want to explain. This makes me post-structural. The language has meaning (hermeneutics) and context of the language in the text, of the text, of the author and reader provides more meaning (structural linguistics) and the social, political and ideological relationships provides more meaning again (post-structural). I will need to take all these steps to conduct my research but at the last, I am looking at the relationships and how they work with and against each other (hegemony).

In the mean time, over the last week I’m supposed to have done a stack of work I’ve not done…I’ve done other stuff which is good and I’ll send onto David for our meeting this week, but it’s not what I’m supposed to have done. Apparently we’re not there yet and confirmation seminar is getting closer….hmmmmm

Critiquing and being critically reviewed

Today has been a big day and as I worked my way through my list I realised a lot has happened that I haven’t blogged and I should. If only to make sure I don’t forget how amazing people are.

So since my last post I’ve had a few meetings.

The first was a catch up with Doug the coach. Really great ideas and conversation about how to build narrative for the thesis and what the actual message is I’ve got to convey. Also interesting conversations in relation to literature reviews as this is constantly my bug bear. Interestingly he asked if I’d mapped out my Introductory Seminar in a mind map. Unlike me I hadn’t. I’d just written it. Based on this excellent advice I have been able to map not just the seminar but also how I plan to do the thesis. Doug critically reviewing my work made me work harder to articulate what I’m doing and where I’m going. This has turned into an amazing leap forward in my own understanding of my thesis.

Then it was a supervisor meeting – actually it was a master class on the ‘posts’ – modernism and structuralism. This was a fantastic meeting. It clarified the reading I had done in this space and gave me a stronger grounding in how post-structuralism is applicable for me. Today I’ve done some more reading and I’m not sure I’m post-structuralism just because I’m exploring how meaning is constructed and then constrains. I’m not sure I’m fully in this space so more thinking and reading to be done. We also talked about how research changes you. This was a valuable insight as the day I was having needed a tether. By that I mean I often feel like I’m at sea in this thesis and people around me are drifting away. The conversation highlighted it’s me that drifts, not them, so I can choose to not drift and actually re-engage.

I shared this view with Sarah – about research changing you – and she agreed. We then discussed how it is a privilege to undertake a PhD and how humbling it is to be in the world of research. Sarah is an amazing academic. She researches across disciplines in really imaginative ways and chatting to her was just wonderful.

I also met with my second supervisor to go through my Introductory Seminar plan. After some frank and fearless discussions we got to a path of clarity. It was amazing. We were talking, exchanging ideas and then all of a sudden my brain switched gears and today I’ve been able to write about the literature in a critical way. I’ve been thinking about it differently and my thesis too and this in turn has led me to the most positive I’ve been about my literature review ever.

I’ve also been to two sessions on the three minute thesis. While these have been interesting I’m not sure there’s been sufficient value for me personally. It comes from having a major in drama I suppose. I’m also concerned about having to put my research into a box that is familiar for everyone just to be heard. But then if you want to be heard, you have to sell the message a way people understand. This is making me think hard. I have decided to do the three minute thesis every year I study. It’s an excellent process of critically reviewing where I am and what I’m thinking about my thesis.

Reading these paragraphs you can see why I have the title for this post I do. I’ve finally moved my head into the space of critiquing others and am learning so much from people critically reviewing me. These meetings all led to an amazing research day today. I’ve got what I think is close to my final content for my Seminar and I’ve also been able to consider weaknesses in the literature I’ve found. Weaknesses my research can help address. Today has been a landmark day. My brain is starting to get it. A long road to go, I know, but it’s comforting to know I’m now strong enough to walk it.



And the planets aligned

Every now and then the universe really comes together. (To be fair I’m not really into this concept but you, some days it does just happen). I met with Doug this morning and we talked about setting research in the literature and being aware of the problem your research addresses in the literature. The need to critique the literature not just summarise.

He also spoke of using a single resource and setting that in the Australian context even though it’s American. Basically, if there is one guru for me, justify why he’s the guru and how it relates to my research. Don’t just assume the reader will go with me on this. (I’m saying he, because my guru is Martin Trow – however, your guru may be a woman! Or may be they are other – it’s all good).

Lastly he talked about the importance of linking the literature review to the questions and demonstrating how I got there.

How does the university fit in? Yesterday I was writing exactly this stuff. I was working out how my research fits. Talking to Doug helped my brain open more doors. He contextualised where I am today in my head into my research. Not bad for 45 minutes!

Coaching for success

I was talking to a really generous academic this morning about units, education, systems, administration and PhDs. He’s recently submitted so is very excited! He was also very generous and has offered to help coach me through my PhD.

This was something I hadn’t thought of, but in some ways, many people have already been coaching me. Words of encouragement here and there, advice, perspective and so on. However I’m being offered something more formal and organised. This is going to work for me. Someone I can talk to about the experience of the PhD rather than the research itself. The whole, “how do you feel” aspect.

Generally I’m not into thinking about how I feel, but the process of reflecting on what I want from the PhD, am I getting what I need from the units I’m completing and the research itself. I can see how this is going to be useful. A PhD is more than research and writing, it’s the journey and the process. According to Doug, it’s about getting up out of the mud when you’ve been knocked down, again, and again, and again…..I related to this based on me experience with my research unit. The hardest bit (other than not having an idea what was going on) was doing the resubmit. Being told I sucked, but that I could suck less if I work a bit more. But I think that’s going to happen a lot more before I get to 2021.