collaboration

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.

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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!

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?

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.

 

Frank and fearless advice

Back in the good old days of the Australian Public Service (APS), there was a clause in the legislation under which public servants are engaged. It was something like, “…the provision of frank and fearless advice…”. I like this expression. Frank means clear and true (well at least to me) and fearless, well, it means that anyone in the APS providing advice to the Government of the day should be fearless. There should be no dynamic preventing honesty in the advice being provided. They change the legislation and removed the word fearless. I have no idea what it says now as I’m so disheartened by Australian politicisation of the APS I no longer read the legislation. (Yes, I used to read the legislation for fun.)

Yesterday I had a meeting with David in which there was much frank and fearless advice – on both sides. It was while in this exchange I realised something. As tricky and complicated as the relationship with my supervisors is, there is just so much value and trust. This makes the relationship important to my thesis. Without the ability to be fearless David, and Linda, will not be able to provide me important ideas and feedback, but if I can’t be fearless, my thesis will become theirs, not mine. The fact we can all be frank and fearless is sometimes painful – we hear things we don’t necessarily care to – but there is great value for me and my thesis will be stronger for the experience.

As I said in my last post, I actually wrote theory content and this is what David and I discussed yesterday. We have agreed it’s a basis from which to move forward. I also mentioned in the post the work with Leo. We’ve met and have altered my proposal to a point where we think we’ve got a good paper. So, I now have a lot of work to do. A methodology chapter (not yet started), refinement of the Change Chapter (about 65% of the way there) and completion of the theory chapter (about 30% there) as well as data analysis for thesis and for the paper with Leo. All before 31 December. Good thing I quit my full time job yesterday! (Yes – I know rent will need to be paid……I’m sure there’s a job I can find…..anyone hiring?)

As a side note – I’m blaming Bruce again today. Even though I quit my job and have very limited income stream I spent money at Amazon today! I thought I could use the e-book for Logics of Critical Explanation for research, but Bruce spoilt me with all these beautiful books I can hold in my hands, flick through, visualise the page with the information, scribble in and tag up with post-it notes. Damn you Bruce for showing me such beauty!