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?

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.

And a big thank you to the neoliberal Diane!

Today I went to an awesome presentation held by Prof. Raewyn Connell called “Intellectuals and Universities in Neoliberal Times”. I only went because the wonderful Diane said she couldn’t make it and would I mind given it’s in my field. Oh wow!

There are moments were things line up, become clear, the clouds part, it is so obvious why didn’t I see it before. This presentation was this moment.

She wasn’t saying anything I didn’t really already know but she did have a cool slant to take which is always nice. And her presentation style was really good. She used people images to tell the story and for me that was something I’d not seen before. A clever approach. However, it was at the end when she started to talk solutions. What can be done? That’s where I realised the point of my thesis is to provide information so people can seek change. Prof Connell said she’d tried economic rational discussions to attempt change but this doesn’t really work with university management, in her experience. This resonated as I had often tried to use logic in the face of university management only to be met with blank stares and power struggles. What Prof Connell suggested was activism. And what activism needs is a catalyst.

Now if Laclau and Mouffe have taught me anything, it’s that revolution is an organic process where a range of factors combine together in a way that can’t really be planned. What is needed though is antagonism and logics of equivalence and difference existing at the same time. My thesis will show the logics and will hopefully provide understanding for possible leverages to use to become active in changing the direction of university education in Australia, because quite frankly, the picture painted today was very grim indeed.

Thank you Diane – I owe you!

Attainment of Wisdom Methodology

The title of this post comes from my new post. We were discussing zones of uniqueness as Denise talks about how this is how you make money – by operating in your zone of uniqueness. I wasn’t sure I had as I’ve been a jack of all trades all my life.  My lovely boss then highlighted my ability to listen, gathering information, consider, and then understand in a way that a useful decision can be made. She then labelled it the Attainment of Wisdom Methodology (AOWM).

I have thought about this perspective in relation to APIRA and have realised she’s kind of right (she usually is) because a lot of the value from APIRA is coming to me the further away I get from the sessions and it relates to how my brain is piecing together the information from the sessions – which was great – with the people I met in the breaks. My last post referred to two, but there were so many people with so many perspectives and ideas, and slowly my brain is working out to apply all this to my thesis. In fact I started re-writing a chapter today based on APIRA ideas. That’s a pretty incredible impact.

Today has also been a day of decision. For my undergraduate degree, I drafted my essays by hand (partially because there were so few computers in those days) and this process of writing by hand changes how I think. As such, today I bought a notepad and have decided to try a system of Scrivener notes open on the lap top, mind mapping in my note pad and then writing the chapter the old school way. It might become a waste of time, in which case I’ll revisit, but I really feel like this chapter needs some hand written thinking.

As with APSA I’m hoping to post about some of the sessions I attended at APIRA, however I notice I didn’t go back to the APSA notes at all. I think this tells me something…..not sure what yet, but I’ll apply the AOWM and come up with something!

Another milestone day

Tonight I hope to be awake enough to post about my presentation, but in the meantime I’m putting the slides here so I can access today.

Presentation draft

Turns out I wasn’t awake enough! It was really great. I got solid feedback for the paper and met amazing people for my thesis. I met two incredible women, Meredith and Kathie, who have recently completed their PhDs. We got to talking about how to complete a thesis and came up with a range of issues I think everyone in the first year should have. Talking to them was like getting the real story instead of the waffle you usually get. It was warts and all. I’ve been to websites that offer support and ideas, got the books and they are all upbeat and positive about it all, while saying it does take hard work. These women were just like – this is reality, these are some tricks that worked for me, and in the end you write. The value of the conference has been met on the first day!

So what was the advice?

  • Project manage the thesis – the whole time period
  • Do a spreadsheet to manage your words for each chapter and stick to it. You can only add words if you’ve taken them away from somewhere else
  • Give yourself a buffer of words when you submit because if you have to edit you want room
  • Mange your supervisors – this means booking time and seeking clear instructions from them and agreement about turn arounds
  • If you aren’t passionate about it, don’t do it. A thesis is not just a piece of paper to get to be an academic. It’s a passion. If it’s not – go and get a job for a while and then come back.

Thanks APIRA – you rock

Back in the saddle – apparently

I type this with my new glasses on that make me want to vomit when I move my head too fast or look out the window to think, but apparently they help with reading. Funny how glasses are plural when there is only one. Anyway, off topic.

Since my last post I went a great session on methodology on 10 May. It was interesting but like a lot of these sessions, we start with positivism and end up talking about it for far too long for my interests. Given so few people use it in my faculty it seems weird how long we spend on in it. Anyway, the session was inspiring enough for me to start my methodology chapter based on the work I’d done for my proposal as well as some additional research. Another reason this session was good was because it was after hours so lots of part time people there so it felt like more people understood my pain. Being part time is stupid. I didn’t realise how stupid until my confirmation. Then a whole lot of stupid became apparent including being part time. Anyway, it was really nice to feel a different mood in the room. People in a boat of no time, no scholarship and no desk on site. It was nice. I hope there are more like it.

At my work someone is doing a science thesis and when I was talking about post-structuralism she was open enough to ask “what’s that?”. It wasn’t that she didn’t know the details of post-structuralism (hell – does anyone?) but she really didn’t know the term. This made me value the session on methodology even more, because I realised how much work the faculty does in helping us understand what a thesis is in relation to how it alters how you think. We learn about all theories, not just the one we want to use, and while this is painful and at a times arouses a murderous rage, I can really see now how important it is that I understand basic concepts to know why I am choosing the theory I am. It was cool to talk to someone completely fresh to the idea of post-structuralism. Made me really stop and think about how to make it seem like a good idea and a good basis for research.

These two events have helped me get back in the saddle. I have a new timetable on my wall (see below) and every day I can look to see how I’m doing. It’s keeping me on track so far (only two weeks in….) but more importantly I’m reading again, researching, and writing. I fell off, and have finally got back on. What’s most awesome is I’m reading theory and understanding how it applies to me. I no longer read for understanding, I read for usability and as a result, the stupid stuff makes sense. Thanks to Michael for putting me into this frame of mind with theory. I suppose it’s also worth mentioning my confirmation has come through. The reports from the assessors ended up being quite positive and supportive.

“There is little doubt in my mind that the candidate has recognised an important area for universities to be concerned about and one which has been generally overlooked by the research community.”

“Mel’s topic is important, timely and would contribute to filling clearly identified gaps in several literatures. ”

But they offered no specific direction for theory! Just that it was going to be tricky but they were confident I’ll work it out. Glad they’re confident!

Right, back in the saddle, means back to it I guess, but maybe I’ll bake some cookies first…..procrastination is still with me.