serendipity

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…

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It’s never too late to change

I am so thankful to all the people who have helped me on me journey. I think of it as serendipity, but honestly, the planets align too often for it to be chance.

Doug and Bruce – you are amazing. You don’t realise but the little nudges you both give me from time to time have helped me to remain open to content I would never have used.

Michael – your gentle post-structural mocking has paid off. I think I’m changing my mind. As a result I’ve just bought more books from Amazon (Weber, Habermas and Piaget) to see what I can think through, and I’m returning to my research on discourse theory for options other than post-structuralism.

As many of you know who have been with this blog since the start (my apologies) I’ve never really been able to problematise my problem other than “it feels wrong”. Thanks to the session by Ben and Doug I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Last week in response to David and I not agreeing again, I did up a model. It didn’t feel right. So, today I returned to the big sticky note on the wall and I think I worked it out. The product of education, defined by industry and government is being delivered by universities through their interpretation of the defined product which then produces graduates who are interpreted by industry based on how they defined the product. And no one is happy.

Problem is, the doesn’t need post-structuralism to analyse. Yes, I’m still looking at language and how it constructs the ideas and how there is a disconnect between what is said and what is happening, but that’s not about questioning of structures, it’s a questioning of how we are interpreting. It’s a translation issue, not a neo-liberal issue. If my thesis is about explaining what the problem is and pointing out it exists, I can’t do it in a way that turns people off. Going down post-structuralism is turning people off. It’s too angry for what the issue is.

The literature tells me ¬†universities, government and industry do want ‘good’ education. And while it tells me globalisation is tearing university education, it’s by accident rather than design. We are here by chance, or perhaps incompetence, not because of intent. Did people really intend university education to become what it is? I need to write a thesis to answer this question, and perhaps depending on the answer, provide hope for how university education might just become what people want, rather than what it is.

How long does good luck last???

So today I found this: Higher Education in Australia: A review of reviews from Dawkins to today

How lucky can I get? I was looking for something completely different (financial statistics) and found a document done by the government summarising the time period I need for my thesis in policy review terms! Oh yeah!

Also, had a great day writing and researching. Continued with data collection and all I can say is – I’m surprised. Wasn’t expecting to be but totally am. I thought the submissions would be a bit more focused on the money side but apparently it’s all about student choice of provider and all about the equity. Equity for students but also equity for institutions. There is a real ‘us and them’ mentality in the universities which I knew was present, but didn’t understand how large it loomed. Also found out today that only four universities in 2014 ran at a loss. Also found out that all universities’ financial information is put out by DET. I’m assuming others knew this, but I did not. Now I do!!! Learning is so much fun.

I did spend some time on hegemony today. I think I understand the journey of Laclau and Mouffe through the Marxist transitions, however, I would not even bet $10 as yet as to how close I am in understanding. You know what, not even $1.

More importantly, my house is a little cold so I got myself the best beanie – it’s Bert from Sesame Street. It appeals to me to be thinking about the future of Australian education while wearing a muppet on my head.