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‘PhD’ Category

  1. Education – my thinking

    12 November 2018 by shartley

    I was recently challenged by someone to add more of my own thinking to this blog, given that recently it has been more about other people’s voices. So sitting in my gorgeous hotel in Bath, occasionally looking out the window (view in image above) for moments of contemplation, I have bashed out where my head is currently at re education and my PhD. By the way, for my more general thoughts, less education related, I have a writing blog too. Often the lines blur so the decision as to where to post can be quite the quandary.

    So here goes.

    I am passionate and quite emotionally tied up with:

    1. Students’ gaining agency through education so they feel empowered to make choices and decisions about their own lives and believe they can have an impact on the people, communities and societies around them.
    2. Creating a broad curriculum that students value and engage in.
    3. Implementing pedagogy that enables students to value and engage with the curriculum.
    4. This generally means the curriculum needs to be relevant to real life in terms of what is being learnt, how it is learnt and how it is assessed.
    5. Also means that there is a need to not only focus on students’ attainment on knowledge but also their development of skills, attributes, competencies, capabilities, and other closely related terms.
    6. Breaking down the restrictions, barriers and the risk levels teachers feel, to enable students to learn and acquire the knowledge, skills and attributes they need now and into the future.

     

    Thus, there are several areas in education that really make me angry and frustrated.

    1. Teachers who just want to deliver information to compliant students.
    2. People outside the profession who think education is merely about delivering information to compliant students.
    3. The lack of recognition that to do more than deliver information takes time and energy.
    4. The teachers who think their innovative teaching method is the one and only way. Teaching needs to be fit for purpose.
    5. Schools that promote themselves as being a “PBL school” or some other particular method of learning annoys the hell out of me. Teaching needs to be fit for purpose.
    6. Students and their families who focus on the final grade at the end of over a decade of education and not appreciating learning for its own sake. This is exemplified by students who say “just tell me what I need to know”.
    7. Schools and teachers who cater to students and families’ single-minded focus on grades and/or want to maintain an outdated image of compliant students sitting in rows, working in silence.
    8. The confines of prescribed curriculum reducing teaching to a tick-box approach to covering material.
    9. Curriculum that claims in overarching statements at the front of documents that they are achieving a range of knowledge, skills and attributes through that curriculum and then in the back end, reduce teaching to be mainly about the mere delivery of knowledge.
    10. Dichotomies in education that reduce concepts to either/or concepts. I am sometimes guilty of buying into some of them in my research and writing. I am particular against the ideas of traditional versus progressive teaching and knowledge versus skills and attributes. Again, it’s about teaching that is fit for purpose. Fit for the knowledge, skills and attributes being sought, fit for the students undertaking the learning and fit for the context and available resources.
    11. The terms “non-cognitive skills” and “soft skills”, as if leadership, creativity, interpersonal skills and so on, do not require thinking and hard work to develop and improve.
    12. The term “21st century skills”, as if these skills have only been needed for the last 18 years and not before. How ridiculous!
    13. Socio-economic inequities in education. I have worked in four private schools with various level of fees and funds to expend. My own children went to private schools for the most part. Despite my own actions and behaviour, I desperately want public schools to be better resourced. Technology adds to the socio-economic gap in education and yet I am still an advocate for technology in teaching because it is such an integral part of our lives. I worry how much education adds to income inequality in our society.
    14. Other inequities in education that occur on the basis of gender, race, learning difficulties and much more.
    15. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) currently being valued so much more than the Humanities. Is it really to cater for a job market (and thereby treating education as the mere creation of human capital)? Or is it about reducing the amount of critical thinking about societies, communities and the people within them?
    16. The treatment of education as if it is about producing human capital. I will acknowledge there is an element of that occurring because it is inescapable in a capitalist society but there is so much more to education than this!

     

    This thinking informs the research I want to undertake for my PhD.  It has led me to Enterprise Education which has the potential to encompass all that I desire in education. I also resist the wholesale embracing of capitalism and therefore would prefer if Enterprise Education did not overly feature entrepreneurship and financial gains. To me, Enterprise Education is about developing students’ enterprising skills and attributes in the broadest sense, allowing all students to flourish. I want to discover the best objectives, curriculum, pedagogies and assessment processes in Enterprise Education that is conducted at a scale beyond the classroom, at a whole grade level, preferably more than a one-off experience but a whole year program. I would love to just submerge myself in a few of these programs and analyse what works best.

    Attending the ISBE Conference last week was a fantastic immersive experience in the thinking of a whole bunch of amazing people working in this area but it also added to the imposter syndrome monster within me. My struggle is the more academic aspect of doing what I want to do. I need to work out theoretical approaches/lenses and frameworks. This is what keeps me awake at night and occasionally drives me to tears. Am I ever going to get my head around this stuff? Am I ever going to be able to produce good quality academic work that can make a difference in education by influencing curriculum and helping teachers to happily do the best for their students? Well, that’s my dream. I’m sure once I have a grip on the academic theories I will be able to analyse and write and have a voice in the arena but right now there’s a huge wall in front of me. I have ten days to write a decent PhD proposal, including a literature review, while I also enjoy the pleasures of being a tourist as I finish up in Bath, go to Prague, and then head home. I know, tough life and all. I will submit a proposal at the end of this time but it won’t be anywhere near the quality I desire unless an epiphany occurs.

    Soon this initial hurdle will be behind me and I won’t have to think on it until the PhD truly commences in 2019. In the meantime, back home, I’ll be preparing for Christmas and finding somewhere new to live (long story). I am looking forward to hosting a party for my fellow post-grad education researchers, visiting family in Adelaide, going to the cricket and tennis, reading for pleasure and experiencing the glorious heat and sun of summer in Sydney, Australia.

    PS My playlist (shuffled) as I wrote this post.


  2. A PIECE of ISBE 2018

    11 November 2018 by shartley

    7-8 November ISBE Conference

    My first communication outside the Twitterverse with Dr Colin Jones was an hour long phone conversation back in March or April about my MRES topic. When I mentioned I was presenting on Enterprise Education (EE) in Cologne, he suggested I also attend the ISBE conference in Birmingham the following week, since I was in the area. At the conference, Colin introduced me to his friends/contacts which led to many interesting conversations. We also had time to continue our discussions about EE and my possible research focus, which were extremely valuable and enjoyable.

    Anyway, here’s A PIECE of what I appreciated most from the conference.

     

    ACTIVITY

    I enjoyed the idea Dr David Higgins presented about the need for EE to be researched as an activity (verb) and our own involvement, as opposed to the clinical scientific arms-length approach that describes human activity in concrete terms (nouns) instead of their actions/emotions/motivations/thinking/etc .

     

    PEOPLE

    People I knew via Twitter came to life at the conference:

    Dr Kelly Smith – I love how passionate she is about EE  and she introduced me to the term Pracademic.

    Andrea Lane – a knowledgable and thoughtful person who makes me think deeper.

    Matt Rogers-Draycott – Matt first came to my attention just a few months ago when I read an older article he co-authored. I did a series of tweets about it because I just love his thinking and approach to EE.   

    Catherine Brentnall – I had a few but brief chats with Catherine at the conference. She didn’t have much luck while she was there. For instance, a taxi driver took her to McDonalds for the Gala Dinner instead of the Macdonald Burlington Hotel and she had a tummy bug on the last day resulting in her having to leave as soon as she presented her paper. However, I’m sure this friendship will continue to grow over Twitter.

    Prof Nigel Adams – In discussion on the walk to and during the gala dinner, Nigel reminded me of ‘Doc’ in Back to the Future due to his intelligence, passion and eccentric mannerisms. He even showed me video of him riding an electronic skateboard owned by one of his students.

    Will Hogan and Peter Harrington of SimVenture – I met these two at the gala dinner. We then continued talking to after midnight at the hotel bar.

     

    INTERSECTIONS

    Unfortunately I missed Lucy Hatt’s presentation, mainly because it wasn’t in the Enterprise Education stream. We follow each other on Twitter and had chatted briefly at the conference. At lunch on the second day, Lucy and Colin talked intensely and deeply about her concept of intersections in the student’s entrepreneurial journey, while I listened in. Colin was adding to it by saying the role of the teacher is to be at some of those intersections and work out what the student needs to help the student choose the path from that point. I also recommend following Lucy’s excellent reflection blog about her PhD process and progress.

     

    ECHO-CHAMBER

    During one of breaks, Andrea and I talked about a range of EE topics, including the echo chamber of EE, particularly that it often echoes theoretical papers more than empirical research. Lo and behold, the very next talk by Catherine and David was about the need to break out of the echo chamber and include more philosophy in the EE field.

     

    ECOSYSTEM

    I have been considering some sort of organisational theory/ies for my PhD. I was reminded by Dr Su-Hyun Berg and Prof Jay Mitra’s presentation of an ecosystem approach. I’m a little wary though, because sometimes ecosystem is a bit of a buzzword in EE literature. On the last night Su-Hyun, Jay, Colin and I went for a drink. Jay and Colin regaled us with conference stories and I learned how Su-Hyun moved from Korea to Germany 14 years ago and after two years of resisting the German language, gave in and now speaks it fluently.

     

    This is just A PIECE of what the two days of conference gave me. Now, as I enter the solo holiday part of my trip, I need to write my PhD EOI/proposal which has been informed and confused by the ever-increasing number of EE concepts that have been brought to my attention.


  3. 12 Golden Nuggets from Practical Pedagogies

    4 November 2018 by shartley

    Image courtesy of Practical Pedagogies via a tweet

    Look! Look! Look!

    I can see hundreds of teachers voluntarily gathering for the sharing of pedagogical ideas. I can hear a cacophony of accents as they chatter earnestly making new connections and friends. I see Russel Tarr, one of the first few international connections I made on Twitter nearly 10 years ago. He organised this conference at St. Georges’ School, Cologne, from Toulouse, in his spare time. I have found Russel to be deeply intelligent, skilful and passionate about education and continuous learning. Through this conference he has also demonstrated how incredibly organised he is too.

    Look! Look! Look!

    I can see a pumpkin patch of golden nuggets. I’ll list 12 of the biggest and brightest nuggets from the conference in a rough chronological order:

      1. I met Jared, a science teacher from North Carolina, USA, when we sat down for the opening of the conference. He has a delightful American drawl and repeatedly called me ma’am which was equally uncomfortable and endearing. His commitment to teaching and life in general made a warm golden moment to start the conference.
      2. Hywel Roberts‘ opening address. I had spent the previous couple of weeks reading Hywel’s book Oops! in preparation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that fond of the book since I felt it to be a little patronising but in person Hywel was very entertaining. I laughed often and loudly. After a while his educomedy style felt like it was going too long and I became silently critical of the lack of substance. He must have read my mind because he reassured the audience that substance was coming soon. And it did. His message about narrative and story-telling (Look! Look! Look! I can see…) through relationships with students provided a good reminder of the joy and wonder teaching and learning can create. I also liked his three key words:
        • Imagineering (aka VISION – visionary teacher): Thinking and planning for teaching to make curriculum palatable without dumbing it down. This takes professional imagination which unfortunately can often be eroded over time.
        • Botheredness  (aka MISSION – caring teacher): Demonstrating authentic care, being the caring adult (not at war with children) and building botheredness in students for the work they’re doing in class 
        • Phronesis (aka VALUES – wise teacher): professional wisdom 
      3. An Action Research Observation Sheet from a session led by Liz Free could be useful for my PhD research.
      4. Dominic Tremblay (not @DomTrem or @DominicTremblay on Twitter – I found out the hard way) presented a system he has implemented in many schools called Follow the Money.  I loved his enthusiasm and he had some wonderful ideas for teaching student financial concepts in a really active way. I just have concerns about the extent to which the program in full implementation is so fully steeped in capitalist values. For example, charging students a fee for using a paintbrush that is refunded upon return of a clean brush in good condition may work against attempts to instil good values for the sake of good relations, community and society. I have seen research that suggests as soon as childcare centres start charging parents for late collection of children it leads to increases in how often and how late parents are to pick up their children because of the transaction value placed upon it instead of values of respect and consideration.
      5. Dominic also demonstrated how to use the Post-it Plus App. A tool I’m sure to use in the near future.
      6. I loved the workshop by Joanna Norton because she looks at the world with such an artistic and creative eye, different to the more linear and ordered way I do. She provided lots of ideas and food for thought. Some divergent thinking too. I particularly love the idea of bringing books into class to peruse with QR codes of Questions. 
      7. I ran into Mariusz Galczyński at various times over the two days of the conference but it was the bus ride from the school to the city at the end of the first day during which we discussed education and politics extensively in the 20-30 minute trip that was the highlight. This is another connection I hope to maintain well into the future.
      8. I stand by my tweet about Jennifer Webb‘s presentation. Probably my favourite session. I nearly didn’t go to this session because I have a really lovely friend, Jen Webb, and I was scared that the name would be tarnished but no, the name still stands for people who are gorgeous, lovely and caring.
      9. Neil Atkin took us on a journey of emotional states and thinking flaws. He introduced me to the McGurk effect (YT video below) and Brain Rules by John Medina. 
      10. When I first discovered someone else was presenting on Enterprise Education at Practical Pedagogies my imposter syndrome kicked in, making me worry I’d be showed up as an amateur in the area. Instead, I have a new connection and friend in Rachel of Enabling Enterprise (aka Skills Builder). Enabling Enterprise provides standards/criteria for essential skills at a range of levels, an area my research is lacking at the moment. I will definitely be investigating further.
      11. My own presentation. Russel had asked presenters for preferences regarding when we ran our workshops. I said I didn’t but when I found out I was scheduled for the last session, I realised I did. Not last! As it was, it was good to see Rachel’s presentation first and even though we are conceptually similar we hardly overlapped in what we actually presented. I was horrified by a couple of shortfalls in my slideshow (now rectified) but at least the flaws helped to determine which bits I needed to skip since I was very aware I had too much for the hour and ten minutes we had. A last minute inclusion was the use of Lotus Charts, introduced to me by friend and former colleague, Kendra. Russel, with camera in hand, walked in as I was introducing Lotus Charts. He was pleased to have come at a point where he learned something new. It was also a hit with the participants, resulting in a few Tweets. I think overall my presentation went well.
      12. Cologne itself. The pubs and their 200ml glasses of beers that just keep coming were loud and fun. The cathedral is an imposing sight near the main railway station and opposite our hotel. Apparently it took over 600 years to build. It is one of hundreds of churches in Cologne. There’s a saying that you could go to a different church for every day of the year in Cologne. There is also a Chocolate Museum in Cologne that provides a history and manufacturing process of chocolate with some tasting to be had. When I was there numerous school groups were going through, giving me flashbacks to the stress of running excursions. There are also numerous art museums that time didn’t permit us to visit. Next time.


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