Now is the summer of our research
made glorious by missed deadlines and our failed
attempts to keep aside the time required
so clouds have now descended oe’r our desk
and darkened sunlight’s warmth from mine own eyes.
apologies to Richard III
It’s been an interesting week…
Booking Thursday and Friday as leave (aka research time) I find myself at my desk both days. My time management skills seem poor – but they’re not. They’re good thereby enabling me to juggle multiple tasks and commitments.
I’ve been trying to make research space for some time. For me, it isn’t something you can dip in and our of. Your head needs to be in a different place and it takes time to adapt. But (always a but) every day something new arrives and it’s not always appropriate to say no. My diary is full. I’m lucky. Most of the time I love it.
We work in an environment where impact is measured by achievements. Started – finished – full stop. Unfortunately most of our work doesn’t fit into such neat categories. It involves conversations (we need to talk – find time to talk) and this is good. As newly restructured Teaching Enhancement Advisors, talking helps construct and establish our multiple roles. We are Signposts. Guides. Facilitators. We also have areas of responsibility. Mine include inclusive approaches to teaching and learning and developing a digital capabilities framework. We’re trying to establish the need for central and local support to make more effective use of virtual technologies and systems. The aim is to promote the advantages of digital shifts in process and practice. The university is supporting an institution wide survey of staff which is a fantastic opportunity but full time challenge – in particular balancing the practicalities and philosophies of changing ways of working. Development time is not always measurable. We’re Advisors. To advise needs preparation which is not always easy to quantify. Take reading for example. This week I’ve picked up the documentation around TEF3, the subject level pilot and critiques, the new Improving Digital Literacy report from the NHS, and a piece on Active Blended Learning There’s a piece on Dearing in the House, 20 years on. As my research timescale is 1997-2017 with Dearing and Gilster as starting points. I need to read this – but havent done so yet.,
Underpinning everything is our new Design for Active Learning approach to Teaching Enhancement. This is an evidence based, scholarly way of working (which might or might not involve technology) which puts pedagogy and the student experience first. It’s been designed to bring together all the eclectic elements of our new roles, fit in with university strategy and curriculum design, and underpin an annual programme of events which in turn are connected to potential red data flags. The hours spent discussing, sharing and evidencing (the diagram below is version 11) is development time which can’t be so easily translated onto a checklist on a project management board. When it happens, impact can be transformational, but it takes time to build the underlying structures needed to make it happen.
In the meantime…
…..my uveitis has kicked in. I spent Tuesday afternoon at the Eye Hospital – sat there for hours – until I was the only person left. That’s a statement not a complaint. The NHS is amazing. They commit to seeing me within 48 hours and while reception might have closed shop by 6.00 the nurses and consultants were still working as was the pharmacy. All free at the point of delivery and unlike A&E not a single drop of alcohol in smell or sight.
Just me and Phil.
There’s lots of Larkinalia.
Round the corner is a wall mounted box full of pairs of his glasses. Heavy framed, thick lenses, while on the wall of the waiting area are the b/w photos he took alongside lines from his poems. I sat watching them blur as my eyes dilated and vision clouded over to the familiar point where crossing the road is dangerous and bus numbers no longer visible.
Then there’s the allotment.
The home nest is empty. Babies became adults busy building lives of their own, but I have children of a different kind. The cucumbers are ready, artichokes flowering, broad beans at the pre-red pink I like best and the last raspberries need picking.
I have identity-confused courgettes. Am I green or yellow? This is a first!
The greenhouse is full of peppers and tomatoes. Marigolds on pest control look blooming happy but apart from some beans and sweetcorn the beetroot, rainbow chard, fennel, spaghetti squash and butternut are all missing.
Most of the beds are covered in multi shades of canvas to control the weeds. Morning glory and couch grass is taking over the borders and the strawberry patch while I feel sorry for Stan next door who carefully steps around my overflowing borders while tactfully observing ‘looks like you’re busy luv’.
Stan, ex Harrogate Flower Show Judge, is retired. Stan grows chrysanthemums. Across the way is Alan, newly retired, who grows and shows dahlias. The colours are fabulous as are the bunches they bring me in September.
None of this – some would say – are genuine excuses for falling behind with the PhD.
What makes it even worse is I’m self-funding so all the angst comes at a hard price. Family are puzzled. They keep asking why I need this bit of paper. It’s a good question. Times have changed since I started my PhD. At Lincoln research into education development was valued; all the team involved in PG study of one form or another, or applying for PSF or CMALT accreditation.
It takes one to know one and you have to be involved with f/t work and p/t study to understand the pressures of giving up evenings and w/es to read and write. So why?
As colleagues, friends and family set off here, there and everywhere, why have I planned August as the Summer of my Research. I love travel. It’s been 11 months since my last trip – the longest time (since starting traveling again in 2009) since I last sat at an airport.
- First – practically – too much time, energy and money has been invested
- Second – a PhD is about learning to do research and the processes of knowledge construction – it’s a privilege to be involved.
- Third – three years spent working collaboratively with staff who were mostly late rather than early adopters of ed tech and incredibly generous with sharing their experiences will, I hope, produce useful findings.
- Fourthly – the doctorate focuses on teaching and learning in UK HE but the social impact of the internet is an under researched area in particular how it mirrors positive and negative culture and reinforces discrimination. Those already socially excluded and disempowered are likely to be digitally excluded as well which has relevance to all online and blended education initiatives.
I could go on but am already way over my word limit. It’s time to conclude.
Paying for stress is not my idea of fun but here we are. I have data to analyse and a thesis to write. Digital shifts; what are they, when they appear, where they’re found, who they affect, why they happen and how we support them matters to everyone working within UK T&L
It’s 2017. How can you not have technology as part of your day-to-day practice?
I hope my research offers a deeper, thicker approach to how staff conceptualise teaching and learning in a digital age. This is something I beleive is relevant.My task is to convince the knowledge gatekeepers to see it in the same way.
So this is the summer of my research.
I’ve booked 13 days leave over August with the intention of completing the revised Literature Review chapter and analysing the interview data. Seeing it in b/w like this is scary. It feels like an impossible task but I have a plan to work in the university library and at the end of each day produce a condensed paragraph of text summarising progress. This will then be posted here. This is my public commitment because I’m running out of time. It has to be done!