Reflections on the day
The first day of the CERDDoctoralStudySchool was brimming with discussion and debate about research, writing and theorising education. While there is, fortunately, no way to capture all the circulations of ideas, a few initial thoughts emerged as significant in our first plenary. These seem to centre largely around ways of stimulating the process of intellectual work.
‘It’s nice to be thinking': discussion of work in progress
The defences of EdD proposals stood out as particularly important, both as major accomplishments for those defending their work (this weekend, Claire Indans and Diane Simpson) and as stimulating and provocative spaces of debate for all those attending. Indeed, it was said that ‘it was nice to start thinking again’, to have space and time to reflect and speak critically with others, to raise questions and to discover new possibilities for one’s own work. This is especially important for everyone who often has much less time and space for research than they would like, in the midst of working in other roles.
Perhaps we can keep this theme alive by thinking about how we create these times and spaces for intellectual work to develop, both individually and collectively within the Centre, and about the different kinds of things we can do to open this up even further. The fact that this was mentioned in the context of the defences is interesting, as the presentation, constructive critique and collaborative discussion of work in progress is a vital practice in doctoral research.
Sharing strategies for particular kinds of research work
One element of today’s sessions on academic writing was the introduction of some strategies for developing strong practices of argumentation, supported by a list of questions or prompts. Such can be very useful at different stages in a research journey, and it raises questions about how we might make this sharing of practice a more regular activity. Do the assignment workshops fulfil this need, and could we integrate it more? In the meantime, Julian’s questions to prompt thinking in argumentation are available on Blackboard…
Integrating theory and practice
Each of the sessions today was quite different – some were very practically focused (such as how to write an academic biography for public purposes), some oriented towards the craft of research and academic writing, some more technical (on library holdings and systems) and others more theoretical (such as Claire’s and Sarah’s presentations). Yet there were also a fair number of connections being made, or explored, between them – on the idea of ‘colonising practices’ in higher education and nation states, for example, or in connecting some of the principles of academic writing to Edward Said’s principles of how to cultivate a critical consciousness about the social and political implications of the theories that inform our research.
Within this, however, it also emerged that we do not, at present, organise our discussions about the textual materials of research in ways that respond to needs within the Centre. What do people use the library for, and what other sources of material and information are important? What do we, as a Centre of doctoral research, want and need from the library? What kinds of resources are most useful, and which are difficult to access?
Reflections to be continued…