Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Trying to be academic

My summer was dominated by my MA dissertation.  One of the knock on effects of this was a absence of blogging.  It was one of many things that fell by the wasteside.  The overriding emotion was one of stress.  Stress whilst writing and stress whilst not writing accompanied by a feeling of guilt.  When I look at the output, there's nothing remarkable about the components and it doesn't seem like it should have been so difficult.  So why was it so bad?

Writing a dissertation involves actually doing a bit of research.  It may be small but it's research.  Each component is an unknown quantity and involves learning.  Learning is hard and learning is messy (the learning is messy blog is worth a read by the way).  But the reason I let things get in such a negative place was my inability control the process.  Over the last few years I've prided myself in taking control of my own learning.  I've used social media to probe for knowledge and understanding of learning technologies and the unknown has been stimulating and interesting.  However, the key point with this is that I control what I learn about and the pace at which I learn it.  Even though I chose to do this MA, it felt forced upon me and, at times, overwhelming.  Working full time and studying part time is a careful balancing act.  But enough of my neurosis.  I'm better for the experience and know a hell of a lot more about what the research literature says about the role of learning technologists in UK Higher Education.  If you are interested in finding relevant research on this area, I would start with anything by Martin Oliver, Grainne Conole and Diana Laurillard.

There were two key challenges.  Firstly, establishing a focus.  This is hard because you have to establish a focus before you fully understand the subject.  You also need a focus in order to undertake the research.  I probably changed and refined my focus a dozen times.  This delayed the research stage considerably causing a flurry of activity over the last few weeks.  However, I had to do it this way as it had to make sense to me and I had to be in a position to ask the right questions.  Looking back, I could have done with another refinement or two but I ran out of time.  

The second key challenging is writing critically.  This is a skill which I found hard to pick up.  To truly master it I would need to continue my academic learning with further qualifications (a path I don't plan to take).  Firstly, you need to have read widely enough to have a good understanding of what is already written about a subject.  As I lacked confidence,  so I read and read and read.  You then have to internalise it quickly before you can write about it.  Throughout the process, you are still learning so until the very end, you don't fully understand what it is you are being critical about.  This makes it very hard to do.  Also, being critical involves disagreeing with established research.  This, also is hard to do when you are still learning the subject.  I am naturally respectful of established opinion until I know enough to be able to challenge it.  In this process, I had to rush to challenge in a timescale that seemed rushed.  I guess this is a necessary stage to go through but its hard.

Let's hope I've done enough to pass.

No comments:

Post a Comment