July has been a rewarding month for the Centre for Lifelong Learning and all involved with the EdD. We ran our second residency and celebrated two further graduates from the programme.
The residency is an opportunity for students on the programme to come to see the university, share their experiences and ideas and meet with staff. It is an optional extra as the programme is fully online. Students came from all five continents for four intensive and enjoyable days at the Foresight Centre (pictured above).
Whilst there is plenty to report I think the residency is far better summed up by Gertrude Rompre’s reflections on her experience and on the notion of ‘doctorateness’:
Donning the robe of doctorateness: Reflecting on the EdD Residency at the University of Liverpool
I will admit that it is a somewhat vain question: “What will our doctoral robes look like when we graduate from the Online EdD Programme from the University of Liverpool?” On the other hand, perhaps it’s not such a trivial question. As a learner who needs to begin with the end in mind, imagining myself dressed in the appropriate robes, crossing the platform, and hearing my name spoken as the degree of Doctor of Education was conferred upon me, is an important part of my learning process. I need to visualize the end while I am still very near to the beginning. These reflections on the EdD Residency revolve around the ways the residency allowed me to both envision the end but also challenged me to embrace the journey and the present moment, a multi-dimensional approach to doctoral study that, I suspect, is key to success.
Envisioning the end
Paul Ricoeur suggests that “imagination is the power to open to new possibilities, to discover another way of seeing” (Ricoeur, 1995, 281). The EdD Residency served to fuel our collective imaginations as doctoral students. One of the ways this was done was through student presentations and pecha kuchas. Pecha kucha presentations – 20 images described for 20 seconds each – were new to most of the participants. The exercise proved to be a highlight. A format which challenged us to think about our research interests in a concise and creative fashion, the pecha kucha allowed us to exercise the faculty of the imagination and envision our future doctorateness.
The term, ‘doctorateness’, is a strange one. It is a word cobbled together, however, to describe an important process. It points to the deeper reality underlying the doctorate, the fact that we are creating for ourselves a new identity, an identity where we will be addressed as “Dr.” Early on in our doctoral studies, we explored that theme of becoming a doctoral practitioner. It is only now, at the residency, that I am realizing the depth of the transformation into which I have plunged myself. For example, I commented, at dinner, to Dr. Willis how I have noticed faculty colleagues in my own institution engaging with me in a different way now that they know that I am a doctoral student. He reminded me that it was a two-way street and that I, likely, am entering into the dialogue with a new set of vocabulary and contexts as well. Doctorateness is creeping up on me!
Embracing the process
Envisioning the end of the process, for me, was also facilitated by the discussion of milestones. This is where I am being challenged to nurture a less developed dimension in my own learning. Just as much as the end goal is important, so is the journey which will include both times of rich harvest and fallow times, times of creativity and confusion, and times of energy and fatigue. Each part of the process has the potential to serve and shape the final result. However, I think that this is only true if I dedicate myself to reflecting on the process each step of the way.
Schon’s theory of reflective learning keeps coming to mind. During the residency, I saw this reflective practice modelled for me by the tutors and instructors. They not only were generous in sharing their own experience of the doctoral process, but they also put that experience into the broader context. This ability to reflect on the process and make meaning of their own experiences demonstrated for me just what it means to link theory and practice.
Living in the moment
The EdD Residency was also a delightful experience of living in the moment. Most of the participants had only ever interacted online. The moment of encounter, when we first met face to face, was one of the most stimulating experiences I have had in a long time. Whereas a community of peers existed prior to our first meeting, the opportunity to meet in person kicked our community “up a notch”! Meeting and interacting with our peers and mentors generated a level of energy and enthusiasm for the EdD process that, I must admit, was beginning to wane as I worked through the modules in relative isolation.
Living in the moment also meant that learning happened both inside and outside the workshops. Interesting discussions occurred in the social times. Such diverse questions as, “What is the role of religion in higher education in our respective contexts?” or “What does it mean to be a doctoral student in the midst of peri-menopause?” or “Where is our own voice heard when we must always base our assertions on the work of others rather than our own experience?” were explored. I’m sure this is only a tiny snapshot of the conversations that were buzzing throughout the halls of the residency.
The interdisciplinary nature of both the programme and the participants meant that the range of expertize in the room was phenomenal. Another highlight for me was the chance to learn how to use the Mendeley referencing software from another participant. The road to doctorateness also includes amassing the tools of the trade. Having someone who is proficient in using the current software and who was willing to share this skill with us gave me new confidence in my ability to succeed. Until now, I have been trying to insert the nail by pounding on it with the sole of my shoe. Now I feel like I actually have a hammer or two to get the job done!
The road to doctorateness exists, for me, in the three temporal dimensions: the future graduation, the ongoing process, and the present moment. The EdD Residency fostered each of these and I am grateful to those who created this opportunity for me. And, by the way, the robes are red with a green hood!
It was a real pleasure to read Gertrude’s reflections – many thanks.
And here are those robe worn by Drs Lydia Arnold and Alicia Salaz along with Drs Anne Qualter and Ian Willis and Prof Clare Pickles:
Congratulations to Lydia and Alicia. We look forward to staying in touch.