Tag Archives: Postgraduate researcher

PGT: WHAT IS IT FOR?

Most research into the higher education student experience focuses on undergraduate (UG) education.  Government policy initiatives on postgraduate education, and subsequent research, have recently focused on access and funding (see, for instance, the blog in June 2015, Funding Postgraduate Study in the UK: issues of widening participation and sustainability).  There is, on the whole, less attention given to issues about the postgraduate taught (PGT) student experience and on how this level of education specifically bears upon opportunities and life choices.  Attending to these issues leads us to the question, which this blog post explores: what is PGT for?

The Society for Research into Higher Education Postgraduate Issues Network, which Dr Martin Gough of the Educational Development Division co-convenes, again found itself at the centre of this debate through hosting a seminar event in 2016, entitled Postgraduate Taught Student Experience, Employability and Support (presenters’ slides are available hereDr Camille Kandiko-Howson of King’s College London, and who has recently spoken at the University of Liverpool on her work on student engagement, was co-organiser, in her role as the Convenor of the Society’s Student Experience Network.  This blog post also serves to report highlights of this event [i] pertinent to our question above.

PGT is placed precariously between UG and PGR levels.  So, for instance, higher education institutions variously position their PGT provision administratively alongside UG, as taught degree rather than as research degree programmes, or they make a distinction firmly between postgraduate and undergraduate.  This phenomenon does not bode well for promoting a robust raison d’être for PGT.  The day of presentations came together well into key themes, namely knowledge, identity and the problematic status of PGT, and, at least, certainly provided pointers towards articulating purposes for PGT.

Confidence, Competence, and Knowledge

Peter Fine, Director of the Sports Dentistry Programme at University College London Eastman Dental Institute, has been undertaking a longitudinal study of part-time Master’s students’ experiences of continuing professional development (CPD).  He adopted a methodological focus on the confidence and ‘self-efficacy’ (c.f. Bandura 1977) levels of his CPD programme students, who have started careers in the dental profession.

We all want our personal dentists to be confident in what they do!  But his presentation of his research raised the further question about just what this ‘confidence’ is.  Peter has been measuring it by means of questionnaire numerical scale responses from the students at the start and at further selected points in the course of his CPD programme (by when it tends to increase but not straightforwardly), as well as by focus group discussions and personal interviews.  This must tell us something important but relying upon self-reporting of feelings of confidence is prey to factors such as corrigible memory and variation in how those feelings are understood at the time anyway: so, for instance, when is a feeling of confidence just bravado, with the danger of recklessness?

The link to the right disciplinary knowledge is going to be key to pinning the phenomenon down more objectively and allowing confidence to be an independent measure.  If enhanced competence in students can be observed by the expert then, arguably, we shall have grounds for noticing more confidence in our dental practitioners, through their ease in their working and subsequent success, and the practitioners will be entitled to feel more confident as a result.  And the increase in practitioner confidence (and competence) will be reflected in more patient satisfaction.  We can certainly say that robust CPD for practitioners who have already begun their careers is a clear purpose for the PGT level.  Continue reading PGT: WHAT IS IT FOR?

Poster Day Online – the advantages of presenting research online

Poster Day online has now been run as an alternative event to the campus Poster Day (an annual one-day event where Postgraduate Researchers showcase their work, this year held on the 26th of March) for seven years. Originally set up for off-site students, but with a now wider intake, we are expecting over 150 submissions this year, including both posters and videos. So as the two events diverge in focus further, what is the participants’ experience and what have we learnt from the online event format?

The statistics alone reveal a high degree of interaction, since all online discussions are recorded. In 2014, we had over 120 participants, who with visitors contributed over 1000 comments and responses, which together comprise an aggregate of over 91000 words. There were some very lengthy responses to questions, but it is probably not surprising that most PhD researchers are keen to respond to questions and discuss their research.

The event appears to show a strong sense of community. We do have an attendance requirement for formal completion, requiring participants to respond to at least two other posters, explicitly encouraging   cross-faculty discussions which clearly helps to start the discussions. Examination of the data shows that over two-thirds of participants contribute in excess of the formal requirements, with 20% contributing six or more comments on other posters.

Continue reading Poster Day Online – the advantages of presenting research online

Originality in doctoral research – what is it exactly?

Originality is integral to getting a doctorate and there are plenty of articles that try to explain to doctoral candidates exactly what examiners are looking for in the mysterious term ‘originality’.

The video provides an explanation of originality, and a bit more on the rationale for making it and the contributors is shown below.

A doctorate ought to:
  • Be a report of work which others would want to read.
  • Tell a compelling story articulately whilst pre-empting inevitable critiques.
  • Carry the reader into complex realms, and inform and educate him/her.
  • Be sufficiently speculative or original to command respectful peer attention (Winter et al., 2000, p. 36).

Continue reading Originality in doctoral research – what is it exactly?

PRACTICE: PGR Access to Career Training Inside Companies and Employers

PRACTICE is a university scheme to develop a short Knowledge Exchange project that will enable supervisors and external colleagues in partner organisations to strengthen their relationship.

These mutually beneficial projects should last no longer than twelve weeks and can attract funding of up to £500. The funds can be used for travel and subsistence expenses for research students, specific equipment (e.g. safety clothing for working on site), hospitality for colleagues meeting with industry, and project outputs such as dissemination of research findings and presentations. The fund cannot be used to pay the research student for their time. There are 20 awards to be given out to each Faculty.

Benefits for Supervisors:

  • Allows supervisors to be creative and to build and/or cement a relationship with an external organisation.

Benefits for Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs):

  • Part of their PGR Development Programme and can be done at a time to suit their research project.
  • Opportunity to practice valuable skills (project management, organisational awareness, communication), and opportunities to build networks.
  • They receive support from supervisor and partner organisation.
  • They gain the satisfaction of completing and presenting a finished short project in the field or industry related to their interests and expertise.

Partner Organisations gain the services of a PGR with a well thought-out and planned project. This allows them to gain strong links with the university and to meet potential future employees.

Example Project: Working in the Field: Dissemination of Initial Research Project results within the China Clay Industry, Graham Stanier, Supervisors Tom Gresley and Catherine Robinson. As part of his research this project involved Graham creating a report for a consortium of China Clay extractors which enabled them to reduce their energy costs. The report was made available to all staff in the consortium and had to be written with the public communication of research in mind.

Application deadline 5.00 p.m. Friday 1st February 2013.

The projects must use this money by the end of July 2013. For an application form click here:

https://www.liv.ac.uk/intranet/cll/pgr/practice-form-update.docx

Any enquiries please contact Dr Richard Hinchcliffe: rjh@liverpool.ac.uk