Tag Archives: 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?

EdD residency and graduation

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!

Continue reading EdD residency and graduation

Being Strategic and Collaborative in Academia

For academic staff, being strategic in their career planning and being part of effective collaborative networks appears to be essential ingredients for a successful academic endeavour. At the Centre for Lifelong Learning, as part of our academic development remit we recently held two workshops exploring these broad topics with groups of academic staff from the university’s three faculties.

The workshops were led by Professor Shelda Debowski  who has extensive knowledge and experience in academic and senior management roles in higher education.

DebowskiThe workshops were delivered in a participatory manner and Liverpool academics were keen to share their experiences of making strategic decisions in their careers as well as how they manage and develop their collaborative networks in relation to their research and professional activities.

Professor Debowski provided an in-depth analysis of the higher education sector based on her experiences in both academic and senior management roles. This clarified the expectations stemming from academic and funding institutions and supported workshop participants towards reflecting on and sharing their own perceptions of higher education whilst recognising at the same time the role they play in this highly competitive and global environment.

Both workshops provided insights to good practice in planning academic careers and participating academic staff discussed disciplinary and interdisciplinary practices regarding strategic career planning and collaborative work in teaching and research.

Summaries from each workshop together with key observations by Professor Debowski are available in the videos provided below. In addition, Professor Debowski offered her top suggestions for being strategic in making choices for an academic career and for establishing and maintaining effective collaborations.

 

Resources from the workshops

Short video overview of being a Strategic Academic: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/yphvjj9y

Short video overview of establishing and maintaining collaborative relationships: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/tqg7rnkv

Click links to open online pdf documents:

Tips to Develop your Academic Strategy

Tips for Successful Collaboration

 

Dr Christos Petichakis – c.petichakis@liv.ac.uk

Developing your online identity as a researcher

Digital identity as a researcher is becoming increasingly important, at least if you want others to take note of the research that you have conducted. We all know now that you can’t simply publish in a journal, and expect lots of key people to automatically find out and take note. But how does one actually take charge of one’s own digital identity as a researcher?

Here in the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Liverpool, two of us who are engaged in research have recently undertaken an informal project to review our own digital identities, and to support our colleagues and others in taking their own initiative in this area. Tunde Varga-Atkins is a Learning Technologist, with researcher interests around both learner experiences with technology and visual research methods. Peter Kahn is Director of Studies for the University’s fully-online EdD in Higher Education. His research interests centre on applying critical realist perspectives to the study of higher education.

There is certainly plenty of good advice out there, as with the short course at Imperial College London, Collaborating and building your online presence, or the 23 Things self-directed online course from the University of Oxford on using digital tools in academia. But it’s one thing that such resources exist; it’s quite another to take the course or read the material, and then act on it. This is especially true when one is trying to establish a digital identity that reflects the various roles one has to undertake, taking in both development and research. Rather than concentrating so much on these resources, we reviewed each other’s digital identity and also looked at the digital identity of several other researchers. Our emphasis was on understanding the actions that we ourselves, and others, have actually taken.

Continue reading Developing your online identity as a researcher

Research staff broaden their horizons at a regional career management event

On the 18th of December 2013 we hosted the Broadening Horizons event at the University of Liverpool as part of the Liverpool Research Staff Development Programme.

32 research staff (primarily postdocs) from the north-west region (Universities of Liverpool, Manchester, Liverpool John Moores and Manchester Metropolitan) attended a full day event and were involved in activities providing them with the opportunity to reflect on their career aspirations within and outside academia. The event endorses the 2008 Concordat to support the career development of researchers, namely by demonstrating the importance for researchers to be proactive in planning and pursuing an engaging and rewarding career.

Structure of the event and feedback

During the event, participants were assigned in groups of between six and seven members and they participated in activities that provided opportunities for discussing career options with their peers, reflecting on their current role and developing personalised strategies to pursue their career ambitions. Throughout the day, participants were encouraged to be open-minded in their plans whilst remaining realistic and being supported by their peers and tutors.

Continue reading Research staff broaden their horizons at a regional career management event