PhD research event
Research students and supervisors recently gathered for a very stimulating and productive two days that included a Friday morning of input sessions followed by students presenting on their research as well as giving critical feedback to each other.
We began with two recent PhD graduates, Bongi Bangeni and Patti Silbert, sharing aspects of their own PhD journeys; then Pam Christie together with Heather Jacklin and Patti Silbert ran a session on using T/theory in education PhDs. Bongi and Patti both drew attention to the ‘autobiography of the question’ or the ways in which our research questions and areas of inquiry link in some way to who we are and the importance for our research of being aware of these links. Bongi fore grounded her own struggle around developing the confidence to speak back to and critique the theory she was using in her thesis, which she captured through the notion of ‘voice’. Patti took us through her process of finding the theoretical lens that worked for her research, highlighting the need to immerse herself in it before finding the holes.
Pam led a session on using theory in education research introducing the idea of a continuum in the use of theory. On one end is research that is theory driven or led (using Theory with a capital T) while research on the other end is ‘problem’ driven with theoretical tools being decided upon in relation to the data generated. She gave examples of her own research that ranged across the continuum, and throughout the student presentations we could think about the different approaches to using theory we are engaged in.
Of course our research involves serious issues and the journeys are often difficult but we also need to remember not to take ourselves too seriously as we go about our scholarly endeavours – so we ended with a few snatches from Paddy Bouma’s picturebook about Grandpa Grumsci’s new Mouseboat where the parrot is named Foucault, the cat Lacan and the grandmice have to repack Grandpa Grumsci’s extensive library evenly across the boat so that it doesn’t list to starboard…
And with apologies to Clifford Geertz and Dr Seuss, I couldn’t help but think of this image when Pam quoted that “It’s turtles all the way down…”
We ended with critical reflections on the event from students many of whom commented on the value of being part of a research community and the opportunities to share and critique each others’ work as well as provided useful suggestions for our forthcoming events.