With four months still to go before my PhD officially commences and three months remaining in my current post, is it too soon to start writing about my doctoral studies? Not according to Jonathan at last Saturdays’ Sheffield Institute of Education Inaugural Doctoral Conference. Reflecting on his own time as a PhD student, and occupying the tricky post-lunch slot, he provided several nuggets of wisdom gathered during his studies, one of which was “Just write!” Needing no further encouragement, this post then represents the first tentative steps of the adventure to come.
I was grateful for the invitation to the conference, offering me as it did, the chance to meet a few of the current doctoral students and affording a glimpse into the topics with which they are engaged. I was intrigued to see the different approaches they used to condense between one and three (or more!) year’s work into an all too short fifteen minutes. At times I felt overwhelmed by a tsunami of information which I struggled to process sufficiently well to be able to ask any meaningful questions during the plenary of each session. How on Earth did my fellow audience members to do that?
I don’t think this came as a surprise. I’ve never been under any misapprehensions that the world into which I’m moving will make demands of me; that’s part of the attraction. I was struck however by a number of things. How quickly people seem to assimilate information and respond, whether those who pose questions or those who respond to them. How knowledgeable everyone is and the complex terminology and vocabulary they use in order to explain and discuss their areas of study. Another observation Jonathan made resonated here; “Is everyone in the world cleverer than me?” It was also reassuring to see though that confidence, poise, articulation, clarity of thought or argument and succinctness were exhibited to varying degrees. These were bright people, but regular folks all the same.
As the day drew to a close and I looked back across the broad range of educational arenas covered, a recurring theme seemed to be how significant professional development was for the organisations or people being researched. Perhaps my study might have some merit after all?
So whilst for some it’s the theatre, others the cinema and for countless millions, a variety of sports stadia, I get my kicks in the lecture theatre and seminar room listening to passionate, intelligent, interesting people talking about their areas of expertise. Even on a sun-kissed, summer’s day.