Enjoyed my first meeting with my supervisory team who were kind enough to spare a few minutes to say hello and open proceedings. Nothing formal; just a chance to meet, answer any questions I had and offer initial advice and encouragement. (It is after all three months until I begin!).
In discussing potential areas (and authors) to read, it was pointed out that although my research proposal was necessarily tight and focused, there is some latitude in the direction it might take … provided of course it is within the field of teacher professional learning, that being the reason the studentship award was made. From there, the focus might be on Twitter as outlined in my research proposal, or social media more generally. Within that, I could explore the phenomenon of the ‘big hitters’ – those educationalists who seem to carry some sway and who attract considerable followership. How and why has that happened and what effects do they have. Or on a similar theme, those people who have used Twitter almost as a stepping stone into other areas of expertise such as lead practitioners, Advanced Skills Teachers and professional development leaders. It might be that I approach this through Actor-Network Theory as in my proposal, use social network analysis or take a more generalist network view – more reading needed here! And that was made clear; that what I find from the literature might change the emphasis of my study, perhaps because one avenue might offer a more interesting or informative set of possibilities, or another might be either more fruitful or manageable.
The last point was quite significant and introduced a shot of realism. This is a study which is time-bound and as such what can be achieved within the time frame needs to be borne in mind. Whilst the normal way to design a research project is from the research question(s) to the methodology and methods, whilst accounting for what can be accomplished within the time span, curiously it’s also appropriate to flip that completely, start with the time available, think about the methods which will be employed, then that might actually influence the question(s) you are capable of addressing.
I managed to couple the visit with a visit to the University Library where I was able to set up Associate Membership. A limited account only in that I can only borrow up to three books at a time and not allowing access to the online repositories, nevertheless at the moment, that’s perfectly acceptable.
The work of some of the authors I’ve been pointed towards is familiar, but it’s clear I need to become much more intimate with it. Other authors are new to me. My reading list will include:
- Davis (for a discussion of ‘complexity’)
- Thompson (for advice on academic writing)
- Law (for ANT)
- Opfer and Peddar, Clarke and Hollingsworth, Timperley, Evans, Guskey, Desimone, Vermunt, Van Driel, Sachs (for professional learning/development)
- Stoll (for communities)
- Jopling, McCormick, (for networks)
Interesting too that I received further encouragement to write, mirroring the advice provided by Jonathan at the SIoE 2015 conference. In discussing the scope and form of that writing, the subject of digital scholarship rose to the surface, as did the ethical issues that are bound with that. This is another area of the literature to explore and to discuss at greater length later. Digital scholarship might not be the focus of my investigation, but it perhaps illustrates one of those areas that facilitate your studies that you need to be aware of and be comfortable with.
We also briefly touched on conferences which might be appropriate; the International Professional Development Association Conference in November might provide a supportive and somewhat less-pressured atmosphere for one’s inaugural conference experience. A potential place to lay out for comment, the direction your research is likely to be taking, perhaps through a poster or fringe(?) workshop. I’ll get that in the diary then!
Appetite suitably whetted.
Reflection about discussing authors
Having authors mentioned by surname, rather than their research is nothing new of course, however , now in the position of undertaking more reading than ever before, I’m minded to consider the consequences. Some of the authors listed are doubtless prolific, so a search may return multiple hits; is the first listed likely to be the most significant? Most pertinent? As a research student however, I should have the capability to scan their body of work and filter the articles of most significance for more detailed consideration. That’s fine … but there’s a ‘but.’ Quoting authors might be appropriate within a research or higher education context, but what impediments might that introduce when working with colleagues from other educational sectors who may be less familiar with that convention? If I’m ever in the position of needing to refer someone to a specific article/paper, ought I to do them the courtesy of providing the title with the author(s)? Would they find it less intimidating to hear “You would find ‘The Lost Promise of Teacher Professional Development’ by Opfer and Pedder really helpful here,” rather than “You would find Opfer and Pedder really informative”?