Doctoral Conference 2016

I’m mentally exhausted … but in a good way!

Today was the second Sheffield Institute of Education Doctoral Conference, a conference I helped to organise. The Conference provides an opportunity for EdD and PhD doctoral researchers in education at Sheffield Hallam University, to share their progress in a supportive atmosphere of peers. It proved quite a challenge to pull together this year’s bash, in the first instance trying to find a date which neither clashed with other events and where there was space available. Didn’t quite manage that, but nevertheless, based on the comments people made during the day and at the close, I think we can declare it a success.

flickr photo by IaninSheffield https://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/30498293730 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Our list of attendees and speakers was not as long as we might have hoped, so although we couldn’t offer choice during the day, this made for a cosy event where we were all together for all sessions. Chris Bailey opened the day by sharing his research into the ‘lived experience of children engaged in collaborative play’ which generated some incredibly positive comments remarking on the very different approach he adopted to recording and rendering his data, and making meaning from them. In a brief presentation, Steph Hannam-Swain followed and opened our eyes to the considerations we perhaps ought to have when seeking to make conferences more inclusive. Clare Lawrence then asked us to consider how ‘sharing education between home and school [can] benefit the child with autism.’ Following the break, Gareth Price shared ‘how Personal Construct Theory has been used to explore science teachers’ notions of creativity.’ Three very different pieces of research on three completely different areas of study using three different methodological approaches; a rich seam for those just starting their doctoral journey and perhaps helpful in expanding their possibility space.

flickr photo by IaninSheffield https://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/30682315792 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Lunch incorporated the poster session which revealed a similarly eclectic mix of content from research at very different stages, from the very earliest, to that which is nearing completion.

After lunch, Chris returned to the podium to share his reflections on the doctoral research journey; what it had involved and what it had meant to him. A thoughtful and considered set of observations, but peppered with wit and humour – important allies in helping the researcher across the finish line perhaps?

Next Herine Otieno facilitated the only workshop of the day, providing the opportunity for the audience to get involved in ‘Using Metaphoric drawings to explore the affective domain of learning,’ an important method used in her study of maths education in Kenya. A ‘first’ workshop as facilitator Herine declared; we would never have known.

And I provided the tail end of the batting, attempting to use actor-network theory to explain ‘how technology becomes entangled in teacher professional learning.’ I have to confess that the previous talks had set an incredibly high bar; each presenter speaking with clarity, poise and authority on complete or nearly complete research. I only had a pilot study and had chosen to speak about a concept with which I was still grappling, but I think I just about kept my head above water. (I do still find the Q&A quite a challenge though, and need to explore how I might improve my technique).

It was a smaller, more intimate conference than last year, but no less valuable for that, blessed as we were with outstanding presenters who shared interesting research (notwithstanding my own more modest contribution). Organising the conference had been incredibly frustrating at times, but now that it’s done, I’m glad that I helped to contribute towards it in some small way. I think those who attended, like me, went away with plenty to ponder. I could perhaps upcycle a tweet from last year to register my gratitude once more:

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