Mock mock viva

It hasn’t proven possible to arrange a mock viva prior to my actual viva next week. However, several members of staff were kind enough to spare (more than) a few minutes to chat about my preparations. Some were already familiar with my research and could ask pertinent questions, but the programme leader on my last Master’s degree asked to see my thesis, and kindly offered to give feedback. I thought this would be another informal chat, but he suggested we conduct it in a similar way to a viva … albeit without the strict formality. That proved to be so important.

I have to confess I struggled somewhat. Although as previous posts show, I’ve been thinking about some of the generic areas on which I might be questioned, it’s just not the same thing as someone sitting across a desk in front of you asking a direct question. I haven’t yet begun to practise the oral versions of my responses and their delivery (not verbatim responses obviously, but the marshalling of bullet points into more flowing replies), so more direct questioning at this stage was quite demanding.

There were a number of issues which arose and which I’m now better placed to address. For example, I need to think more carefully about the important aspects of flânography, how it supported and delivered the approach I’d chosen and in particular how it aligned with a sociomaterial sensibility. There are other aspects I also need to work on and to which I might return after the viva, but my priority this morning was to craft a response to the opening question which floored me yesterday “What is your thesis?” which I misunderstood and launched into the extended overview I’d prepared. After some while, it was pointed out to me that this question is asking for a thesis statement, short, crips and to the point. Something that quickly sets the scene and an opportunity to create a good impression. Oh dear! Now I know why many of the viva advice sites suggest one of the opening viva questions is likely to be along the lines of “In one minute, can tell us about your thesis.”

After a couple of hours work (!?), I assembled the following response which does indeed take about a minute to state:

My thesis explores the assertion by some teachers on Twitter that it supports or provides their PD.
I conducted a sociomaterial analysis of their practices through an approach I called flânography involving multiple methods, including novel ones I developed.
Those practices are enacted by both human and nonhuman participants within richly complex activities, characterised by personalisation, autonomy and reciprocity.
I conceptualised these practices by proposing two interlocking dimensions of ‘compound learning’ and ‘scales,’ which enable claims about professional learning through Twitter – and online more generally – to be accessed and scrutinised.
In helping to legitimise these practices, my analysis and theorisation provide tools with which organisations and individuals can assess alignment and value of these practices alongside institutional and other goals.

My interviewer said that in knowing the importance of the opener, he prepared for his viva by having his family keep asking him the ‘What is your thesis’ questions at random moments. I’ll have to devise an alternative, but rehearse I must.

3 thoughts on “Mock mock viva

  1. Aaron Davis: I would have no idea what questions you would get asked in your viva Ian, but one thing that I was left wondering from your recent reflections was why Twitter and not say Delicious? Did or does Delicious or Diigo support your professional development? Would this simply be a different ‘gathering’ or something different altogether? I am not sure if I have made sense here, but it is just something that has always left me wondering. via


  2. Hi Ian

    My reaction to this question would have been: “Do you want to know what my thesis is, or what my thesis is about?”.

    I feel that my answer to the first question can only be an ontological one, if I want to stay true to my thesis:
    “My thesis is a multiplicity of assemblages that involved the situated coming-together of humans and non-humans which produced new thinking-doing in the area of Twitter-based freelance language teachers’ professional development.”

    I sincerely hope my examiners will opt for the second question, because that I would/could answer in more detail and along the same structure that you used in your answer.



  3. Hi Ian
    I have just tried to summarise my own thesis in a nutshell, following a prompt in a viva preparation seminar I am taking part in:

    In a nutshell, what is the contribution of your thesis to the theory and practice of education?

    Existing research has sought to investigate teachers’ Twitter-based professional development with the help of phenomenological research approaches. While these approaches have been useful for understanding (language) teachers’ experiences with and perceptions of Twitter-based professional development, they have tended to overlook the socio-material complexities and dynamics involved in tweeting. In developing and employing a Deleuzo-Guattarian inspired research framework (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987), my thesis offers a new and different conceptualisation of Twitter-based professional development, which considers the constant entanglement(s) of practice and development and the involvement of human and non-human actors. Recommendations from my thesis pertain to (language) teachers’ development of critical digital literacies and the inclusion of Twitter-based professional development in existing institutional professional development programmes for freelance language teachers. Further recommendations suggest that the workings of algorithms should be considered and critically evaluated in frameworks for the development and assessment of educators’ digital literacies, such as the recently published European Union’s Digital Competence Framework for Educators.

    Any comments are welcome!



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