We were in what looked like an elementary or high school biology classroom. I looked up; the ceiling tiles were painted accordingly. My lips twitched into a smile, an eyebrow arched tile-ward: directly above me was a detailed painting of sperm en route to an egg at the tile’s centre.
The Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education’s (STLHE) annual conference was housed this year in Duncan McArthur Hall at Queen’s University, which happens to be the home of the university’s Faculty of Education. Each of the sessions I attended over the course of my two-day stay in Kingston, Ontario, were in classrooms like the one described above. To some of my colleagues, the setting was familiar. They had attended teacher’s college in similar settings. For me, the colorful posters covering the walls, the diorama and terraria littering window sills and shelves, and the abundance of tools needed for making such visual displays all sat in quiet conversation with the thinking, learning, and reflection prompted in me by the excellent sessions I attended, and the thoughtful people I met.
Lisa asked me to write a bit about my dissertation writing process. What makes me qualified to advise on the matter?
1) I completed a dissertation
2) I did it in a timely manner (I finished researching and writing it under 2 years)
3) I often found myself frustrated (as I think many PhD students do) trying to figure out how, specifically, one writes a dissertation beyond the “just do it!” advice that is so common.
Having found a pretty successful method via trial and error, I might as well share it with others, who may find it helpful! That said, there is no one way to write a dissertation and what worked for me won’t work for everyone. You will still go through a process of trial and error in figuring out what works for you.
Hey, so I take my cat for walks. Not on a leash. I just leave the yard and head out into the long grass that surrounds it, and he takes off. He sticks pretty close, except for when we get too close to a tree, and then he promptly scampers up it, ears back, a hint of the maniacal to his head whipping left and right, eyes round, tail twitching.
Two things I wanna share with you.
First, a colleague of mine, Jocelyn Sakal Froese, tells about her first-tutorial tactics here, on her blog Surviving Till Sunday. This is a TA who won the CUPE 3906 TA award in 2012 (for which she was nominated by her students). This is a TA who is constantly giving me new ideas and insights into teaching & learning. She is a thoughtful, reflective, and intentional teacher. As she half-jokingly puts it in her “First Day Jitters, Redux” post, she “advocate[s] for DOING A THING” in tutorials, because she wants “dynamic” activity and learning in her classrooms.
Second, delightfully snarky Katherine Firth writes a blog called Research Degree Voodoo. She has embarked upon a project she dubs “Writing the Article Series,” in which she live blogs the writing of an academic article. The first post of the series can be found here, but my favourite post so far is the one in which she sums up her “progress” mid-way through the process with:
So this series so far seems to be: and then I made a plan, and then the plan didn’t happen, and then I made a plan and then I did less work than I planned.
Ha! Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?! I love Katherine’s blog for this scathing honesty, and for her incredible ability to write a “scholarly” blog in a non-scholarly style. She writes just as you imagine she might speak; her voice is conversational, witty, and a downright relief amidst all the academic “mumbo-jumbo”–the term she uses to describe academic-speak in her “About” page.
Anne-Elise Coste, “Professionalization is killing art” (2008)
I first misread this as: “Professionalization is a killing art,” which, really, is just somehow so much more poignant.
(R) is for Risk; (A) is for Anxiety: A new blog post on PhD professionalization, quantitative risk assessment, and what the two have to do with graduate-student anxiety.
Our Bantam Black Wyandottes nibbling on fresh barley grass in the greenhouse.
On mini-chickens, and mentoring.
The title says it all, doesn’t it? February and the blahs. Especially the writing blahs. Blah!