Grounded Theory Seminar

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Causeway Business Centre, Petersfield

On 24 and 25 May I attended a Grounded Theory (GT) seminar in Petersfield. This seminar, led by Dr Helen Scott (Grounded Theory Online) with a surprise Skype appearance from Prof Tom Andrews (UC Cork) is aimed at doctoral researchers in all stages of their doctoral journey and intends to give researchers a platform to discuss their research, and to seek guidance from GT experts and peers.

I decided to attend this seminar as I am currently in the proposal stage for my EdD and was struggling with my understanding of the method and what it would look like in practice. Unfortunately Glaser’s approach of “Just do it” (no swoosh here, Glaser coined the term before a big sports clothing company did) is not the most helpful when you are trying to write a proposal as not only a novice GT researcher, but also a novice qualitative researcher.

I set of on my journey early on the 24th, and soon realised the M25 is a pig! After 3.5 hours I finally arrived in Petersfield, in a very nice business centre in what appeared to be a grade-listed building. After a friendly welcome and some much needed coffee, the seminar was underway. It was a small group, with seven researcher from various fields (urban transport, nursing, psychotherapy, business management, policing, ICT and education management) in various stages of their research (range: proposal writing stage – thesis writing-up stage).

Day 1 started with an overview and discussion of the GT research process. Although all of us were familiar with classic Grounded Theory, it was good to see that there was plenty of discussion on various details of the process, such as the purposes of properties, dimensions and degrees of a concepts, and how this affects GT research practice. Importantly, the discussions did not only address theory, but there was plently of talk about practice and GT in real life (real life is messy, but GT can cope with that).

After this, it was my turn to present my project, where I am in my journey and what I am struggling with. Although I had given this some though on the way in (plenty of time to think when you’re stuck in traffic), it was hard to put my concerns into coherent words. I am still not sure why, but I think it had something to do with being around people who were further on in the journey, and I am still getting used to the GT language. Confidence is a weird thing. However, I managed to talk through my project with Helen, and received some great peer-input from the rest of the group. This is what I think was the best aspect of the seminar: talking stuff through with other doctoral GT researchers, and hearing their experiences, woes and worries. As a result, I am now much more confident, and felt able to contribute to further discussions.

After a lovely lunch in a very nice garden, we discussed three more GT projects, during which everyone contributed and some lively discussions were had. It was now time to go to my hotel and have some dinner. I was fortunate in that two other seminar attendees stayed in the same hotel. We ended up having a great discussion over dinner and a few beers, evaluating the day and discussing our research. With my mind buzzing with research ideas and my brain turned to mush I went to bed.

Day 2 started with a brief recap from day 1, after which we went on to discuss another 3 grounded theory projects. Valuable discussions were held, and I felt much more able and confident to contribute to discussions and ask probing questions. My role as a lecturer came in handy as I could provide one attendee who was an MRes student with some advice. After another lovely lunch, we switched to practicing coding and memoing from an interview transcript provided by Helen. As a group I think we did a decent job, and again I felt confident I could make a valuable contribution. It turns out Glaser is right: you do really learn GT bu doing it. After a bit of an uncertain start, I got the hang of it and now understand coding a lot better. towards the end of the exercise, Helen shared with us her codes for the interview, and it was quite remarkable how similar our codes were; grounded theory is a powerful method!

We ended the day with a surprise Skype visit from Professor Tom Andrews, who shared with us his take on grounded theory. Tom was unfased by the technical difficulties we experienced and patiently answered our questions. It was really useful to hear from another GT expert, and hearing him confirm much of what we heard over the past two days. I now have Tom’s most recent paper on GT which I look forward to reading and incorporating it in my final #ARUEdD paper.

Overall, the grounded theory seminar has been a great experience. I have learned a lot, and feel much more confident that I will not make as much silly mistakes in my research as I would have done if I had not had this experience. I will most likely return in a year or two to get more assistance. I would wholeheartedly recommend the GT seminar to everyone considering or undertaking classic grounded theory research. Apart from the subject matter, it was incredibly valuable to discuss my work and woes with others doing similar research, and to simply network with like-minded researchers. We now have a Grounded Theory WhatsApp group, and it is going to be good to stay in touch!

If you are interested in a grounded theory seminar, or in grounded theory as a research method, please have a look here. I have no affiliation with Grounded Theory Online, but they are very helpful!

 

 

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I participated in HEA ResearchWebinar 10

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HEA Research Webinar 10

Due to enormous marking loads, reflection on this webinar will follow later, but I couldn’t resist highligting the supporting information, which can be found here: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/research/research-webinars

It was a very informative webinar, and the toolkit should be of use for future CPD events: I am planning to do a follow-up of the CPD session on systematic reviews for undergraduate dissertations I delivered earlier this year and this will help with evaluating.

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I feel these reflective questions are also useful for HE teaching sessions

A new journey

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It will be a long one …

It’s official: from September 2016 I will once again be a doctoral student. It has been a long process, and it has taken a lot of thinking and discussion with various people (you know who you are, thanks!), but I decided to apply for a place on the Professional Doctorate (EdD) in Education at Anglia Ruskin University a while ago, wrote a preliminary research proposal and was invited for interview a few weeks after submitting it.

The interview was more like a professional discussion than an interview, and was actually a really good experience. It has given me food for thought before I start, but it has also made me more enthusiastic.

I will be investigating if and how HE course leaders in small specialist institutions use evidence as a base for their decisions, with Writtle College as a case study. I am looking forward to the new challenge, and to the new direction my career will take me in. As this project is directly linked to my role at Writtle, it should be immediately useful. Hopefully I will have some time to fully reflect on my career choices and decisions later in the year. Blog post to follow.

This summer will be spent finishing various research projects. I have one or two papers to write/resubmit before I start the EdD, so plenty to do. But before that, finish the never-ending marking… it will be over soon… it has to be…

#LTHEchat and #HEAchat with Dr Kate Cuthbert. @cuthbert_kate. New to Teaching – What makes for a successful entry into HE teaching? — #LTHEchat

Its back on the 25th May – the #HEAchat and the #LTHEchat combo! Both hashtags will be used during this discussion. We are not going all Judy Blume on you by asking what your first time was like…..but this tweet chat will focus on the new to teaching HE experience. After you’ve read Kate Cuthbert’s blog post New to teaching – […]

via #LTHEchat and #HEAchat with Dr Kate Cuthbert. @cuthbert_kate. New to Teaching – What makes for a successful entry into HE teaching? — #LTHEchat

Some thoughts on reflective practice

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Some new items on my reading list

I have been thinking a lot lately about reflective practice, and how reflection informs my practice as a lecturer and course manager. One of the reasons for this is that I recently survived a validation event for a new HE course I developed, wherein one of the modules focusses on evidence-based practice (EBP).

When I wrote the module a few months ago, I envisaged students not only learning about systematic reviews, meta-analysis and evidence-based veterinary medicine (EVBM), but also about critical reflection as a form of evidence. Although this might sound counter intuitive to many followers of the EBP/EBVM principles, I felt encouraged after reading up on autoethnography as a social science discipline. I came across a paper by Wall (2006) on learning about autoethnography, and followed this with papers by Lake (2015) on using autoethnograpgy as reflective practice and Hickson (2011) on learning to be reflective.

This led me to think about my own reflective practice. I hated it during my PgCert, as is was enforced and therefore did not result in genuine reflection. Enforced reflection is recognised by Lake (2014) as not being very useful, but the author goes on to explain that clinical teaching by GP trainers leads to reflection and is therefore an alternative route to authenticity. I am not a GP trainer, but I  am an HE lecturer, so I can’t help but draw parallels, and the more I ponder about my own practice, the more I find myself reflecting on it. Funny that…

Reflecting on my own practice will help me become a more authentic HE practitioner. The more I think about this, the more I want to take it to the next level. I was intrigued by a reflective paper by David (2006) on whether being a scientist-practictioner is possible. ALthough in a very different field, it struck a chord.  I’d like to give it a try, and I am actually looking forward to the process.

References

  • David, C. (2006) ‘Reflections on the research process as a trainee clinical psychologist: is it feasible to be a scientist–practitioner?’ Reflective Practice, 7(2) pp. 193–196.
  • Hickson, H. (2011) ‘Critical reflection: reflecting on learning to be reflective.’ Reflective Practice, 12(6) pp. 829–839.
  • Lake, J. (2014) ‘Clinical teaching can provide an alternative route to authenticity.’ BMJ, 348, May, p. g3050.
  • Lake, J. (2015) ‘Autoethnography and reflective practice: reconstructing the doctoral thesis experience.’ Reflective Practice, 16(5) pp. 677–687.
  • Wall, S. (2006) ‘An autoethnography on learning about autoethnography.’ International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5(2) pp. 1–12.

HEA Webinar: Postgraduate transitions – exploring disciplinary practice

Today I “attended” the HEA Research Webinar 9: Postgraduate transitions – exploring disciplinary practice. Although a lot of my time as a course manager is taken up by recruitment activity and manageing student populations once they arrive, another important part of my role is to make sure that students are aware of their options once they graduate. The leaving destinations of graduates are reported anually in HESA’s Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey, and it is something my courses and the College are benchmarked against. Obviously a graduate level job is one leaving destination measured, but another, equally important destination is further/postgraduate studies.

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The webinar revolved around the current situation in transition from UG to PG (Taught and/or Research) studies. It started off with a very clear overview of current transition numbers, which HE disciplines are better than other in progression to PG studies, and what various institutions are doing to promote this transition both internally and externally. Also, the presentation showed PG Taught studies seem to have been forgotten about in institutional policies. The data was very interetsing and makes something I am going to read up on to discuss with colleagues.

I think the main message of the webinar was that the evidence-base is very limited, specifically because HEIs are not very good in keeping and monitoring information in this area. The recommendations (see below) were very clear, and to me make sense. I have taken away some useful pointers for me as a course manager, and was particularly interested in the concept of using our PG transition numbers as an indicator of how we develop a culutre of scholarship.

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Recommendations made in the HEA webinar

The full findings of the EA research project discsussed during this seminar can be found here. I think the report makes very good reading and food for thought. There are some simple things we can do to support UG students who are interested in or would like to find out about PG studies.

The webinar was recorded, and can be found here for future watching. This was my first HEA Webinar, and I enjoyed the experience, so I will be looking out for future events. The next event is scheduled for June. I will be there, will you?

HEA research webinar ten: Evaluating teaching development in HE

1 June 2016, 12:30-14:00

Professor Pauline Kneale and members of the PedRIO team at Plymouth University will discuss their latest HEA-funded research which explores how best we can evaluate teaching development in HE. In addition to a literature review, the team have developed an evidence-informed toolkit which can be used to evaluate teaching development and CPD. It will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand how these activities impact and influence teaching, learning and the broader student experience.

– See more at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/research/research-webinars#sthash.GnuoOm06.dpuf

 

CPD: Making the most of Moodle

During the past week I have followed a bitesize online CPD event  offered by Writtle College’s Centre for Academic Standards, Teaching and Learning (CASTLe). The course was a collection of five daily short-ish activities focussing on various aspects of Moodle, the VLE used by the College.

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Although i was familiar with some aspects, and have used quite a few features of Moodle over the past few years, it was mainly very useful to discuss with colleagues the merits of embedding video, using forums to engage students and the pros and cons of various menu styles. It it good to discuss these things in Moodle forums, because we don’t get to sit down much to discuss ideas and concerns due to heavy workloads. In a way, it was nice to be a Moodle-using student for a few days.

It has made me think more about the design decisions I have made and will be making in the future: I am currently working on the course-level Moodle page for a new course I am developing, and have started using a lot more advanced features. Not just because it is nice to show off (admit it, that’s why we all want fancy VLE pages), but mainly because well designed pages engage students more, and effective page design will cause less work for academics.

I have a few ideas which I would like to discuss further with colleagues, and which will require a meeting with our IT team to make happen. For example, I discovered today that it is now possible to link external blogs with Moodle. This means students could post to their blog via Moodle. Although this does not immediately sound exciting, it is because I plan on getting students to develop a course-level reflective blog which lasts for the full four years of their course, and which is integrated with the assessment for various modules.

These are exciting times. When I finished my degree in 2009, none of this existed, whereas now, only 6-7 years later, we work on the ever blurring border between virtual and physical learning and teaching, and have new challenges to fully engage and submerge into the subject the 21st century student.

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My badge

I will post more on this in the future. For now, I am enjoying the badge I earned for completing the CPD (yes, I admit, a certain degree of gamification in Higher Education is appropriate, and to be honest, just plain cool!) and try to make sense of the ideas racing through my head. I need a white board… and a cold beer! Happy weekend all!