Research Diary #1: It’s alive!

I’ve scavenged pieces of metaphorical flesh, roughly joined them together and applied a jolt of electricity. This blog is alive once more.

Time has moved on, and I am now a 2nd year Educational Doctorate (EdD) student at the Institution of Education. I’m using this blog to keep a fortnightly diary to help me reflect on my research. It will record good intentions, muddled thinking and missed deadlines, as well as the occasional burst of insight it if comes knocking.

The first year of the EdD was a smorgasbord where I got to try lots of different things. I wrote 5,000 word essays about the academicness of academic managers, how students make elective student choices, and the equity of group discussions. It was thought provoking. It was (sometimes) fun. It was an awful lot of work. Now, the training wheels have come off. For the second year I have to complete a 20,000 word Institution Focused Study (IFS). I’ve chosen to focus on something that I think will a) be interesting and b) be of practical use to my institution. As such, I will be researching what informs student expectations of study at a postgraduate creative arts institution.

I think student expectations are an under-researched aspect of educational inquiry. So does Michelle Morgan.  If students express dissatisfaction with their experience then I think the first instinct is to ‘correct’ the thing that students were most dissatisfied about (sometimes described as the ‘you say, we did’ approach). However, what if the problem doesn’t lie with what happens, but rather what was different about what happens and what students expected to happen? I can best explain this in an analogy.

Imagine that you are about to drink a cup of milky tea. Let’s say that you like milky tea. You take a sip. This is going to be great. Except it isn’t. It is disgusting. It’s the worst cup of tea you’ve tasted since the last time you used out-of-date milk. What has gone wrong? You look closer and realise that the tea is too dark. And it smells funny. That’s because it’s not a cup of refreshing tea. It’s coffee. You’re drinking coffee, which is fine because you also like coffee. Now that you know that its coffee you can enjoy it. The first taste was horrible because you were expecting tea and got coffee. The second is better because you were expecting coffee and got coffee. The drink hasn’t changed. Your expectation of it has. I want to investigate whether a similar process takes place in postgraduate study.

To date, I’ve written a research proposal, which is awaiting approval by my supervisor. Then I need to complete the UCL research ethics process. I want to start my research in May, which gives me just enough time to shake of a EdD slump I experienced after successful completion of the first year. To aid me in this I’ve set myself a challenge: can I read 100 papers/book chapters in 100 days. I’m starting on the 19th March. Wish me luck.

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