PhD diary 2017

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A bill for a year's fees, 3 months earlier than expected, has forced my hand and left me no choice but to withdraw from the PhD programme. It would be an understatement to say that I am upset about it.


Published a podcast for the first time in a long time:
Notes from Jo-Ann Baird's seminar
Attended the Digital Education seminar introduced by Dragan Gasevic and given by Prof Jo-Ann Baird of Oxford University: What are exam standards? Moray House, 28th April 2017. Had a nice chat to her afterwards and received her encouragement to continue my PhD, for which I am grateful. Not that I'm not grateful for similar encouragement from others closer to home, you understand: there have been plenty of those. It's just that she doesn't know me from Adam and has absolutely nothing to win or lose from giving me that particular advice.
Met briefly with my supervisors today following my PRD meeting. It is clear that the University has no interest in supporting my aspirations to progress my PhD. I am going to sleep on it before deciding how to proceed. I could "busk" the progression board: we're still waiting for approval of the board members. The possibility of another interruption of studies was raised as an alternative to straight withdrawal. Nobody I have spoken to so far has suggested that giving up is the right choice.


Met with my mentor, following the completion of his 10K target paper and my recent meeting with supervisors. His advice is simple: I need to answer the question "Who cares?" and justify why the individual person reading the paper or thesis should know this. I need to tighten up the paper and get it to about 5K words for progression.
Meeting with supervisors. [1]
Returning to writing after an intense interruption from the day job. Re-examined the timeline and reviewed some notes to expand on the research proposal, still very much work in progress.


Notes from a seminar given by Dr. Karen Gregory
Attended a seminar at 50 George Square, The Labour of Digital Scholarship, given by Dr. Karen Gregory. Notes to the right.
Initial response to the 10K milestone from JR was jocular encouragement and praise. From my supervisors, a promise of "a lot of difficult questions", which has unnerved me a little. This is probably what they are supposed to do but I am nightmaring about the rates of progress and regression here. I am worried that there will be too much pumice in the polishing of this particular turd. We are to meet - JR after my supervisors - in about a month's time[2], the earliest free slot in my diary. I have asked for very specific guidance in order to get through the progression board.
Critical Discourse Analysis: A series of workshops, 8 February 2017.
Continuing to edit and add to the research plan in progress[3]. Sent it to my mentor and supervisors as work-in-progress milestone. It need coherence and some structure but I think a little critique would be helpful, especially of methodology. If that's good to go, then we're good to go to the progression board and maybe a presentation.


Student-led seminar: Andrea English, Philosophy as Method (notes below). This girl is a warrior for principle.
This weekend I pulled together bits of writing into the research proposal, structuring it to have a front-end that might be useful for the first year progression board, with appendices that include expansions that might become chapters in the thesis. I have included an earlier piece on the tutorial method as used with my own students, which brings me to 9,373 words[4]. Cheating again, perhaps, but it allows me to take a couple of weeks to make the complete document into something more coherent that meets the target set for me by my mentor, as well as being something more substantially useful that my supervisors can engage with.
Seminar: Digitalised Dialogues across the curriculum (DiDiAc): enhancing classroom dialogue using Talkwall to 'Think Together', Louis Major, 27 January 2017 (notes above). Bumped into my supers today, which was nice, and chatted about the Cambridge supervision to Louis and our host, Yi Shan Tsai.
RP is now 2,549 words which brings the total to 7,239[5]. Some of the recent writing is anecdotal but relevant personal perspectives on language and face recognition which will be part of my discussion on the rationale for the approach to the project I am taking.
Pulling Research Plan together into a more coherent document, drawing on what I've written so far. Looking at SSM. With 1178 words in the RP, I now have 5,868 words, slightly ahead of target of 5,538 (OK, I cheated a bit here but feel good about moving towards a more coherent piece of work). Next two days will be reading when I can. Target for COP Monday 23rd Jan is 6,308 words.
12th - 16th
243 words to finish Garrison paper. Falling behind the simple target. By 17 Jan (day 35 of 65 days to 10,000 words), I should have 5,390 words of coherent writing. So far I have 4,690, 700 short.
5th - 10th
1250 words (so far) looking at four related papers together:
  • Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T. & Archer, W., 2000. Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2–3(2), pp.87–105. Available at: [Accessed December 7, 2016].
  • Garrison, D. (1991), ‘Critical thinking and adult education: a conceptual model for developing critical thinking in adult learners’, International Journal of Lifelong Education 10(4), 287–303.
  • Anderson, T. et al., 2001. Assessing Teaching Presence in a Computer Conferencing Context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(2), pp.1–17.
  • Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T. & Archer, W., 2001. Critical thinking, cognitive presence, and computer conferencing in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), pp.7–23.
282 words on Iverson, K. E. (1980), ‘Notation as a Tool of Thought’.
A final 300 words in the Chiang paper to bring in ideas from Pirsig and Sapir-Whorf. This paper now stands at over 1000 words and I can move on. Current papers completed are:
  • Chiang, T., 2013. Story of Your Life.pdf (1061 words)
  • Feist, M.I., 2016. Minding your manners.pdf (392)
  • Lasry, N., Mazur, E. & Watkins, J., 2008. Peer instruction.pdf (184)
  • McCallum, R.B., 1947. THE TUTORIAL SYSTEM AT OXFORD.pdf (231)
  • Pennycook, G. et al., 2015. On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit.pdf (239)
  • Ratcliffe, A.J., 1947. Supervision at Cambridge.pdf (355)
  • Säljö, R., 1991. Learning and mediation Fitting reality into a table..pdf (458)
For a total of 2920 words[6]. From this writing I hope to develop a 10,000 word paper to meet my mentor's target for late February and also something substantial enough to satisfy the progression board, my supervisors and not least, my project needs such that I can progress.


  1. Written up over a month later, with much of the value evaporated meanwhile, I am recalling the frustration I am having with this PhD. Not just that I am largely paying for it myself; nor that I can't get near the thing because of the chaotic state of my working environment (for the fifth year running, my workload is substantially more than is possible in the given - paid for - time); nor because I am covering for others' mistakes or incompetence; nor that there's a gulf between words and action in this particular backwater of education; nor that I have any time for it; but more that almost everything I read in educational theory or research is patently garbage. HM would describe some of it perhaps as "ways of thinking" but I can't give it that much credit. Take Kolb, for example. It's just a pretence to look at things that way: evidently, it's a model, but it's such a limited, narrow, and specific description of learning that I can't see the value in it, except for teaching idiots. Maybe therein lies the difficulty. Whatever this is, it's not science: it's not even intellectually robust.
  2. Not JK, he's away at a conference, but he has promised to read my paper.
  3. 14th Feb is day 63 of 65. Current count is 10,021.
  4. 30 Jan is day 48, which has a target of 7,385 words, making me 2,000 words ahead of target.
  5. Today is day 44 of 65: target 6,769.
  6. Not dissimilar to the word count of the marking feedback I wrote just before Christmas.