v6.2.1 - moving along, a point increase at a time

On prepping for a dissertation

I must be the only weirdo who inquires about "taking" a seminar before the 'logical' or programmed sequence of the seminar.  That said, for my doctoral program the final seminar (EDDE 806) is actually open to all EdD students (and alumni) so I have been on-and-off in this seminar since I started two years ago.  When I was in 801 it was easier to attend, so I probably attended 3-4 sessions.  The next two semesters, with 802 and 803 were more challenging, so I dropped from weekly sessions.  Now, with 804 on tap (formally) for this semester, it seems easier (and more conducive) to participate in 806 again.  My goal (even though it hasn't formally been approved yet) is to get as many of these reflections done and "out of the way" as possible so that I can focus on more organic community efforts later on.  So, without further ado, the reflection for last  evening's session.

 The main presentation last evening was by Dr. Marguerite Koole of the University of Seskatchewan (who also teaches at AU). The main theme of this presentation was really about getting us to think about (and strategize on) how to survive the dissertation process.  To some extent content-based coursework is easy in that there is an external stimulus. There are specific deadlines, parameters, and content expectations; whereas in dissertation mode we set our own pace, we figure out the content (perhaps with the help of our advisors is we get lost and off the path), and we go from a more structured to a more self-directed environment. This change of gear can be daunting to students.

I think the presentation went well and there was a fair amount of chat in the text-based chat. One the one hand I am not a fan of slides + voice-over, however on the other hand I am not a huge fan of the "talking head" in adobe connect (or other webinar platforms). I guess I don't fully like how synchronous meetings are done in this format as it seems less personal.  However for presentations where you just see slides I am starting to rethinking my (slight) aversion to talking heads.  Marti, in 804, is modeling the use of the web-camera in our live sessions and she is encouraging us to also use our webcam and jump-in. I think I might take her up on it and start thinking about this as a means of presenting when my own time comes for the proposal and dissertation defenses.

In terms of content there were a few things that stood out to me. These aren't necessarily "OMG" moments, but they serve as data points from other people that reinforce a hunch or hypothesis I've had for a while.  The two things are:

  1. Being ruthlessly pragmatic
  2. The value of practice
I've written this elsewhere in my blog when thinking about the dissertation, however I think it's worth writing it again for people in 806 reading this. I don't see the dissertation as some sort of magnum opus.  I am still "young" and hopefully I will earn my EdD before I hit 40. If my magnum opus is done before I am 40 then what do I do with the rest of my career?  Hence, the pragmatic view:  The dissertation is a way for me to show that I know how to conduct and present research that I've done on my own. Research that is sound and done in an ethical way.  Thus, I am being ruthlessly pragmatic.  There is no need to pick a topic that will need many years to collect data (or analyze the data). I need something that demonstrates my capability without keeping me in school for longer than I have to. I can always work with other classmates and cohort-mates down the road on collaborative research projects once the EdD is done.

The other thing that really stood out to me is practice-practice-practive.  I remember, during the first couple of semesters in my first Masters (and MBA) where I was a nervous wreck during my presentations (they were face to face).  My hands were shaking, my voice was crackling, I was fidgeting, and forgetting key points of my presentation (I also ran over time!).  Then, I decided to practice.  I found an empty room with a data projector and I starter practicing days before my presentation was due. I worked on my timings, my body language, and more specifically eye contact (I imagined the audience in the empty room).  After I started doing this I became phenomenally better at presenting.  I think the same principle holds true for both class presentations and for the dissertation defense. 

So, that was with regard to the presentation.  At the end we started talking (briefly) about improving the 806 experience.  Susan (the 806 facilitator) did asks us to brainstorm about how we could go about creating a community without mandating that we respond to x-many posts by fellow peers.  I agree that mandating a certain number of posts (at this level) is a bit counter productive as people would just do it in order to check off a checkbox in their 806 list, and community will not have been created or fostered by this.

Again, I should point out that I am the oddball attempting 806 a full year before I am scheduled to take the course, so maybe I am not prototypical.  However, I do think it's worth having 806 as a  under-current of other courses (maybe require attendance in 1 session each year?).  I don't know how 805 works, but perhaps having an 805 and 806 hybrid, or have 806 as a co-requirement for 805?  I know that my own cohort is really active in facebook (a private group) and we often wonder about other cohorts, so I am wondering if there is a way (not on the landing) to be able to engage with people from other cohorts as well in order to foster community. More thoughts on this to come in the future :)
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