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Multilitteratus Incognitus

Traversing the path of the doctoral degree

The doctoral Winchester plan

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If you've ever seen the movie Shaun of the Dead, a humorous take on the surviving the zombie apocalypse, you are familiar with the Winchester plan.  The Winchester is a local (to the protagonist) pub, and it key to surviving the zombie apocalypse - according to the protagonist, is taking a short skip-and-a-hop to the local pub (after doing a couple of short tasks) and waiting for help to arrive while imbibing their drink of choice. Surviving the zombie apocalypse is a breeze!  Well, it's not that simple to survive the zombie apocalypse - as the protagonist finds out!

The past semester has been a little difficult (mostly due to over-committing on my part) and that has affected my own desired progress through my doctoral program.  The classes and the seminars are done (yay!). The next step is the dissertation proposal (which is in draft form).  In the past few days I've been thinking about my progress in all its wonderful variety which includes slow progress, lack of progress thereof, stopping to smell the roses the academic roses, academically procrastinating, and taking trips down academic rabbit holes that call to the academic sailors to their doom like attractive sirens. This has made me realize that, like Shaun - the protagonist of the movie (hey, it's a good movie, go see it if you haven't!), I too had my own Winchester plan to making it through my doctoral studies.

My plan did not include a pub, or waiting with a drink until someone came and conferred upon me the title of doctor.  It did, however, include some misconceptions about the process.  I think that conceptually I knew what the dissertation was about (basically a long, five part, [research] essay).  I thought I had enough practice in all of the individual parts - the methods section, the literature review, the writing up of the findings, the APA format.  Before I got into a doctoral program I had authored, and co-authored, and co-researched, papers which got published in peer reviewed academic journals.  I thought that the dissertation would be more of the same.

This turned out to be a bit of a challenge because academic journals have a 6000-9000 word limit, so a lot get cut out and left on the cutting room floor.  Or, you just choose what to put in from the start, knowing that you have a limited space to work with, so that you don't have to cut a lot. A dissertation on the other hand is (or seems to be) much more exhaustive. A demonstration of what you know rather than a simple demonstration of an argument that you are setting forth. Much like Shaun, I found out that my previous skill set - while it would help somewhat in the zombie dissertation apocalypse, I would find it hard, I would be more challenged than I thought I would be.  Much like Shaun I am to make it to the end though, and I will end up in a pub after the dissertation is successfully defended to celebrate. Now I just need to find my way back to the path and avoid the zombies that drain my time and energy - and focus on the dissertation!


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New Year's resolution...

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Happy new year to all!

I thought I would start my new year with a little (PhD) humor...


While I don't think I'll be graduating by the end of 2017 (wouldn't that be nice?) I would like to make considerable headway with my dissertation.  This coming term (in 8 days, in-fact!) my spring semester (or as they call it in Canada "winter term") will begin.  This coming winter term I am doing my final (final! and I mean it!) course/seminar/structured thinking time for my doctoral work.  EDDE 806.  The overview of the course is a little outdated (although I won't ding the web folks for that because I find some outdated verbiage on my work's website too!  Sometime's it's like a game a whack-a-mole).

In any case, EDDE 806 is described as:

This Doctoral seminar course is designed to provide informal support and opportunities for presentation and peer review of activities associated with completion of the doctoral dissertation.  Completion of the course is required prior to graduation for all doctoral students. Students may register in the course only after passing the candidacy exam. The course is seminar based and will consist of registered students who are actively working on their dissertation.  Other EdD students may participate in the course as guests on a voluntary basis and are encouraged to do so. The format is real time web conferencing seminars held every two weeks during the fall and winter terms. Besides student presentations, faculty and guest presentations will be scheduled. The seminar is designed to allow participation and build networks among all EdD cohorts and graduates.
I have not yet passed my candidacy exam (which at Athabasca means passing your dissertation proposal defense), but due to recent regulation changes I am able to be in the seminar even if I am not done with that part.  

Hence my goal, to be achieved by December 30th 2017 is this: Complete my dissertation proposal to a degree that is passable and successfully defend it.  

Ideally I'd like to have this thing wrapped up by September so I can begin working on data collection and analysis, but I don't know how feasible that is given that I am scheduled to teach 2 courses in the summer (June-August) and the spring semester is looking busy with collaborations.  Still, I expect to be making some meaningful headway with this project during the spring and the summer.  Having organized my collected readings today I can say that I have 205 academic articles download and ready to read (excluding duplicates), some dozen or so blogs and news stories (background info), and 5 books on research methods and ethics. I think the articles will lead me to more articles that I will need to look up.  So... 205 articles - does that sound doable between now and July? ;-)

In addition to EDDE 806, I am also auditing MDDE 701.  That course  is more about quantitative research. While I don't really expect my dissertation to go the quantitative route, I am keeping the mixed methods approach open, and quantitative knowledge is good to have anyway. 

When I started this degree I was hoping for a 4 year end-to-end, but increasingly it's looking like it's going to take me 5 years. That said, I'd prefer to take a little longer but take the time to smell the metaphorical roses on the way and take part in interesting collaborations.

So, what are your learning or academic goals for 2017?

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Anatomy of a winter break

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Happy winter break to everyone!  Classes are over and I guess I am supposed to start working on my candidacy exam...  This comic seems like it applies ;-)


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Abstract Art Forms...

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Back from vacation and I feel like there is so much to do by December 10th ;-)

Here is a most recent PhD comic that reminds me a lot of real life...


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A little weekend humor...

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One of my friends posted this on their facebook wall the other day.  I thought it was quite pertinent for PhD students and other professionals out there :-)

In case you don't speak German, it says: "Errors are for beginners.  We produce catastrophes" ;-)


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Comedy meets science: John Oliver this week, on last week.

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I was catching up on my news comedy yesterday and I was delighted to see this as the subject of last week's "last week tonight"


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Looking ahead to dissertation defense...

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A little funny-Friday stuff here.  This comic was shared by a cohort-mate this week.  It provided some good levity while we wait for grades for EDDE 804. That said... I do wonder how one can go on the offensive in a Distance Education context where the dissertation is defended via Adobe Connect...


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Magically written dissertation...

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I have a feeling this might be in my dreams in about 12 months ;-)


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Thesis title help

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Note to self - save this for my own dissertation title naming ;-)


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Grading Rubrics

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The other day I came across this PhD Comics strip on grading rubrics. As a trained instructional designer (and having worked with instructional designers on and off since I started university as an undergraduate student) the concept of rubrics has really stuck with me.  That said,  I generally struggle with rubrics.

In theory they are brilliant - a way to objectively measure how well someone has done on whatever assessable assignment. On the other hand, they are not that great and they could be a means for discontent and discord in the classroom (the "why did you indicate that my mark is in category B when it's clearly, in my student mind, in category A?" argument). For this reason I try to create rubrics that are as detailed as I can make them.  That said, it seems that detailed rubrics (like detailed syllabi) are rarely read by students ;-)

Another issue arises with inherited courses. When I've inherited courses from other people that's also a source of an issue with rubrics.  It seems that their rubrics are less detailed and more subject to interpretation - which in my mind doesn't help the learner much - and it does little for consistency between faculty members who might teach the same course.  Here is an example (redacted to try to keep assignment and course somewhat anonymous. It is an intro course though):


Using this Rubric, I would say that two people (who don't know each other) teaching the same course can potentially be giving two different marks for the same assignment.  What's important here is the feedback given to the learner, so the mark may not matter as much in a mastery grading scenario, and the (good) feedback gives them a way to re-do and improve for a better mark if they want.

The more I design, and the more I teach, I am wondering if detailed rubrics are better as a way to on-board professors and instructors into departmental norms, and if broader rubrics are better for the "student view" and used with a more mastery-based approach to learning. :-/

Thoughts?


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