Archive for October, 2011

Next Stop: AERA! and AARE, and AATE…

When you have a research paper to present, choosing the right conference to take it to is important.

I have long been affiliated with the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE). When I first started out as a postgrad student, I used to go to their conferences to present papers, and I even was elected as student rep. to the Executive Committee.  I also had one of those awful experiences of being a small fish in a giant pond, and having only three people turn up for me to deliver my paper to.   Devo’d…In the end I ultimately stopped being involved in AARE because I needed to narrow my focus and concentrate on English curriculum teaching and scholarship.

Since then I’ve been going to the annual conference of the Australian Association for Teachers of English (AATE) – every year since 2004!  And this year is no exception – I’ll be in Melbourne for the AATE conference in December (will you?).  Only, for the first time in awhile, I’ll be heading to the AARE conference too, in Hobart the week before.  With more skills in networking under my belt, and a clearer direction for engaging with the ‘special interest groups’, I’m feeling really positive about reconnecting with AARE and sharing my PhD findings there.

For me though, as far as big, generalist conferences go, AARE was always plenty big enough – and having developed an instinct to narrow my scope rather than broaden it, I didn’t think I would ever attend the EVEN BIGGER, EVEN BROADER, international ‘annual meeting’ of the American Educational Research Association (AERA)

But, attend it I am!

Both the paper and group session I submitted have been accepted to AERA 2012, which will be held in Vancouver in April next year:

Curriculum Change and Resistance: Challenges Identified During the Implementation of An Expansive State English Curriculum.

This paper presents the findings of a doctoral study that undertook a content analysis of a corpus of curriculum texts, news reports and case interviews with teachers during a period of curriculum change in the Australian state of New South Wales.

Producing the young citizen in texts of families, neighbourhoods and nations

This session critically analyses popular fiction, nonfiction and television texts for children and young people focusing on sexuality, sexual safety, bullying and heroism. Each of the selected texts can be understood as a pedagogical apparatus that works to instantiate children and young people as particular subjects and objects of knowledge. (with Gannon, Lampert, Bethune and Gonick)

So, let’s count ‘em up: AATE and AARE in December; I already went to ALEA and IFTE earlier in the year; AERA in 2012.

That’s FIVE amazing conferences in 12 months!

And one BUSY girl :/

Totally worth it :)

(By the way…’what’s with all the four letter acronyms starting with A’, I hear you ask?  Tell me about it!  Took the first year of my research degree to decipher this shiz!  And the kind of ugly websites of AERA and AARE…you can tell all of their energy goes into research!)

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PhD COMPLETE!

Ah, the sweet sound of completion…

You are now reading the blog of someone who has completed their PhD thesis – as well as someone who has waited for examiner’s results, completed the required emendations, and had those emendations accepted!

Next stop: GRADUATION!

Because it’s not polite to ask someone how long they have taken to complete, it’s not something that gets talked about a lot.  I started mine in 2003, which means that despite many deferred and part-time enrolled semesters, I’ve essentially been a research student for just over eight years.

Yes, you’re supposed to complete within four years.  And everyone who signs up for one of these damned things thinks they’ll be able to make it…but not everyone does.  In fact, only about 40% of students really reach that goal.  There are a lot of factors that influence this: the nature of the candidate, candidature, discipline and institution all come into play.  My story was one of running out of money after a few years and not having had enough done by then to carry me through the tough times that followed.

TIP: Full time teaching is NOT conducive to timely completion of a research degree.  Well, it wasn’t for me, anyway!

So, in the end, was it worth it?

If it really was such a slog, and the research indicates that my experience is not that unique, would I do it again?

Yes.  Yes, I would.

In the end, it is really clear that writing a thesis (a PhD dissertation is generally 80,000 –  100,000 words long) is the ultimate ‘research apprenticeship’.  You learn (sometimes the hard way) to manage your time, to overcome writer’s block, to situate yourself within a field of expertise, and to write for an academic audience.  You learn to be rigorous in your chosen research methods, and you learn how to discern the quality of others’ work.  You learn to cast off doubt about using your own voice, for better or worse.

You also end up with a major piece of research that you can stand by, and put forward as your own – this becomes part of your currency in the academic world.

There were times when I thought I wouldn’t last the distance…without the support of my friends and family, I’m not sure if I would have.  There were times when I was so far in ‘the cave’ that I was sure everyone I knew had given up on me ever coming out again!  But they were very nice about that, and patient, and kind, and that made all the difference.

So, THANK YOU! Especially to people who read this blog and keep in contact with me online through Twitter and Facebook and the rest.  The process of public reflection, knowing that people would notice if I gave up, was something that always helped to keep me motivated.  That, and the idea of writing this very post to tell you all that I am FINALLY DONE.

x Kelli

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