Our guest blogger this week is Dr Joan Woodhouse, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Leicester UK. She has been working with doctoral students for approximately thirteen years and has a keen interest in developing early career researchers’ academic writing skills. Her other research interests include teachers’ lives and careers, and in particular, women teachers’ lives and career experiences. She is currently engaged in collaborative research into the experiences of student teachers who are mothers, with a view to considering how providers of Initial Teacher Education might better support this group of women, who she sees as the ‘invisible statistic’ in the equality monitoring data.
By Joan Woodhouse
As Programme Director for the Doctorate of Education (EdD), I have worked with numerous full-time teachers and school leaders who combine their professional work with part-time study. The EdD students are typically mid- to late-career teachers, often occupying fairly senior positions in school. As doctoral students they can be rather isolated from other, often younger, full-time and campus-based postgraduates. Their main point of contact with the University is with their supervisor. So, it can be, at best, challenging for this group of students to feel a sense of belonging to the academic and research community. Many of the EdD students are also returning to academic study after a significant gap and can feel uncertain in navigating the unwritten rules and culture of academia. They are expected to read and write critically, often without any explicit guidance on what that means. They are given feedback on their work in which the weaknesses in their arguments are highlighted, their poor expression exposed and the gaps in their knowledge indicated. It can be hard to take the critical feedback: affective barriers can impede students’ ability to assimilate and act on the feedback, yet assimilation and action are vital if they are to progress. Learning to respond to feedback in ways that are pragmatic rather than emotional is a big part of developing resilience as a researcher. I have come to realise that as supervisors and tutors we need strategies to foster this resilience in our students if they are to become the critical thinkers, readers and writers we need them to be to succeed at doctoral level.
This post is about a project in which a colleague and I inducted doctoral students into peer review by (i) involving them in peer assessment activities and (ii) supporting them to set up and run a student journal. Our aim was to facilitate the development of students’ critical writing skills, by engaging them in giving and receiving critical feedback (both of which they were fairly anxious about at the start). Continue reading