ARMTP and the Quest to the Thesis Stage


Bitmoji ImageI haven’t updated my blog since April and a lot has happened since then both in my doctoral studies, my work life and my personal life so I thought this would be a perfect time for an update and let you know what’s been going on and what are the plans for moving forward in my research!

The last time I updated this blog, I was going into the ARMTP module – my thesis proposal. A massive piece of work that was going to spell out what I was to focus my research on over the next three years. I was also leading a faculty of 18 staff and 6 subject areas through another cancelled exam year. I was also planning the small matter of a wedding in the middle of the COVID19 pandemic.

I thought I was doing okay. I thought I was reading enough. I thought I had the balance just right. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Despite excellent guidance from my supervisors, I didn’t do enough reading and my rush to finish the proposal resulted in a unsatisfactory in a number of themes.

However, despite in normal circumstances this proposal being a “one shot” attempt, I was handed a lifeline. On the basis of the wedding plans changing on a daily basis throughout June, and the small matter of a global pandemic affecting school life, I was given another submission in order to create a more detailed and coherent proposal.

I was not going to pass up this opportunity.

Under the guidance of my supervision team, I stopped writing. I closed the proposal document. And I read. I read as much as I could on a theme each week. The first I looked at the current state of education in Scotland both in the research and policy contexts. The next week, I concentrated on teacher preparation and how leaders prepare themselves to take on leadership roles. Reading was the most important element that was drastically missing from my studies. And not just skimming the surface, reading for depth. Letting myself get lost from paper to paper and delving into ideas that interested me. This lead to a much clearer picture of where my research question sits in the education sphere:

“In what ways do new middle leaders in Scottish secondary schools feel prepared for their role?”

This lead me to a much better understanding of my methods. I had initially planned to questionnaire all teachers on their thoughts on leadership, who were leaders, why were they leaders, what skills and qualities did leaders have to have, before then moving on to interview current leaders about the preparedness that they felt and how this affects them on a day to day basis.

This is close to my own experience as I have mentioned before. I was promoted early in my career having taken on a leadership role just over three years after my NQT year. There are times when I don’t feel as prepared as I would like to be but how much of this is my preparatory activity and how much of this is just the role and challenges that are faced by middle leaders in their jobs.

However, I learnt a valuable lesson from my first submission – always answer your question and always collect data that will help you answer that question. There was no need to questionnaire all teachers. If I want to answer a specific question, then the method should follow this. I needed much more focus on being clear in my question and the methods that follow.

So…what happened next? Thanks to intensive support from my supervisors and their guidance, advice, and forcing me to focus on one specific aspect at a time, I passed the proposal. I have plenty of work to do and I still have development in terms of the clarity I give my research and ensuring that I am defining my research and the participants appropriately.

November and December have been pretty mental in schools (as they always are) but I have gone into the Christmas break with a renewed enthusiasm for my research and I am looking forward to getting into 2022 with a improved routine to ensure my research gets the time it deserves.

So, my tips for those on the #StrathEdD (other EdD’s are available!) who are heading into the thesis stage:

  • Read. Read research similar to your own. Let yourself go down the rabbit holes. Read for depth. Don’t skim the surface. Have a focus week where you only read research in one specific area before moving on.
  • Always make sure you have a reason for making the decisions you are making. Why are you doing that? What will it achieve? How will it answer your question?
  • Get yourself a team you can bounce ideas off of (and have a bit of banter with!). Hat tips to my team – @AEOdeneal@Miss_McF, and @Stephanie_Peat.
  • Reflect on how much you are doing and what you are doing! It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Do little bits, often. Take a break if you need to. You will need it. Don’t be afraid to take it and come back with renewed enthusiasm.

let's goThat last tip is what I am going to use this page for from now on. Even if no one reads it, this will be a place to provide an update on what I have been reading, how it is changing my thinking and, perhaps most importantly, why it is important to my research.

I have had a lot of ups and downs on this journey so far but I am hitting 2022 with a renewed enthusiasm for my research, the importance that it has, and the impact that this could have on education moving forward.

Let’s go…

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