Summer School – or how much I didn’t know about research

Being a Librarian, research is part of my role. I have been asked to research all sorts of things, and generally if it is out there, somewhere on Google, or in a Database, or on a shelf in the library, I can find it. These research skills are valuable, and I am so glad that I have them – they make finding out information far more efficient. However after four days completing the QUT EdD (Education Doctorate) Summer School I have come to realise that research for higher degrees will be a much more demanding beast.

Previously, when I thought of research, I thought of FINDING things – and I’m good at that! Basically, I focused on the search part of research, and as a librarian, that was pretty much what I needed to do. Although I knew there was more to research, this surface level met my needs pretty effectively.

At the end of these next three years, I will have (hopefully) completed an 80 000 word thesis. This thesis will share my original research. Research that goes beyond a mere collection of articles that I have searched for and synthesised,  but which demonstrates the process of knowledge creation. The process of this knowledge creation is what higher degree research (HDR) is all about – and it is not easy! So now I have a different definition of research. It is not just the action taken at the beginning of a project – it is the project!

Remember the leap between Pre-School and Year One (well, maybe not, but as a Year One teacher in a former life, I do), or the leap from Primary School to High School? Then the massive jump in cognitive complexity that takes place from Year 12 study to University study? I feel like I have just taken one of those massive leaps during the Summer School. It feels great – like my brain has been through a massive Yoga class, and has been stretched in every direction, and now feels tired…but alive. There is a  whole new language to learn – the language of research; not to mention a new dialect as well: academia. I need to begin to add to my identity. Currently I see myself as practitioner – now I also see myself as research, scholar and creator!

So apart from redefining research, what did I learn? I learnt that I have a lot to learn!

Practically, though, I spent a lot of time thinking about the research process, which the lecturers framed into five questions. These five questions are nothing really new; basically the structure of any investigation; but when applied critically, will form the framework of my work for the next three years. They are:

  • In what context(s) and field(s) is your research situated?
  • What is your research question/problem?
  • What is the theoretical perspective through which you will view this question or problem?
  • What methodology will you employ to shape the way you conduct your research?
  • What contribution will this research make to scholarship and/or professional practice?

I will be returning to these questions over and over as I research my question, which will continue to change and morph, but at this stage will be exploring the experience of teachers who have rich Personal Learning Networks, and how this form of professional learning shapes and is shaped by their practice, their beliefs and the way they see themselves as learners….

So; where to from here? I am reminded of the words of Dr Margaret Kettle, who led us, along with Dr Karen Dooley, through the past 4 days of Summer School. She suggested our work was like that of a sculptor, who begins with a huge piece of stone. At the beginning, it is just a massive lump of rock, which means nothing to anyone – except to the sculptor, who can see its potential. Slowly the sculptor chips away at the stone, piece by piece, and over time something beautiful emerges. My study at this point is just that massive lump of rock  – and it is just as overwhelming and imposing as you might imagine. However, just by chipping away, bit by bit, a work of creativity and something which has never existed before will emerge.

So I begin chipping -and look forward to sharing the journey with you!

flickr photo shared by frans16611 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

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