If you're interested in studying for a doctorate, want to explore more about your D&T practice, then listen to me and Verity chat in this week's episode about the how's and why's.
Mentioned in this episode
Work webpage: https://www.ntu.ac.uk/staff-profiles/education/verity-aiken
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today's podcast is a little bit different in that I have my new office mates office companion office, buddy, what would you call yourself? Verity? I just go for roomy, I think really good term. Yeah, yeah. roomy. Yeah. Oh, roommate. Verity and I work together at Nottingham Trent. You know, Verity is a bit of an interloper. She's not in design and technology. But I've allowed her on today to come and talk about as you should be, and talk about doing doctorate. I've had a couple of DMT teachers contact me say, I'm interested in further study, why would I How would I? Where can I you know, what does it involve? So I thought verities the expert? Because she leads our professional doctorate at Nottingham Trent. And because, you know, we're sharing sharing an office now. And if you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen the posts about that and setting up the rules about how we're going to behave in the office. Yeah, we're gonna allow in and not and whether or not we're gonna have a swear box. Oh, that was it. Yeah, weVerity Aiken:
think that might be full by the end of February. Night Out at Christmas, it works. Well. Yeah. That's one way of looking at it. I kind of quite fancy the tally board, didn't I about how many favours you owe me? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. How many mistakes are made? Yeah, that's that's all good. It's good for morale? It is. Yeah. Yeah. I quite fancy putting a finishing line thing that we can put across the door. Me and Sarah had this thing where, when people complete something we don't always celebrate with people complete doing, whether it's submitting or just just getting asked full stop on something that we could put a finishing line across our doorway and get people to run through it as we cheer them. Yeah. Yeah. I think you could do that for lots of many achievements. Couldn't you that would, yes, that will. Yeah, that and that would be good for doctoral study as well. Just keep the momentum going. Yeah, I don't think I should be able to work out how we could do that. I'm sure. Is it the anti person? I could I could rig something up. I'm sure I look forward to it. Yeah, well, that one, right. Okay. So we've kind of digressed. Anyway, very, very soon, I'm going to talk about doing doctorate. So got a variety of people have heard you already, but just do a little bit of an introduction about who you are, where you are, and what you do. Okay. Okay, so my name is Verity Aiken. I work at Nottingham Trent University, alongside Allison and other colleagues. I'm within the Institute of Education. And I'm the course leader for the doctorate in education there, which is a part time doctoral study for working professionals in a range of educational contexts. That's very official blurb. Yeah, I just wanted that on you. Yeah. And that was unprompted as well. So. So yeah, that's, I obviously know what I'm talking about here. I think? I think you do. I mean, there's lots of words in that, in that, that people may or may not be familiar with, isn't it? It's around professional doctorate, because people are kind of familiar with the language around PhD? Yeah, what's the difference? So a professional doctorate is linked to practice. So we would expect people to do to carry out research in the same way as they would do with a PhD. But instead of it being entirely theoretical or theoretically driven, it is driven by practice. And it's driven by the real world context within which we operate, and the sorts of professional issues, debates, problems, insights that we have had over the course of our professional lives and thinking, you know, I want to find out more, I want to do something about this, I want to develop my expertise in this area, and I want to contribute to practice. So it's looking at your professional field, and it's developing a research idea from that professional field, which may not be the case, which may not be the case for academic PhDs. Yeah, so that just just using that word practice, I think would resonate with quite a few people who are listening who are involved in design and technology teaching. And I've done some episodes where we've talked about action research and using research in our classrooms and doing research. But better professional doctorate is really based, whether it's a classroom or their educational setting, whether they're a leader in their subject in their schools. It's really about that sort of sphere, isn't it that that? Yeah, it is it is. So when I say practice, I don't necessarily mean teaching. It can be anything that is part of your your field and the domain within which you work. So for example, we've had past studies on looking at the status of early years teachers, we've had pastored is on visibility of LGBT teachers within school contexts. So it does have a theoretical aspect to it. And when we say practice, we're thinking about practice in, in a wide range of ways. Really, it can be about teaching, it can be about what you do within your your classroom and within your lesson plans and curriculum. But you're not limited to that. It there are lots and lots of different ways in which Reshet research can can take shape, we'd be interested in, in many different ways in which that that could be explored. But I suppose the starting point is having, I suppose an idea, an interest, noticing a problem or an issue or attention, something that is deserving of exploring further, that originates from you as a professional within the context that you're working in whatever context that might be, in this case, for your listeners, presumably within design and technology. Yeah, yeah. Oh, an aspect of it. Yeah, I think that's really great to clarify that, that that language around practice, yeah. So I suppose I can go in two different directions. And I want to ask you, why. Why do you think people should do a doctorate? If they're, if they're practitioners doing their own full time jobs? And then if they are thinking about that, how, how does a professional doctorate support them? You know, while most of them are working full time, isn't it? So as to Parkside, isn't it? Is Why do it? What's the benefits? Because, you know, there are costs involved, and time, you know, time financial and so on? And then how do you manage it? How does it work to support people who are working full time? So there's an internal an intrinsic motivation, I suppose that that you know, makes you want to do it for for yourself. Outside of that, I suppose it is contributing to your field. And being able to influence the work of other people, the curriculum that the policy context, you know, if you have that kind of drive and ambition to make a mark in that way, which really, you know, would be the same for many kinds of different careers, you get to a stage where you feel very competent in in your job in your role, and you're looking for the next challenge, then this might represent a way of stepping into that, that next challenge. It's it's long term commitment, and it would take a while to build up, it wouldn't be an instant promotion. But if the interest and motivation and passion is there, it will absolutely allow you to kind of have that, that leverage and make those contributions and become a very rewarding experience. And I suppose related to that, you've got the material benefits, haven't you, you know, to progress in your career that might open up opportunities that weren't there before. That could be leadership, that could be management, that could be within policy, or it could be in research or in academia. So as well as career progression, it could open up opportunities for career changes, not necessarily radical changes. But you know, it could open up opportunities to develop an academic career to move into research, if that's what you felt you would like to do. So a whole range of reasons. But the starting point, I think, is having that interest and passion in the first place. Yeah, cuz it's easy to say it's got to sustain you, hasn't it? Because it's, it's, it's not it's not it's a long time. It's not like when you do your master's dissertation and your work during that part time that might take you 12 months. This is what four to eight years is the allocate time or absolutely, yeah, four to eight years. So it's a very long commitment. You know, I suppose the average time would be around six years. So most people are, you know, go into spend, you know the best part of it of the decade doing it really. So to get to grips with that, in your mind, you have to do some real, some serious thinking in terms of whether or not that commitment is right for you at that point in your life. So there's lots of things to consider. Having said that, you know, that the time goes, and when you're doing something, and when it's something you enjoy, and when it's something that you feel is rewarding. You know, before you know it, you're you're at those final stages, so I wouldn't let the time anybody off, you need to think about it. But actually, it's it's surprising how fast this this period of time can go as well. And it's an enjoyable time challenging but enjoyable. If you're doing the right study for you. I'm smiling in the background, because it is enjoyable. But there are times when I recall that it wasn't it wasn't enjoyable for me. And that's just partly because you I think the main reasons were around the fact that you're juggling it with so many other commitments, aren't you? You've you've got a full time I did mine as a full time or you were full time you had children. Yeah. I had family issues going on. And so that's where the, the challenge arises. But actually, the professional doctorate programme, is, is almost designed around that in a way, isn't it in terms of because of the structure of it, whereas the the PhD, the more traditional route is more, it doesn't have those inputs of support, you have a supervisor, whereas the professional doctorate, and that there is structure, which is really beneficial, I think, for people who are in full time position. So could you tell us a little bit more about about that, and how that works into you? I know, it's different at different places. But yeah, I mean, I think this, the structures are really kind of compelling part of the programme, because it does break it down into chunks. It's not just a long, kind of singular road of doing a thesis. So the way it works at NTU, is, you start off by developing a proposal. So you're writing an initial proposal as part of the application process. But when you come onto the programme, you'll have six months of whipping that proposal into shape, doing more reading, getting more focus, refining your ideas that little bit further. And you'll work alongside supervisors, so your allocated supervisors from the very start of the programme. And they run alongside workshops that also mirror the punctuation of documents that you'll be asked to do along the structured part of the course. So the proposal is the first thing and that's 5000 words. So that's really helpful to just flesh out those initial ideas. And then after that, you do a series of Chapter basis. So you will do a literature review, you will do a methodology chapter. And you will do a data analysis chapter. And each of those will be roughly eight months long. And each of those will be 10,000 words each. So what you've got by the end of that time, so we're looking at two and a half to three years, is you have this proposal that's that sets out the context, the initial ideas, you have a literature review that deals with the research that helps position, your area of study, you have a methodology chapter that deals with how you're going to research it both theoretically, and pragmatically. And then you have a data analysis chapter that deals with some initial data that you have, apply some data analysis, and draws, develops a discussion and draws some conclusions from that. So you have quite a neat package by this point. That houses I suppose the first version of your thesis. And all of those chapters, the literature review, the methodology, the data analysis, they're all formative. So you have a really a nice period of time where you're working alongside your supervisors developing these portions of work that you eventually bundle together in order to create a second document. And this second document is your draft thesis. So you're working with the formative feedback, you're pulling that all together, and you're creating a 30,000 word document based on that feedback based on those documents that give you like a mini thesis. And once that is summative Lee assessed, you will progress to what we call a thesis stage. And the thesis stage is the Final, the final sprint, maybe marathon, maybe something in between, it will depend on on lots and lots of things and where you are with your work. But at that point, we would be anticipating that the mini thesis that you have done is elongated, developed, refined, focused, in order to create the final thesis, which will be 45,000 words, alongside a reflective document, which is 5000 words, and that reflective document deals with your journey. So that's a more personal account, a more reflective account. And it deals with the backstory really of you moving from being a practitioner to a researcher, or however you see that that change, you might not see it in those terms, you might see it in a different way. But you would have the scope and the flexibility to deal with that in a way that suited you. So so that's how the structure works. Very structured at the beginning, lots of formative aspects to it, getting you to a stage where actually it's not that much longer, in terms of time, work effort, resources to do that final thesis, I'm not saying that that's an easy stage, there's still a lot of hard work to be done. But you are, you are over that halfway line you are you are over the peak of the hill, there may still be some upward slugs to contend with. But you know, you're in a good solid position by that stage. And that helps with the impetus to continue and to carry on, which is really useful when you're working full time, when your job is professional and holds a lot of responsibility and commitments, you know, having that way forward. That is structured scaffolded getting you to a place where you can see the finish line, even though there might be further challenges ahead, it feels doable. And that's what I think works about it. And that's what I think the benefits are of doing that particular route for doctoral studies. Yeah, and I think I really like the way it kind of comes back full circle, because you started by saying about the intrinsic motivation to, to get started and to wanting to make a difference in your, in your practice, in terms of your professional arena, wherever that that sits, whether it's within a school within a discipline within a group of people, and then that reflective document at the end kind of goes back to that and ties, ties the whole thing, the whole thing together. And yeah, the use of the supervisors, and then the torque programme alongside that at the beginning and then is so as people are growing in their autonomy and, and strengths as a as a researcher, the probe, the scaffolding kind of comes down, doesn't it? Excuse me with with the programme. Absolutely. So yeah. And then, and then often, in all cases, their final thesis is actually published on the British Library website. So there are available for the people to read and build on and become parts of other people's literature reviews and, and practice. Yeah, absolutely, that the reflective lob doesn't go into the British Library, because it's quite a personal piece. But but the thesis word, having said that, we do have candidates who successfully completed who have decided to publish from their reflective log. So, you know, if you wanted to not reflective log, sorry, your your reflective document. So if that was something that that you wanted to do upon completion, then that is absolutely available as an option. But that's, you know, that's a personal decision, I suppose.Alison Hardy:
Yeah. And I know that along the way, I mean, I'm supervising a couple of professional doctorate students. And and along the way, we really encourage them to try and publish a little bit, whether it's a blog post, or whether it's an article for a professional magazine. And that does all sorts of things. Because if you're doing this as part of your career development, then it's kind of keeping your voice out there about Look at me, this is what I'm doing. This is what I'm thinking about. But also it's practising your writing, isn't it? It's practising writing for different audiences and thinking about the the use of your work changing and influencing the practice of others.Verity Aiken:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And that's a really important part of the doctoral journey really, is that you're you're not just writing a thesis, you're also establishing yourself as an expert in the field. And there are a number of kind of opportunities and ways in which you can kind of get your voice out there. So doing a blog post is is a great kind of starting point. There are also opportunities at NTU to present at conferences or By lunchtime seminars, there may be conferences outside of what there will be conferences outside of NTU that you will be encouraged to do. So there's lots of kind of building blocks, I suppose along the way. So start off a place that you're comfortable with and build from there. But there is a researchers framework that we refer to that looks at a range of skills for researchers, that includes dissemination, it includes speaking and presented about your work. And it includes other I suppose, research skills, as well. So alongside writing, you will be doing these workshops, and we will have guest speakers in and they will talk about doing research in different ways. So what we don't do is cover absolutely everything, because, you know, there's just not scope to do that. But what you will be able to do is tap into a kind of a research culture where people are talking about ideas, explain and how those ideas inform their own research. And you'll be able to take that way of thinking and apply it to your own research in ways that all contribute to your ability to operate at doctoral level four, or level eight study.Alison Hardy:
What it's, it's really good to know about the NTU programme, because obviously, we're meant to you want to sell the NTU course. But equally, a lot of those things, what we're talking about here are things that people could look for, if they're looking for a doctorate programme, because, you know, we've had a recent conversation, haven't we, with a DMT teacher who's hopefully going to come and do her professional doctorate and to you. And we were talking with her about what you look for in a programme and what the pros and cons are. And, you know, I don't I don't want to use that neoliberal language of customer marketing, but But you know, the thinking back to intrinsic motivation, your relationship with your place of study, and your supervisors, is there another thing that keeps things going, and they have to align with who you are and what what you're doing. And, and so he talked about allocating supervisors, but I think it's worth talking a little bit about supervisors in the context of your professional development and and their role in that and sort of beyond the doctorate.Verity Aiken:
Yeah, so yeah, your your supervisors will be able to, you know, help you with the networking aspect of doing a doctorate. So it's quite an important part of the process, really, as well as supporting you and guiding you through the academic process, they will also introduce you to a research community and ways of operating within that research community. So yeah, there's there's lots of things to consider. And I would say to anyone who's interested, do, you know, do look around do look at different options and different programmes, because it's, it's got to be the right programme for you. And there are lots of benefits to doing it and to you, and I'm happy to talk about those. But ultimately, it's, you know, we're looking for people who, who, who fit with our programme, who, who are looking at our programme and thinking, Yes, that is the right structure for, for me, that is the right culture, for me that those are the right supervisors, for me. So everything fits and makes sense, because ultimately, we want people to progress and achieve. So it's in our interests as well, for people to look at various programmes and make the right decision. So yes, you know, do the research, make an informed choice? You're going to be doing it a long time. It needs to be right. Yeah, maybe not perfect.Alison Hardy:
No, no, right. Perfect. Yeah, supervisors do pay a key point, you know, I supervise and a number of different doctoral students, some, some within my field, some outside some kind of linked to. And, and the advantage of finding supervisors that are have have a link to your field is, as you say, they know the networks, they know the conferences, they know, the spaces, they have contacts to help with collecting data and analysing data. And and if you're wanting to build your profile within that particular field, it's kind of important to, to find that and think about that, and you have to get on with them.Verity Aiken:
Yeah, you do. Yeah. Bottom line. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And you don't I mean, you don't always have to enjoy every supervisory meeting. I suppose that that's worth saying, you know, there will be times where it's frustrating. And it's very easy to kind of, I suppose, personify that frustration in your supervisors, because you know, they might be telling you to do things, not telling you to do things, that's the wrong language, but they might be steering you in a particular way and you might not, you might not get entirely what what you're what you're expected to do. It's very common. If you speak to supervisors, you know, they'll, they might say that, you know, their candidates will will get on faster if they, you know, if they listen to what they're being told, and you speak to do what I say, candidates will say, Well, of course, I'm going to listen to my supervisor, because they're the they're the expert, and I trust their opinion. But it's very easy to not listen and not realise that you're not listening. So So yeah, there are some some kind of there are some frictions in the process. But that's because it's challenging. That's because it's hard. And if those aren't there, then actually, you know, if it's too plain sailing, I would, I would wonder if there was something amiss, actually. Because it's, this is this is the top brass, you know, this is top level study. So the name of the game is is for it to be challenging. And if something's challenging, it will be frustrated at times, it will be difficult, there will be stalls. So, so yes, part of the process, I think, yeah, yeah.Alison Hardy:
But that's been really useful Verity to hear about the the whys, the where's the Why force, you know, how to get how to get involved, what to look for? Yeah, there's a couple of TNT teachers, you know, reach out and say, I'm curious, how do we how do we go about it? And it can seem kind of quite an intimidating thing. That scene is something not not for me. And that's where I think getting you to come to about professional doctorate is really important. Because, yeah, you know, it is people don't realise that there are these these different routes, and they both end up with Dr. At the front of their names.Verity Aiken:
Absolutely. And also, you know, thinking, well, this isn't for me, I think you'd be surprised really, if you have a conversation with an academic, and you're a practitioner, and you're saying I am at the coalface this is what I'm experienced. This is what I'm seeing. Most of the time, you know, an academic who is interested in your research area, they're they're delighted to to know more that's like absolute kind of gold dust, caring about what's going on at the front line, and then having somebody who wants to research it, I mean, you know, you're ticking all the boxes. So, so don't see academia or doctoral study as something that is is separate to your, to your life, actually, we're really interested in, in working with you because that's a really strong partnership.Alison Hardy:
Absolutely. I mean, I've got I've got a doctoral student who is exploring research skills of MA students, now. She's from, she's from Algeria, different cultures, that's been fascinating for me about what I've learned about, yeah, the education system and expectations and, and read doing research in, in Algeria, particularly during a pandemic. That's been interesting. But also, as I lead the Masters, it's been great for me to hear those conversations that she's been having, and what she sees is, as essential skills, I've got another student who's looking at authentic assessments on a vocational course. And so, again, kind of touches on what I do around design and technology, it's actually about higher education. But, you know, talking about authentic assessments is is fascinating. I've had a student who's looked at the professionalisation of the earlier sector, and early years is not something I have anything really to do with my always kind of steer away even from my nieces and nephews when they're under 10. Nevermind under five, but the whole conversation about what does it mean to be professional and the professionalisation of a career so, so as a supervisor, I've learnt so much along the way. So it becomes a two way process. And the best bit is is, is when your students actually start to go, No, that's not what I mean. That's not the direction I'm going in and you just think, yeah, my work here is almost done. I've just got to get you to the end. And that's, that's the fantastic bit. So it's a real privilege actually to supervise and to be challenged. Don't let's be on Yeah, I like to be I like to be challenged as a supervisor. Yeah, right.Verity Aiken:
No, no, no, you're not but I think you're right that there becomes a tipping moment isn't there where people are able to defend their their decisions and that's very telling them where they are in the journey and absolutely we learn a lot from from the candidates that that we work with, it becomes very two way and because what you're doing is is you know, your your turn in the way you're not turning them your your your Helping them you're guiding them towards being a researcher. And when you go to Viva when you complete, you are it's not just about having that qualification and having the thesis out there and and available for others. It's also about becoming a fully fledged researcher yourself. So, yeah, all sorts of things happen along the way. It's not just about the academic side of things.Alison Hardy:
A friend says to me, it's a licence to practice.Verity Aiken:
Yeah, yeah. As a researcher, I think that that really makes sense to me. Yeah. And you are expected, I suppose at the end to go on and, and write and research? If that's what you want to do. You know, you have this the skills, the competence, the experience, the expertise to do that. So those are those new doors that you can walk through? Yeah.Alison Hardy:
And and if we go back to where we started about talking about career development, if you're wanting to stay, you know, within your school setting, for example, it gives you that authority to lead on research across your school, even if you've done it in design and technology or a particular area, you've developed these, these research skills which go beyond Yeah, absolutely. It has been.Verity Aiken:
Absolutely, you know, you don't have to move into research or academia. You don't have to move into higher education. It's, it's something that is becoming more valued in schools, research is informing practice, and all of these things will contribute to the way in which schools operate. So it may reaffirm the career that you have at the moment, it may alter it, it may change it, who knows, but there is no set rule in terms of what you do with it. But you start off with that, that absolute thirst for finding out more and developing an interest and seeing that through to exploring an area that is related to your practice. That's the starting point. The end point is are knownAlison Hardy:
for thanks so much for it. I think that's kind of really started to give some answers to people who are questioning about whether a doctorate is a good next step for them. Yeah. AndVerity Aiken:
and I'm happy for people to contact me as well. You know, if people want to get in touch, then that's absolutely fine. They can contact you, Alison, if you know as obviously that the D and T expert, but if anybody wants to come to me, they're more than welcome.Alison Hardy:
Yeah, I'll put links in the show notes to the webpage on the county website with more information and links to to you on social media and your webpage on the NTU site so people can find you and connect. And that'd be great. Thanks so much. Make sure that office is tidy when I get back in.Verity Aiken:
Well, yeah, I mean, my ends will be you know, your ends well, I don't know. And the white gloves will be out.Alison Hardy:
Alright, it's good to talk to you very soon. Thank you, Alison. It's been it's been lovely to chat.