The finishing line in sight

I’ve always read this kind of post on my seniors’ blogs that tend to precede their vivas and always enjoyed reading their sojourn as a student researcher. In the spirit of this tradition, I too would like to put into words how my adventures have played out up to this final hurdle. I find it timely, perhaps overdue, seeing that I haven’t posted as much in my blog, because simply I have had been quite engaged with the exciting opportunities come my way. The past month or so I have been wearing many hats. Researcher, teacher, author, supervisor, associate, reviewer, developer, I am practically a hydra. I haven’t accomplished much but I hope that what I have been doing would be a springboard to my aspiration of being an academic researcher coiled up in an alcove basking in the tropical sunlight through a conservatory that I am yet to build.

I have to be honest although I enjoyed working in the executive side of education, evermore so working alongside the Minister who I have the utmost respect and gratitude for his mentorship, I felt that I never cut out as being into the policy side of things. The knowledge of management is an added bonus, but I have found (perhaps reclaimed) my love of working on the field on ground level and pushing the change from bottom up. I have always loved working for students of any level. I have worked with primary and early childhood, I was formally a teacher for secondary students, I did voluntary work for a year teaching adult students, and had a stint of working with vulnerable and justice-involved youth (thanks Obama for advocating this far better PC term). I have now been teaching postgraduate on-campus students and am currently teaching a group of international online students. I think I am just about up there with diversity in the student populations I have taught! It does seem to suggest this is what I set out to be, an academic. Not necessarily an English teacher as, being someone who questions what is fluency, I am a bit of an oxymoron for that discipline. So what have I been up to so far?

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Teaching. I have been doing some teaching and am doing a lot more. I led an online seminar last night and it’s nice to be on the control dashboard of the synchronous platform for a change. The class is moderately sized but there is diversity in the population coming from China, Japan, Middle Eastern countries, Asia and the UK. Last year I was involved in teaching a class of around 47 students from different parts of the world. China, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UK, South Korea, Brazil, Japan, Qatar, Armenia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the many nations in Europe. I had a blast, particularly when I introduced the idea of Minecraft in Learning by actually showing Minecraft in action. And these student-teachers are themselves creative I was in awe of their presentations. It’s also a privilege to run the course with my mentor who I have known for close to 10 years. I like being in the classroom once more, so much so that I hope to be in one when I return home.

Supervising. I am supervising a few postgraduate students for their Masters dissertation. I enjoy working with students and hearing their ideas and proposals they are just inherently exuberant and lively and full of ideas. I was once in their shoes ten years ago so it is natural for me to be able to relate to how you want to change the world. Over the years I learned that we don’t have to change the world. We don’t have to be superheroes. But we can work together to gradually make the world a better place, especially for those in need.

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Publishing. This year I started submitting my work early to journals and I have already had two papers published, one of them is off-tangent to my current field and is published in Asian Englishes. I call this the residue of my past life as a TESOL teacher. Beyond this, I have two articles currently in review and I hope for a favourable reply from the editors. I have also submitted chapter proposals to two books. Obviously the process of book chapters take at least twice that of journal publications but it is satisfying when it eventually gets done. My colleague waited for almost 18 months before she finally saw her chapter published. I have a few other articles to submit but I am weighing the prospect of publishing which takes a few months of peer reviews, to presenting them in conferences which also has a fair opportunity to get into journals beyond the proceedings.

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photo from EDEN website.

Conferences. In the past I used to present 2-3 times a year in conferences seminars and workshops but abandoned my run in presenting once I started working in the office. I did however amass a long list of conference attendances while working in the Minister office, probably around more than 30 conferences. I could not recall all of them but there were all those South East Asia Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) conferences that I went to in Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia, and there were those conferences in the Middle East like ISESCO, Qatar’s WISE, I remembered a few in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well. There were just that many during what was literally a jet-setter kind of life without the glamour. I’ve begun presenting again after taking the advice of a few academics. I presented in Germany for the European Distance and E-Learning Network workshop, presented a poster in the Methods Fair and then another paper in Manila’s Global Education Conference. I received funds for my presentations and also an award from the paper in Germany. I’ve got papers aligned this year for presentation in conferences in Florence Italy, in Dublin Ireland, in Barcelona Spain, in Maldives and in Hungary. So I’m looking at 6 more conferences this year. Once the ball gets rolling there’s no satisfaction in stopping really. The best bits about conferences is you get to network with other people and get constructive feedback.

Projects. I’m working with a few colleagues on a project involving refugees from war affected countries. I wouldn’t elaborate further but in general, research projects involve fieldwork and it is a welcomed change from working behind the desk. I am looking forward to be part of a few more research project teams in the pipeline.

I think I’ve covered some of the milestones of my research journey so far and it’s not much but it will do considering I came from the management side of the industry. I’m not certain if I can sustain these once I get back home. I am likely not to revert back to my old post. I hope I get back to teaching regardless of the level. There is always an opportunity for teacher reflexivity in the classroom and there are many teacher networks that convene and share good practices and do – a term that I’ve recently learned – collective wondering.

I have seemed to kept a tight lid on my PhD research but if there is a post to update on my progress, this post is exactly it. My thesis is practically complete. I’ve completed my data collection using a sequential transformative mixed method design using data collection instruments that I’ve created based on Bourdieu’s theoretical framework. I’ve performed the data analyses. For the quantitative part I did an initial Principal Component Analysis with all the assumption tests of Kaiser-Meyer Olin, Bartlett’s Sphericity, correlation tests, the works. Then did a Monte Carlo PCA Parallel Analysis before finally running Exploratory Factor Analyses accompanied by reliability tests. On the qualitative side, I utilised a two-cycle coding approach to abductively analyse my data, using holistic coding then a combination of In Vivo and Initial Coding, then mapping the codes and then performed Pattern Coding which replaced the Axial Coding and Focused Coding technique I used earlier in my pilots. Then for both data, I used triangulation and mixed-method matrix, most of which within the spaces of SPSS software and QSR NVivo CAQDAS program. My take away from this  is learning how to use the two applications which will come in handy for future work. So I have indeed done the bulk of my research and in the process of finalising the thesis. My very own viva is just around the corner so in a few months time I would be in that room infant of a panel of examiners defending my research. For those with a viva coming up, this blog post by Elvee Javier, a senior in my school, is quite helpful in familiarising with the process. I’ve never met her in person, I remembered having a dialogue with her on Facebook but we are not acquainted. Posting her viva experience is very useful for the final year graduate community, of which I am a member of.

Dr Eljee Javier on her viva | Dr Eljee Javier on her viva | Dr Elvee Javier, more on her viva