I just finished the first year of my doctoral program; I am working on an EdD from San Diego State University. The program is a cohort model, where, as a group, we travel together through theory and practical courses while being guided through the writing of our dissertation. This first year was both easier and more challenging than I expected in surprising ways. I learned a lot through my studies this year, but more importantly, I learned a lot about myself. Before I get too far into my own research, I wanted to take time to capture some of my reflections on this first year.
You get out of this (or any program/ project/endeavor) what you put into it
From one of our first classes, in which the professor told us on day one that we were all getting an A, I learned that not everyone wants to work hard. That professor went on to explain, through the example provided in The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, that we would have to “earn” our A throughout the semester. In fact, our first assignment was to write him a letter explaining how we had earned our A, as if it was the end, not the beginning of the class. After writing our letter, it was really up to each one of us to actually do the work we said we would in our letter. It soon became clear to me that hearing they had already earned an A gave some people the freedom to stop working for the rest of class. Being a self-proclaimed “life-long learner” this bothered me for a long time. Finally, I had to come to turns with the fact that I will get out of this program what I put into it, and it is not up to me to control the efforts that others chose to put forward (until it comes to group work – see below!). I have made a commitment, of my time and patience, to complete this program for my own further advancement. I know that I will not only earn my A’s, but will truly earn the degree, the title, and the knowledge, by the end of these three long years.
I have never been a fan of group work. As a true introvert, I do not enjoy large groups nor forced social situations. While I love collaborating at work, and truly feel that my best work is a result of teamwork and quality collaborations, I find group work as class assignments to be my least-favorite method of assessment. Regardless of my age or the class, in most groups, the work tends to get done by one or two people, instead of an equal share by all. Or worse, if you have all Type-A personalities, you have to deal with a power struggle over the font and color choices within a glorious PowerPoint presentation. Really? That is not why I’m pursuing this advanced degree! However, as a member of a cohort, it is one of my learning tasks to get to know my fellow classmates and work alongside each of them at some point. Not all of our groups projects have been complete torture. I did get to pretend I was on “The Dating Game” as part of a skit to liven up a presentation on APA style! 😉 What I’ve learned about myself through these experiences is that I can work with a variety of people, that I don’t always have to be in charge, and that it doesn’t hurt me to step outside of my comfort zone once in a while.
Reading research is not exactly fun! I have learned how to read long, extensive research articles and reports. I have also learned how to be a consumer of this information, reading for what worked as well as what didn’t, what was stated and what was omitted in the results, and how to determine future research needs within our profession. I realize that the phrase “research-based” gets bandied about in education often without any actual research being cited. One thing I have learned is that there is a lot of educational research available to those willing to search and study; our profession could benefit from a more careful analysis of what that research is telling us about theory and application to teaching and learning.
I have always enjoyed writing. Writing comes easily to me, however, revising and editing my own work does not. Over this last year I have written at least eight small papers (how did anything under 10 pages become “small”?!), have drafted the first 30 pages of my literature review, and have drafted the first version of my methods section. I still have many more pages to draft, but more daunting is the thought of rereading all those pages in order to revise and edit my work. Knowing that I’m aiming for over 150 pages is intimidating. I am learning new strategies to force myself to edit as I work, to return to my work in new ways, and to find new ways to ensure that my work is edited properly!
As I finish this first year, I am reminded of the picture above. This sign sits on the fence of a house directly across from my office, which happens to be about six blocks away from the beach. I am lucky enough to be able to take walks down to the beach and back during lunch on rare days without full or mid-day meetings. I am also lucky enough, and grateful, that it isn’t usually a hard choice to return to work; I love my job! It isn’t always as easy to remind myself to get to the “work” of this doctoral program. Having to set my own schedule for making progress on my research is up to me; only I am negatively affected if I chose to head towards the beach instead of work. Making the time in each week to read, study, and reflect on my new learning is part of my balancing act. Learning how to be patient, especially when revising and editing my own writing is my learning goal. Achieving this, and my larger goals, will benefit me in my current work, my future work, and throughout my life. While I enjoy the beach, I choose to do the work.
It is all up to me.
I choose to earn my A.
Previous posts about this learning journey: