Thursday, February 10, 2011

On doing an OpenPhd

Yesterday, I was re-reading a 14 month old post about executing on an Open PhD written by a friend of mine, Dan Pontefract. It was good to read the comments so many months later and think about what was being said. I really appreciated the comments from practicing academics, in particular Richard Smith. I have the greatest respect for Richard due to his focus on supervising people through to completion in their graduate studies. I even know of him assisting people from other institutions in their completion. People who know my work know that I spent some time studying and facilitating workshops on completion and supervision when out at Memorial University of Newfoundland. The point is that completion rates aren't as good as they should be and Richard is a champion in assisting people to completion. When Richard wrote of the carrot that was going to get you through to completion I thought deeper about my field of study and if my self created carrot would get me to completion, regardless if the study was Open or otherwise. Anyhow, It's all good. As I continue to pursue the idea of an Open and Networked PhD (ONPhD) the re-reading of Dan's post (and its comments) really got me thinking about my Open PhD. The questions it prompted are very necessary and fundamental for me at this beginning stage of the ONPhD;
  1. A PhD is about mastery and do I want to further master something I am already a master?
  2. I'd rather master something new (and therefore, fun), as I would otherwise become bored (see item 1). Should my Open PhD build on what I already know or should I develop a completely new area of knowing?
  3. Currently, I am pursuing an Open PhD because I want to increase my reputation in my chosen profession, does this make sense? Is this the best (and only) way to increase my reputation?
  4. This pursuit is also about creating a virtual research lab to deepen my understanding (I'm predominantly a kinesthetic learner) of online self direct life long learning, and sharing what I learn/do along the way. Is wrapping it in the concept of a PhD really necessary? Isn't a PhD mostly about research, being a recognized expert, becoming a university professor, getting interviewed on CBC?
  5. Is an ON PhD, as currently being discussed, really that different than a traditional PhD? Isn't the disruption just a way to get out of paying fees and being aligned / restrained by the academy?
I have complete faith I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my pursuit. I am committed to furthering my learning / education / knowledge beyond that of a Masters level. I know much of my studies will be in the realm of pedagogy, technology and life long learning cause that is what I do for a living. But does that mean it is a good idea for me to pursue an ON PhD in pedagogy, technology and life long learning? This reflection is an important step in this pursuit - more to come on this topic... and thanks to Richard for prompting this reflection.


    Leigh Blackall said...

    I also have doubts, mainly that the Network is too fickle to effectively play the role of the supervisor. My hope is that friendship will supplement that. Also, making a public declaration towards on ON PhD does carry its own motivational force.

    For me, I am required to pursue a PhD for my job. Whether I want to continue working in academia (that requires a PhD) I don't yet know, probably not without some major changes in the nature of the institution.

    The real attraction however, is to try and drive myself deeper into a field of knowledge, and develop a creative output in response to it. Staying with the topic I've been with all these years is probably playing it safe, but also part of me wants to use this event as an end point, a closing of this chapter, to move on to a new thing, rather than to start. Whether the output submitted for assessment is seen to be a 'real' is second to my desire to attempt that process.

    I attend some seminars and workshops offered to formally enrolled PhDs at my institution, and already I know that we are more self aware and more critical of the process than most others. Perhaps much like homeschoolers and unschoolers are towards formal schooling. This is reassuring for me, that we aren't really missing anything critical.

    The job requirement does loom over mine a little, but I'll resist. If you don't have such a thing looming over you, and are all about the process of discovery (including yourself), then I think you should continue this path. You have an advantage of formal research experience (I assume with your Masters title), so self direction should be easier.

    Anyway, this comment was really just to say I share your feelings toward this, mainly the absence of any real sense of guidance and support. Hopefully our combined effort to build a network around this process will eventually supplement that.

    Peter Rawsthorne said...

    Thanks Leigh,
    I'm currently writing a series of posts exploring my executing on an ONPhD. I ran into Richard Smith yesterday and further discussed this idea. Having a place for this is important, I think it will end up more like a creative PhD, very self directed... with a self managed carrot for completion.
    Be Well...

    Dan Pontefract said...

    alright, you are kicking my ass now

    this whole '3 kid' thing, coupled with life, coupled with work, coupled with writing a book, coupled with all my other interests and hobbies is causing me to stay parked in the garage at this point in time

    I gotta do some soul searching on this and sort out how I can achieve what you are in the midst of accomplishing ...

    Leigh Blackall said...

    Creative PhD - me too. Have lined up a gallery even! Am looking into Joseph Beuys for inspiration. Will post more soon.

    Peter Rawsthorne said...

    We're a collective! I've got a post in the hopper describing that an Open PhD has to be collaborative! Almost to the point where we need a small cohort aspiring to the same goal. And we reach completion when our cohort reaches completion. So we will all have an ebb and flow to our Open/ON/NO PhD. Thanks for joining in...