Month: June 2015

“I’d be expecting caviar in lectures”

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I’ve finally finished my second EdD assignment and whilst reading the 150 papers in my EndNote library (exported into Nvivo to help me search through them all and code passages of course) it occurred to me that the only two papers I could quickly find were the ones that had the memorable titles. The two that I could open in a flash were called “I’d be expecting caviar in lectures”: the impact of the new fee regime on undergraduate students’ expectations of Higher Education (Bates & Kaye, 2014) and Oven ready and self-basting: taking stock of employability skills (Atkins, 1999).

These were of course great to visualise and these are the what I saw in my minds eye:

To read the rest of @jaxbartram’s post, follow this link.


The University …

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If the role of the University is one of critique, to be the critical conscience of society – is that role compromised when HE is primarily responsible for the  preparation and training of teachers?

On reading. Slowly.

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I would probably read much more quickly if I made less detailed notes or if I didn’t have this constant desire to stop every few minutes and after making a cup of coffee write in my DayOne Journal or blog. But having been reminded of Ball’s (2006) paper, The necessity and violence of theory – I couldn’t not re-wind and re-read it. I’m glad I did. Ball offers a personal account of how and why he has developed his interest in the work of Foucault (like Foucault Stephen Ball is not a Foucauldian) and Bourdieu. He also offers a run down of how and why Bourdieu’s writing on class is so important to educational researchers.

If there is a binary that seems to permeate education discourse it is this division between theory and practice. As educational researchers we are – supposedly at least – locked into practice rather then theory. What is education after all if not a practice driven enterprise. I think this is an important and revealing strain in educational discourse – one that frequently reveals itself. To describe oneself as a ‘theorist’ is an attempt to assume an elevated position above the murky grimy handed ‘practice’ of education (how else can I interpret it in the light of Bourdieu’s notion that all our social interactions are driven by a thinly disguised lust for power and ascendancy).

And yet, as Ball (2006) has reminded me this morning:

Bourdieu sought to work between binaries rather than be constrained to make false choices between poles—his social model is articulated between objectivism (construction of a discourse within which to converse with other sociologist about the object) and subjectivism, his epistemology is enacted between scientism and theoreticism, which implies that one can grasp reality without “touching it” (Karalayali, 2004, p. 365).

More importantly – as Ball’s paper so strongly illustrates – it’s impossible to understand the world from within one or the other lens alone. To be locked into theory (madness) or locked into practice (foolishness) is to touch reality without grasping it. Or else to grasp something other than reality.

In a week where the right wing press likes to inform us that we no longer need the Labour Party – Stephen Ball’s discussion of recent developments in class theory and more specifically Bourdieu’s writings on class and their relevance for educational researchers is a welcome necessity.


These concepts are 10% incomprehensible

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I have never understood how anyone reads an entire book in one day. It seems to take me ages. I like to muse, make notes, ponder, make pots of coffee, think about what I’m reading, read something else that explains it (or simply adds to the confusion). If I’m enjoying what I’m reading, I like to re-read and savour, highlight and write in my journal – (  I really like this DayOne app at the moment – and then of course there’s the inevitable blog post, a neatened and slightly more coherent version of my notes. All the time I read and think – does this address what I want to explore, how does this help shape a line argument I want to develop, how does this compare to what other writers have said abut the subject, what precisely does this mean or imply? And then it strikes me – no wonder it takes a while to get to grips with.

Should I call it a day and give up? The truth is to be Doctoral and post-Doctoral requires the brain of a Rottweiler. Forget intelligence and talent. All it takes is an utter, sheer bloody minded determination. This book is an inanimate object: I wilt not let it beat me.

Two thoughts occur to me

a) Is Foucault being serious? I mean it. A colleague some months ago suggested:

Now, as Open Culture notes, Foucault admitted to his friend John Searle that he intentionally complicated his writings to appease his French audience. Searle claims Foucault told him: “In France, you gotta have ten percent incomprehensible, otherwise people won’t think it’s deep–they won’t think you’re a profound thinker.” When Searle later asked Pierre Bourdieu if he thought this was true, Bourdieu insisted it was much worse than ten percent. You can listen to Searle’s full comments below.

Wolters (2013) Foucault on Obscurantism: ‘The made me do it’ 

b) I really enjoy listening to someone speaking about their thing. When I read what they have written after hearing them speak, the ideas jump off the page and I feel like I’m talking to a person (does it matter that it is sometimes a dead person?) The nicest thing about talking to a person on paper – they nearly always agree with me.


Rabinow, P. (1997). Ethics, subjectivity and truth: The essential works of Foucault 1954-1984 (vol 1)

Illustrated metaphors for the Postgraduate Research Experience [or persuaded by @mark_carrigan and @azumahcarol]

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In this post, #HullEdD blogger, Jacqui Bertram visualises a few of Malcom Tight’s metaphors for supervision. This has been reblogged from: 

After much persuading by the potent Azumah Dennis and engaging Mark Carrigan at our doctoral symposium earlier this month, I am now embarking on my first personal blog which will hopefully continue through my time as an EdD student and beyond.

I expect it to by mostly visual, with silly sketches and iPad drawings interspaced with odd bit of textual musing. To that end, my first post is to showcase the daft drawings I have done to illustrate some of the ‘Metaphors for the Postgraduate Research Experience’ that we contemplated as part of Malcolm Tight’s talk at the aforementioned symposium.


The research student as TRAVELLER on a journey or quest:

The researcher battles through hardships to reach their doctoral destination and grows and changes along the way.

The research student as SLAVE

The supervisor is the master in the relationship – research students are forced to undertake menial tasks.

The research student as APPRENTICE

The supervisor passes on their knowledge to the researcher who may one day become as good as them.

The research student as CHILD

The supervisor takes on a parental role with the researcher considered too immature to make their own decisions

The research student as CO-WORKER

Researcher and supervisor collaborate on work – unless the researcher is unwilling.

The research student as DISCIPLE

The supervisor is seen as the great teacher to be followed with devotion.

The research student as PAWN

The researcher is a pawn in a much bigger game – they have little power and can be sacrificed if necessary.

Thanks to @LeeFallin for this one…

The researcher as VAMPIRE FOLLOWER

The aim of the supervisors is to create more researchers just like themselves to perpetuate their race…but not before they have sucked all they can from them!

Finding the right Metaphor for the Postgraduate Research Experience: customer, client or pawn?

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Gary and Henry Chasing Butterfly, Beafort, SC, 1996 © Rodney Smith

This post has been re-blogged (in an edited form) from Lee Fallin’s Blog. He offers a detailed run down of the three days of the Doctoral Symposium in three blog posts over the next few weeks.

Please read his full account. I have copied and posted a section if it here: Malcom Tight’s metaphors for the Learning journey – seems to have struck a powerful chord with many of us. Max post on the “Confident Companion” has generated further thoughts.

Metaphors for the Postgraduate Research Experience – Professor Malcolm Tight, University of Lancaster

This presentation gripped me from the start to the finish. Prof. Tight discussed metaphors as a communicative technique for the doctoral process. Often the doctoral process is introduced as a journey, implying a lengthy process. This could be a quest, a long, troublesome journey with a prize at the end or it could be a voyage into the abnormal, ending with an escape to normality. Could it be argued the PhD is the quest for a doctorate with the EdD as a voyage – dipping into the abnormality of academia while still working full time.

We all agreed the journey wasn’t particularly effective.

So if not a journey – how can you use metaphor to describe the doctoral student experience?

From the keynote, here are a few suggestions for student metaphors:

  • ‘The Child’ Too young to have responsibility and is therefore treated as children by their professors who have authority over them.
  • ‘The Employer‘ In early universities the students used to employ staff. More recently, students used to pay the lecturer on entry to a lecture. If you were not any good, people wouldn’t show up.
  • ‘The slave’ Doctoral students must do as they are told. This resonates with the sciences as a lot of research is predetermined due to funding. You just go along with the topic as told.
  • ‘The apprentice’ Serve your apprenticeship, then have opportunity to become a master.
  • ‘The disciple‘ Follow your leader, you can succeed them one day.
  • ‘The vampire follower’ One day you hope to be sired and when you are, you can make your own vampires!
  • ‘The co-producer’ A partner – assuming the student wants this!
  • ‘The Family member’ Seeing the supervisor as a father/mother figure to look up. Suggests a close relationship – even friendship.
  • ‘The client‘ A constant need to negotiate – thrash out what you will get and when.
  • ‘The customer’ The idea may be very much linked to UG but it will eventually come to PG.
  • ‘The consumer’ Suggests impassivity. Consume then regurgitate to pass.
  • ‘The pawn’ A small player in a much bigger game. Student has little power and can be sacrificed.
  • ‘The worker’ Write this, have targets and finish it early. Get it done. Research is time consuming.
  • ‘The rebel’ None of the above 🙂

That is it for day 1

My challenge is to now finishing organising my thoughts for the rest of the symposium…

While we wait for Lee’s view of day 2 and day 3 of #DSHull, Professor Malcolm Tight has long been interested in metaphors and learning. He has written and published work abut this for those who’d like to explore further:

Hughes, C., & Tight, M. (2013). The metaphors we study by: The doctorate as a journey and/or as work. Higher Education Research & Development32(5), 765-775.

Hughes, C., & Tight, M. (1996). Doughnuts and jam roly poly sweet metaphors for organisational researchersJournal of Further and Higher Eduction20(1), 51-57.

Tight, M. (2013). Students: Customers, Clients or Pawns. Higher Education Policy, 26(3), 291-307.

The function of sociology

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Posted on Twitter by  8th June 2015