“Ready, Set, Work” (Evening Standard Article)

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Well, am seeking to understand how much of this I am, but hoping very much that I’m not quite there (I, have, for example, not really looked at my phone since Friday afternoon, and just getting back into it this evening):

Have you joined the super- working classes — those alpha-hours Stakhanovites whose idea of the ordinary office day is a 12-hour slog, with the iPad always charged to ensure that a couple of emails can be polished off in bed and resumed over the 6.30am breakfast?

Even odder, as far as your friends and worried mum are concerned: do you enjoy this more than, say, housework, childcare or other chores?

If so, you fit the criteria established by a team of sociologists at Oxford who have diagnosed a new “superordinate working class”. This innovation is turning human history (and Marx) on its head, replacing the idea of poor workers toiling for long hours with highly educated, well rewarded people doing exactly the same thing through choice, rather than necessity.

Read full article.

The value of PhD supervision…

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Interesting piece on PhD supervision:

When a PhD supervision session constitutes just another blocked-out hour in a besieged diary, it can be all too easy to forget that it could make an impression that stays with the student for the rest of their research career.

We asked five academics for their recollections of the PhD supervision they received, and the way it had informed their own approach to tutoring. Three had enjoyed excellent supervision that had deeply influenced their own practice. But two had not. One recalls exchanges with their tutor characterised by yawns and silences, while another was treated with a “cutting harshness”, valuable only as an exemplar of how not to conduct yourself.

Read full story, and accompanying editorial.

Getting a Scholarly Monograph Published

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Having published my first book, with calls for a sequel of case studies … I would like to get my PhD turned into a book this year (10 years aftetr I finished the PhD), so this guidance may be helpful:

It involves blood, sweat and tears, and the experience is most frequently likened to childbirth. But with the right support and guidance, the process of publishing an academic book – a key step in most scholarly careers – need not be too excruciating. While the careful crafting of the manuscript itself is the key step in a book’s formation, many other elements contribute to the creation of the finished volume and, ideally, the author will benefit from the expertise of colleagues and professionals at every stage of its gestation. For first-time or inexperienced authors who have set their sights on a career-enhancing scholarly monograph, however, getting to grips with the dos and don’ts of academic publishing can be daunting.Times Higher Education asked a panel of academic authors to share their experience and expertise and to point out pitfalls to avoid.

Read full article.

PhD: Has the quality dropped? If so, who’s “to blame”?

mfIRNyuThis is rather concerning (but not particularly surprising, as we’ve heard all those complaints about GCSE, A-Level, degree level standards dropping, etc.) re PhD doctorates. Really, by the time you sit the viva, you should know that your work is ready to pass, and that your job in the viva is to demonstrate that you actually wrote it (although others will still see it as a test) … and as I hope to take on a PhD student before too long:

Our experience does not lead us to criticise any particular system of examination or type of thesis. However, it does raise serious issues about the quality of work submitted for the PhD degree (or its equivalent) and the standards employed to judge such work.

To cut to the chase, a significant number of the theses we have examined did not deserve to pass – at least, not in the form in which they were submitted. One of us has examined six doctoral theses in the past year and believes that not one of them was worthy of the degree. Yet he had the means at his disposal to fail only two of them. Administrative conventions and examination procedures, not to mention social pressures, simply did not allow the possibility of failure.

Read full post.

Book Launch: ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’ #DigitalParenting

Image: Mark Dodgeon

Image: Mark Dodgeon

So, I may have published three book chapters before, but finally, the first full book is out there. Many say they will do such a thing, few make it! It was therefore good to celebrate at Westminster Central Hall with friends, family and others. See fulll photos on Digital Fingerprint.

Twineham School: 150 Year Anniversary

BWTeacherInCarWithPupils-1-470x260Twineham School, where I spent many – mostly happy – years, celebrates it’s 150th anniversary this year:

The 150 year life of the school has spanned a time of enormous change: in village life, education, religion and society in general of course. Sussex Living

I found a few old photos from those days, including the original newspaper from the visit of Val Biro and Gumdrop as pictured above (and I still have the signed books upstairs), some ‘wonderful writing’ from when I was 11 and on school camp, a history of the school written on work experience when I was at Warden Park…

Imposter Syndrome via @oliverburkeman

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I’ve been thinking about Imposter Syndrome a lot recently – particularly in relation to the debates about why there are less women speakers - where I think the problems start far lower down than up in the speaker arena, and we need groups such as ‘Gathering of Women Leaders‘ who are offering spaces for women to meet together – including seeking ways to provide training/encouragement to women in the Christian world.

So I had a quick Google and found this helpful piece:

Two US sociologists, Jessica Collett and Jade Avelis, wanted to know why so many female academics opt for “downshifting”: setting out towards a high-status tenured post, then switching to something less ambitious. Contrary to received wisdom, their survey of 460 doctoral students revealed that it wasn’t to do with wanting a “family-friendly” lifestyle. Instead, impostorism was to blame. They also uncovered a nasty irony. It’s long been known that impostorism afflicts more women than men – one of many reasons that institutions match younger women academics with high-ranking female mentors. But some survey responses suggested those mentors might make things worse, because students felt like impostors compared with them. “One said she suspected her mentor was secretly Superwoman,” Science Careers magazine reported. “How could she ever live up to that example?”

Read the full article in The Guardian, where there’s the call that those who are in senior positions (or perceived senior?) speak about this more – I was only really given the confidence to continue with my PhD once my (female) supervisor told me about imposter syndrome, and I feel I can ‘sit with it’ most of the time, and just keep trying to do my best. It reminds me that the most inspiring sermons are always those who say “I’m still trying to think this through” … one of my crappy jokes for workshops – “there are more than 50 shades of grey in this debate”!

I find it helpful to think about the comment that the higher one goes in a meritocratic industry, the more one expects to be ‘found out’ (something Emma Watson also feels)- as my first book comes out in February, it’s really scary putting that stuff out there – knowing some people won’t like it… and is the way of things, they are the most likely to be vocal about that! I feel it every time I stand in front of a workshop, or speak from the stage … but most of the time I think it’s helpful – encourages me not to just to give a ‘lazy talk’, and remain on my mettle! So let’s encourage each other (focus where possible on the positive), and hear most critique in the way it’s meant – to encourage us to produce the best that we can…

Is an academic research career possible?

mfmpiAKHmmm, having left Manchester saying I was never going to work in a University again, never move so far north again … and after time with LICC, that I was clearly destined for secular work…

There is a “significant credibility gap” between researchers’ expectations and the likelihood of their forging long-term careers in higher education, a survey has found.

More than three-quarters of research staff responding to the Careers in Research Online Survey 2013 said they aspired to a career in higher education and around two-thirds said they expected to achieve this.

But it was “unrealistic to expect” that this number of research staff, or even half of those in the early stages of their career, would be able to secure a long-term research role in higher education, says the report, based on the survey produced by Vitae, the careers organisation for researchers.

“Anecdotally we expect that probably fewer than half are, in reality, going to make it into academic careers,” said Robin Mellors-Bourne, director of research and intelligence at Vitae and the report’s co-author.

Read full story.

Switching Research Fields?

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I thought this was a great quote on change: “if you always follow the beaten track you may well find that all the grass has already been eaten”, in an article in Times Higher Education, with Nancy Rothwell.

As someone who officially originated from “history”, but has also engaged with Education Studies, Media Studies, American Studies, Journalism, and all things digital, as well as a stint at Manchester with regards to interdisciplinary research, definitely of interest.

Lecturing on an Ocean Cruise: Sounds Good!

Cruise LinerWell, there’s an idea:

The scholar on stage holds the status of entertainer, putting on a show for a paying audience whose scores will determine whether their lecturer’s short-term contract is renewed.

Fear not: this is not a vision of some dystopian future but rather an unusual, and fascinating, break from the day job – with azure waters and plenty of sunshine thrown in.

For Kathleen Lynch, associate professor in the department of Classics at the University of Cincinnati, lecturing on a cruise ship is “the very best kind of outreach experience possible”.

Read full article.

Work/Play?

mhiH6z2Interesting piece in Times Higher Education - danger of appearing a workaholic … my life is definitely rather unbalanced but tried to address with 4-day week + consultancy – the 4 days keep taking over!:

Any attempt to regulate the hours worked by academics would, of course, be doomed to failure. One major problem is defining where work stops and personal interest starts, differentiating between the voluntary and the contractual. Often, key elements of the contractual, such as research excellence framework submissions, can be produced only when academics have autonomy to set their own working patterns (remember the outcry at Liverpool Hope University in 2009 when academics were instructed to spend 35 hours a week on campus unless they obtained formal permission to work off site).

Read full article.

Academia: Does it have to be 24/7?

One of the reasons that I declared that I wasn’t going to work in academia when I left the University of Manchester was the expectation that you chuck every hour that you’re alive at “work”. It’s one of the dangers of working with material that you love, and it can be different to find boundaries. In moving to Durham, there was a particular choice to work 4 days a week to get more balance – it worked for about 2 months – and I’m now seeking to find a way back to it. Encouraged by this article in the Guardian:
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A former head of department is reputed to have said: “If you are in the office fewer than 40 hours a week, they had better be really good hours.” Departments in which 60 hours per week is the accepted norm are not unusual. Overseas collaborations can mean teleconferences at all hours, and it is possible for a document to be edited round the clock between the UK and Australia.

The list of things academics “should” do pushes us towards unmanageable workloads, particularly at the early stages of our careers. Holidays appear to be a strange concept. Funding agencies and universities alike insist on setting proposal deadlines on 4 January, encouraging work over the holiday period. One colleague sent me a paper on Christmas Eve requesting comments back by New Year’s Eve (my institution shuts down completely between the two). Recently, I have had several “something to read on your sun-lounger” emails. The next such one I receive will be filed in the recycling.

Read full article.

Too Many Options?

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Ha, yes, I can get overloaded with options, so interesting piece of advice came into my mailbox recently from Marianne Cantwell:

Stop the overload. Stop kidding yourself that the solution to being confused about all the options in front of you is to get more of them. The moment someone says “hey have you thought of this completely new and unrelated path?” when you are already overwhelmed with options? Slap in your earplugs and go “la la, I can’t hear you!”. After all if you can’t see the wood for the trees, the answer isn’t to add more trees.

Read more from Free Range Humans, who recommends that you focus on the options in front of you, rather than than putting off making a decision whilst you wait for other options.

Good Reminder: Wider Picture

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Talking about youth work, but feels a bit like where I get to far too often:

We are all working so hard at delivering our job that we rarely make enough time to read or think. This traps us in the here and now. We cope with crises as they hit us. We never have enough time or space to plan new work and manage our time better. We tend not to see the wider picture. We are responsive rather than pro-active.

It is difficult to develop strategies and plans without understanding the wider picture and how all its part relate to one another. Yet planning and working systematically is the only way we can become more effective and less stressed as workers. This is why we need to change the way we work and manage our boundaries and time more effectively even when it means saying ‘no’. It is one of the ways that we prevent being ‘kippered’.

Good advice…

Dangers of Part-Time Teaching? @timeshigher

Indeed, after many years of part-time teaching – it’s somewhat easier if you already work in the institution and so have those facilities available, but it’s hard work:

Part-time teachers are not getting the support they require from university departments, despite their growing importance within the academy.

Although around 40 per cent of staff in higher education work part-time, they tend not to receive the level of academic or administrative support supplied to their full-time peers, according to a paper delivered at the Society for Research into Higher Education’s annual conference.

Amanda Gilbert, lecturer in academic development at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and Fran Beaton, senior lecturer in higher education and academic practice at the University of Kent, interviewed dozens of part-time lecturers for a book, Developing Effective Part-time Teachers in Higher Education: New Approaches to Professional Development, which was published in October.

Presenting a paper about their findings at the SRHE conference, held at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, Dr Gilbert and Ms Beaton said that universities had to do more to ensure that part-time staff were treated equitably.

A lack of office space or administrative support was a frequent complaint among their interviewees, Ms Beaton told delegates on 13 December.

“Many people told us: ‘My car boot or bicycle basket is my office’,” she said. “Universities need to have a clear strategy for how part-time teachers are recruited and…where they will work.”

Read full story.

Promotion: Senior Fellow in Learning & Teaching

I have just received a letter confirming that as from 1st July I will be ‘Senior Fellow in Learning & Teaching’ at the University of Winchester, having proved my value. No change in job, but (good) change in salary.

The application I submitted is here. This has surprisingly posed me an interesting dilemma that I need to pray about/resolve in the next 24 hours …

Academic Career or Plan B?

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Story in Times Higher Education this week has attracted MANY comments already… it starts:

Universities benefit from the large pool of cheap labour provided by PhD students and postdocs, but there aren’t enough academic jobs to go around, so young scholars should prepare for the possibility of a future outside the academy, one postdoc advises

Not everyone who completes a PhD gets an academic job. I knew that. But still I thought that my prospects were good.

I have degrees from some of the best universities in the world, in the UK and the US, and currently hold a postdoctoral position. I have had no problems securing funding for my research, and am close to publishing some of the results.

This year, however, I have had some interviews but no job offers. I may be able to find an academic position next year, but it now seems unlikely.

On a good day, I feel confident about my research and believe I have something to contribute to my discipline and to wider society. But increasingly I wonder: if others do not value my research enough to pay me to do it, what else can I do to make a living?

Read full story, the editorial, and content from UCU conference.

Interesting comment:

As another commenter has said, the only reason to do a PhD is because you love your subject, and realise that this may be the last and only chance to do research in it. That, incidentally, is what gets people jobs: a true passion for the subject always shows (I speak as someone who’s been part of numerous interview panels). So please listen potential and current PhDs, this is the truth: you probabaly won’t get an academic job, so if that’s the only reason why you are doing it, give up the idea right now and go and do something else instead.

I tend to have a low boredom threshold, but I still get excited every time I see a new poster, or a variation on Keep Calm and Carry On… and I’m clearing my backlog to get around to publishing my PhD!

The NSS: Good Idea?

It’s always fascinating when the topic of the National Student Survey (NSS) comes up at any academic meet up. Most don’t have too many positive things to say – the student voice is valuable, but is this the best way to catch this kind of information? It seems that there’s rarely more than a 10% return rate, which means that it’s most likely to be students either very disappointed, or supported to a high grade. There’s also tales of universities ‘tutoring’ students to fill them in appropriately, and telling students that ‘it’s only your own degree you’ll damage with negative feedback’ (similar to advice I tend to give re social media to be fair!):

Universities are using the National Student Survey as a “bully’s charter” to intimidate staff, cut courses and force out maverick thinkers, academics have claimed.

Speaking in Manchester at the University and College Union’s annual congress, lecturers launched several scathing attacks on the annual student-satisfaction poll, saying it was deeply flawed and undermined teaching standards and staff morale.

Delegates backed a motion to replace the NSS with a better feedback system, while a second motion, approved unanimously, said the survey was unfair as it allowed students to “name and defame” staff anonymously.

Steve Issitt, UCU branch president at the University of Birmingham, told the conference on 8 June that some academics at his institution had been told that their contracts would not be renewed unless they received scores of at least 3.5 out of 5 in the survey.

Read full story.