Thursday, 10 March 2016

PhD submission

Two weeks ago I submitted my PhD!

It's been a crazy couple of months and I am glad everything is done now. My viva is currently scheduled for April, but unfortunately my external examiner dropped out due to health reasons so my supervisors and I are currently looking for someone else you might be suitable.

After feeling very deflated at BERA, I started to turn my mind more towards my local community. Founding and running the MK Food Revolution (and its food festival FEAST) has been immensely rewarding. I am about to open my own shop in Wolverton and look forward to collaborating even more on a local level over the coming months.

Although my PhD has not been directly relevant to my work of the past months, I have used lots of skills I improved over the last three years: perseverance, organisation, documentation and many others. I also still work as an online postgrad tutor for Leeds Beckett university and education consultant for NotDeadFish in London to top up my income. I have also produced a few resources for NotDeadFish and look forward to working with other film organisations in London soon.

Not having an academic post (or rather: being paid to write) means that I have not had a chance to invest more time into publications. I would like my work to be read (by anyone who wants to, not just academics at universities which pay for journal access), so I have approached a few film education organisations to see whether they would pay me to produce a summary for them. After 3 1/2 years of a minimum (or no) salary unfortunately I can't afford to work for free any longer.

In the end, the PhD showed a change in motivation and attainment of the Film Literacy groups, but unfortunately I was only able to use it as a case study of one particular area, rather than the comparative study I had hoped to produce. Too many factors inhibited the collection of comparative data and pointed towards the uniqueness of Bradford as a whole. I am proud of the work I have produced but have also become much more realistic about the needs of such an extensive study (and its collaborators).

I will continue adding to the blog when I have news about PhD-related publications- wish me luck!

Friday, 18 September 2015

BERA 2015 and the last months

It's been a very long time since my last blog post. In late spring I had to take a few months off from my PhD because of family matters, a move and several new projects. However, I am back on track now and my first full draft submission is only a month away. I am looking forward to finishing the analysis section and concluding with a flourish!

Unfortunately the last months have shown me that my heart is not that of an academic after all. I am very proud of the research I have done over the last years for my PhD, Cambridge, Manchester and Durham Uni, but often hundreds of hours of work simply flow into a report or a journal paper which very few people are going to read and which is not actually going to make a difference on the ground. I am determined to make the time I have invested in the PhD count and I am trying to make connections with people and organisations who will then be able to use my work to advance the cause of using film as a tool in education.

This week I was able to attend two conferences: My own, the Holistic Education conference, and the conference of the British Education Research Association. At the first, I was able to present a paper about some real life experience to 50 delegates, spend £40 for a two day conference and met some outstanding people who loved to connect. BERA on the other hand cost me £350 fees plus flights and accommodation and in the end TWO people listened to my paper. The conference had up to 27 parallel slots, allowing only a very small audience per session. I did meet some interesting people and got to discover Belfast (which I am very grateful for) but I can't but help walk away disillusioned. This is not the kind of community I feel connected to.

The more I engage with the local food scene in Milton Keynes and spend time thinking about the difference I really want to make to my community in terms of creating a sustainable culture, the more I feel that research is important, but only if it has a real application. I love finding out about things and using the new knowledge to bring together components and create something, but I will never value theory for theory's sake. This feeling really made me struggle at BERA.

Now that the end date of my thesis is drawing nearer, I have decided not to apply for further academic posts but will instead start working as an on-and-off education consultant and project manager. The next big goal is starting the Milton Keynes Urban Farm and building my own horticultural business. I am sure that my research skills and connections will continue to help me in the future and I might return to a full academic post one day, but until then, the world of activism is waiting for me!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The first draft...

... is almost here! Yesterday I spent some time formatting my chapters and putting them in one document. I am now 76,000 words in and with the double spacing of what has been signed off so far, the thesis is almost 300 pages long! The first draft should be all done for mid June, and I can't wait to look at it.

This is what my cover look like on the iPad. Pretty swish!

I had a quite frustrating time over Christmas, trying to understand the statistical part of my data, but after finally finding someone who could help me with SPSS, everything is coming together. Now there is just three further chapters on my list: The analysis (of which a draft already exists to some extend), the conclusion and then the introduction. Great stuff!

I have also had some further good news that I have been accepted to the BERA conference in Belfast in September. It will take place the week after our own HEO conference, so that is going to be an exciting month. BERA is a proper 'grown up' conference and I am chuffed to be speaking there.

Friday, 13 March 2015

PhD paperwork and the last deadlines

It is difficult to believe that my last blog post is already almost five month old now- how time flies! 

Since November, I have used my new research skills working for the Manchester University on the Culture Metrics Research Project and have also picked up various bits and pieces of work at Leeds Beckett University. A colleague and I founded the Holistic Education Organisation UK in January and we are planning our first conference for September- there is much to do!

My PhD viva date has now been set to the 7th October and my external examiner is going to be Dr Rachael Levy. The title of the thesis is now also confirmed: It's going to be called 'Nurturing writing skills in the primary literacy lessons of the 'City of Film': The impact of using moving images on attainment and subject perception'. Fingers crossed the next weeks promise good progress!

I have a couple more deadlines between now and June, when the first full draft is due. The data chapters needs to be reviewed (and has been giving me a great headache because of its statistics), and there are still three chapters to write: the analysis, the conclusion and the introduction. I can't wait for everything to come together soon. It's going to be a very high pile of paper in print!!

Last week, I spoke at the Bradford Film Summit, and have also been accepted for a conference in Sheffield and one in Marseille together with my colleague Abi Gilmore from Manchester Uni. Have a look at the conference page for details. It is my hope that the conferences will also help me to finally get pen to paper and draft at least one more journal article. I about to start applying for work for September and it would be great to have a few more publications under my belt before trying to enter the scary world of professional full-time academia. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

First presentation of the results

Hello from Prague and the Media Education Summit 2014!

Two exciting months have passed since my last blog post: both the data and the methodology chapter have now seen a review and I am looking forward to getting started on the deeper analysis before Christmas. This afternoon, I am presenting some first insights of the attainment site of the project at the MES and hope to convert the presentation into a journal paper before too long.

In other academic places, October and November have also seen a couple of short term and part time research and teaching positions at the University of Manchester, Durham University and Leeds Beckett University. It's exciting to get stuck into the different areas of education, cultural analysis and policy. The Manchester project is particularly interesting, as I am working for another report for the NESTA R&D project fund. This time, I am looking at common quality metrics across arts projects.

25 months into the PhD, I feel much more comfortable amongst the different academic tribes I dip in and out of and seem to find my own corner more and more. There are just two more chapters to go for my thesis and I am really pleased about my progress. Fingers crossed all this researching, writing and lecturing experience will help me to find an interesting position next summer.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Bam! The data presentation chapter is done

Wow, this one was long in the making. After getting (happily) distracted by the Cambridge live coding project in June, it was really only two weeks ago that I returned to my PhD and started to summarise and code the rest of the questionnaires, interviews, observations, writing levels and photos. Working through this absolute TONNE of data has been quite scary but as the days went by my headlines and appendices became clearer and things came together.

I found word's automatic labelling tools for chapter headings and tables absolutely invaluable this time around and it helped to me 'slot in' my data under different headings rather than write in a linear narrative- which would have been impossible! Overall, the whole chapter now spans 22,412 words (71 pages) plus another 22,000 words appendices- it's massive.

My supervisor is currently on holiday and so I will probably not receive feedback until the end of the month. However, I am feeling super that I have finally concluded a big chunk of work and that I am now certain about the differences the scheme has made to the students!

My Analysis chapter will now consider the following research questions:
  1. Can watching films have an emotional impact on students? If yes, what kind of impact becomes visible in the classroom?
  2. Does the watching of film increase students’ motivation for learning? If yes, how does this become visible?
  3. Does the students’ engagement with the film literacy scheme impact on their writing scores? If yes, how so?
These have changed quite a bit since the beginning of the research process, but I am hoping that this is just a natural development. Finally I feel like the end is in sight! I understand that the Analysis and Conclusion are still going to take a bit of time (and that I will have revisit previous chapters, too), but I am definitely beyond the writing summit now!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Interview case studies

I am just in the process of coding my interviews with the teachers and came across three lovely case studies of students' progress which I wanted to share with you. I think they illustrate brilliantly why the scheme has been such a success this year. (Please bear with me on the shoddy transcription.) Enjoy!

Teacher 1:

"At the moment, we’ve been looking at Joseph the musical. So rather than looking at a feature film, we’ve looked at something filmed on a stage, that’s all told through song. And I really thought, when I started it, although it’s a good story, and it’s about betrayal and people getting murdered, and thrown down wells and things like that, and someone ending up in jail and lots of things like that – I sort of thought, that because it was a musical interpretation, the boys might really, sort of, not like it. […] 

But I went with it anyway any and one of the boys who really, really struggles to concentrate, he’s all over his chair. He’s a nightmare to try and get him to write anything. I often scribe for him to get his ideas down because he has got the ideas, but he just can’t, physically, you know, put his brain in gear to pick up his pencil. And he has been really into it and asking, you know, to watch the parts of the film again. And the main aim at was for them to retell - to write from Joseph’s point of view, the story, because obviously the musical is from a third person. And we did lots of drama around it and things like that. And that’s really up Adam’s street - drama type. 

Where he normally falls behind when he tries to write it down - and his was amazing: it had dialogue in it. It was fantastic. It was all punctuated perfectly, and things like that. So I suppose that’s one of my success stories that I was really happy with that. Because normally he would just not be interested in the final piece. He would do all the drama, do all the activity. But in this, he was really keen to get all the whole story written down. And he really enjoyed being Joseph, and he had lots of ideas of what he would feel like, what he would say -yeah, what he’d actually experienced. Because a lot of the children found it hard to disconnect from the musical. We had Elvis in our last stories and things like that. It’s like no, its Faro, not Elvis. Whereas, Adam really got the gist of his. So that was nice."

Teacher 2: 

"One particular boy, in fact was interviewed the other week – a lady came in to speak to us – she sent me a quote from him, she was just talking about - I was at the other side of the room so he wasn’t saying it because I was there  - she was looking at the media literacy display, and he came up to her and was like “we’ve got another media display in the hall if you want to go see it, of our awards ceremony from last year.”  And she said “All right,” and he said, “I’ve become a media leader this year.” And then he just started telling her, he said, “I like literacy. I wasn’t very good at it. I found it really hard,” he said, “but now, I absolutely love the lessons,” he said. “They’re really good fun,” he said, “and I can now write in paragraphs, I can put speech into my work,” he said, “and my levels are going up through the roof,” he said. “I’m just doing so well,” he said. “And I enjoy coming to literacy now, it’s my favourite lesson." And he has gone from level two and he is up towards level four now. And he does have Dyslexic tendencies, but he has just really run with this. 

And another particular boy, who has made progress in his writing and I think he has made eight points in his reading, he again hated literacy, with a vengeance, and I chose him to come to the session with the filmmaker here, and he just turned around to the filmmaker and he went: “I used to hate literacy, but I love it now. I love doing all these films.” And we recently had Ofsted, and I was doing some comprehension around a film when they came in, and he shone. And the Ofsted Inspector afterwards asked me about him and I said: “he is one of my special needs children.” And he said “you would not have though it the way he was firing questions,” he said, “and challenging you as well, as a Teacher.”[…] “And challenging your discussions.” And then he was sort of arguing with some of the higher ability children as well, about the film. I just find it fascinating – the effect that it has had. The first thing that all my class have asked, because I won’t have them next year - - when they went to transition day, apparently all they kept saying to the year six Teacher was, “we will be doing films again, wont we? We will be doing films."

Teacher 3:

"We were doing myths, and myths are quite difficult to do and we watched a short film, just from the BBC short films clips – and it was where Perseus was heading towards the cave of the Minotaur […] and it had a voice-over, but you could also see what was happening. There wasn’t - - it wasn’t a massively impacting film, I didn’t think. There wasn’t many sound effects, there wasn’t much extra animation going on. But the kids just loved it and the actual work that they brought out from it was just amazing. And they felt - - I think they felt like they were heading towards the Minotaur. You can sense in the room when they’re all like, “oh what’s coming on next,” and all that kind of thing. So yeah, that was just one example of a film that really geared, particularly the boys up. And get the boys interested to write. I actually used it as an observational lesson, and the lady who came to see said I can’t believe that that child particularly, who normally struggles – doesn’t want to write – was just literally writing. He kept coming over to her and saying, “read mine, read mine,” and he put his own slant on it, as he always does, but she couldn’t believe how enthused he was with writing."