Looking back… #HEblogswap

Note, this post was first shared via Sue’s blog. It was also reblogged at GO-GN.

Thank you Santanu Vasant (@santanuvasant) for bringing #HEblogswap to life. It is a great way to share and connect experiences among practitioners.

Doing something in tandem with Sue Watling (@suewatling) came to my mind as soon as I received the information. Sue’s post can be found here. We first met at Lincoln University in 2012 during an HEA OER Change Academy project. Since then we both changed institutions. But we stayed in touch. We worked and work together in the open and are both PhD students. When Sue invited me to write about my PhD journey for this blog swap, I thought do I really want to reflect on the experience of the last 4.5 years at this moment in time? I just survived my viva last Friday. Everything was still very fresh in my mind… I decided to go ahead and am looking back not at the whole experience but specific only aspects of it.

Ok, how did it all start?
When I was an academic developer at the University of Sunderland, I started an MSc at Edinburgh Napier University in Blended and Online Education. My dissertation brought me to experiment with academic development initiatives that had a cross-institutional and collaborative dimension. I immersed myself into this study. The seeds for my doctoral study are in there and for the many open projects that followed. I was encouraged to consider a PhD by my personal tutor. That was then Dr Keith Smyth was leading the programme and who moved to a different institution and is now a Professor. The PhD I started was at a distance, part-time, self-funded, while working full-time and with a young family. Even before I started it was evident that it wouldn’t be a smooth ride. In fact it became a rollercoaster ride. There were ups and downs… Good times and bad times. I will focus only on a few aspects of the journey today.  

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How does your journey look like?

Closing my eyes and transporting my self back in time, the following fills my mind…

Loneliness
Community, or the lack of community, during the first years. I felt lonely and in the dark for a long time. I had no cohort, no peers to turn to. I was doing this study on my own and really felt it. It was hard, super hard. I missed the conversation with peers, other PhD students. People I could share my struggles with and my ideas. The lifeline came when I joined the Global OER Graduate Network for PhD students in open education from around the world. A project led by the Open Education Research Hub at the Open University in the UK. The network literally saved me and helped me grow and believe in what I was capable to do. The network has a face-to-face and online dimension and both are equally important. My own research has illustrated the importance of community in the context of professional learning. Find your network and if there isn’t one consider creating one. My colleague Penny Bentley did exactly that. She needed help with phenomenography, the methodology we both used in our study and decided to create a FB group, which has become a small but useful hub for phenomenographers, where we can support each other. So a sense of belonging was important to me and when I found my home as a PhD student, I started growing and gaining confidence in who I was and what I could achieve. 

Oh, no, what time is it?
There were time pressures from work, my studies and often I felt that I neglected my family. I felt guilty. Guilty for coming home switching on the laptop and working. Guilty for working during many many weekends and holidays. “Mummy will you get that PhD?” Is a question that my boys often asked. I needed to be disciplined, determined and stubborn, I guess, to keep going and bring this study to fruition. The discoveries I made during the study fascinated me, helped me to look beyond time. I did find time where there was none. In the end everything came together. It was an exhilarating process and I wanted to share my findings with others. I started sharing my work in progress with others through conferences and articles but also used my learning to develop open initiatives. Some might thing/say that these were distractions but in reality they helped me test some of my ideas and were invaluable for my development as a researcher and practitioner. I could do all this as my study was linked to my work. Some might not have this opportunity. 

Writing is super hard! 
It is one thing to do the research and another to write about it and articulate it so that it makes sense and is appropriate for a thesis. I am not an English native speaker, so conducting the whole research in English was not easy. However, I am not sure if it would be any easier in Greek or German, as my professional language is actually English. Whatever the language, academic writing does not come naturally to me. My background in teaching languages and translation literature, means that some of that more playful flavour was making its way into the thesis. What helped me was sharing early drafts with colleagues and friends. Even my husband read multiple versions… They could see much quicker what didn’t make sense, what needed to be explained better… Write everyday a little bit, set realistic targets so that you get a sense of achievement. Stick to the routine. Write, write and rewrite. We are all getting better at it through writing. I accepted criticism and learnt through this process. More recently, I have started helping other PhD students unofficially and I can see that I have grown and can help others. Something else, I did to get a break from academic writing… I started writing children’s stories again, especially near the end when I was preparing my thesis for submission.     

There were sunny times too
Some might get the impression that it was all a struggle… Yes, there were moments when I thoughts this is never going to happen. But I kept going. My supervisors kept saying “keep going”. I kept going. They were right, I got there in the end and much sooner than the supervisory team expected. And the feeling was amazing. You just need to get through the challenges and you will. A massive portion of determination and stubbornness is of course needed. And support! So so vital. Becoming a member of a  community really helped me and filled my batteries with determination and self-belief. I can do this and so can you. 

Viva o’clock
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I just had my viva on the 8th of September. There were many moments where I thought this day would never come. But it did. Today, I feel a real sense of achievement and can see that I have contributed a little something that can make a difference to my own practice and help others consider collaborative open learning in cross-institutional academic development settings through the cross-boundary framework I developed and released under a creative commons license and the specific new insights I have gained into collaborative open learning and the course characteristics that play a key role in shaping that experience. If you would like to read about my viva experience, the preparation I have done for it, check out https://chrissinerantzi.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/i-have-survived-big-friday-go_gn/ and related posts to the viva.

 

I hope some of these reflections on the journey will be useful for other PhD students, potential and current ones, especially those at the initial stages of their studies.

If you need help, remember to reach out! I think this is key!
Through the PhD journey you will discover who you are and who you are becoming.

I hope some of the above will be useful for you.

If you would like to get in touch with me, feel free to tweet me at @chrissinerantzi.

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I survived Big Friday #go_gn

I remember packing my suitcase (not the tiny yellow one unfortunately… as I had just too much stuff, you can imagine, many women find it hard to travel light, but the thesis itself took up a lot of room in the tiny suitcase… so I had an excuse this time) on Wednesday and travelling to Edinburgh via Liverpool. In the train I was convinced that I had forgotten my toothpaste and some other little special things I wanted to take with me for the viva. I opened the suitcase in the train to check and couldn’t find these… I thought, that is just typical! Easy to buy some toothpaste, of course, and I did when I arrived in Liverpool. But the other little items I couldn’t replace especially the ring Adam bought me and I wanted to wear. I was upset but I couldn’t do anything about it… When I reached my hotel and opened my suitcase I found everything I thought I had forgotten. The ring was also there. Am I panicking? I think I was. My viva was on Friday and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to go back home before then.

After a fascinating day and evening at the ALT conference, seeing many friends and colleagues and celebrating the ALT awards together as well as getting loads of valuable last minute viva advice (thank you especially to Nicola, Stathis, Glenda, Rob and Martin), my journey the next morning continued towards Edinburgh. I left very early and was very anxious. I had some notes in my bag and during the trip I looked through some of them but I couldn’t focus. Most of the journey, I looked out of the window and the beautiful scenery,  the green hills, the clouds in the sky, the sheep in the fields, while trying to imagine what would happen in the viva.

I had booked the Eden Locke hotel (well, not the whole hotel!) and it was definitely the best choice. It felt like a home. Friendly service, super clean, quiet, tastefully decorated and with so many little touches that made a huge difference (that massive shower head was just amazing! Just like a waterfall) and helped me feel relaxed ahead of a very important day. Even the spacemask (you must try these!!!) and the shower gel and shampoo really (especially made for this hotel, that is what it says on the bottle) helped me relax and prepare for Big Friday.

While I had said that I would be quiet (see above tweet…), I kept capturing my last pre-viva day by posting some photos on instagram and talking to very close friends and family. Thank you especially to Cristina and Adam. I guess, this helped me feel somehow connected with the outside world. Their support in these hours was invaluable.

The hours started passing and I did some last minute checks in my thesis and the notes I had printed and other ones hand written. Even looked up one or two things I wasn’t sure in some of the literature. I went through the summaries of my chapters (not in detail this time, I found it hard to read these again… it was all blurring into one big pot of letters… like an alphabet soup if you ever had one).

Going for a walk and rediscovering the baked potato shop which I first visited many years ago with Adam,

touching the toe of David Hume’s statue which apparently helps students in exam situations (I was hoping the magic toe would help me too).

I prepared a simple healthy meal in the evening. That worked as well.  I had salmon (just smoked), broccoli (very lightly boiled) and a red pepper (raw), strawberries (without sugar) and apricots from Kent (my curiosity made me by these in the nearby supermarket. Never thought they grow in the UK). So nothing unhealthy. Everything was light. And a really aromatic camomile tea. I switched on the TV for a tiny bit but couldn’t stand the noise so switched it off again. Silence.

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I had no idea that apricots grow in the UK…

After waking up at 2.30am from a nightmare… I managed to sleep again but then woke up for good much much earlier than I had set the alarm clock. I had another waterfall shower in the morning. I can’t remember how long I was in there but it was really really relaxing. Maybe I tried to wash all my worries away.

I ironed my clothes the night before. I didn’t have to think what I would wear, which often can be a challenge… As I had no idea if there was a dress code (apparently some unis have one!), I had asked Sandra during our last chat a few days ago. She confirmed that I could wear whatever I wear when I go to work… she told me this when I was actually wearing jeans (she couldn’t see me)… I assumed this wasn’t appropriate and that she meant something a little bit smarter. As I didn’t want to distract from the actually viva and the conversation we would have, I decided to wear black trousers and a black top (this reminded me of Cristina). Another reason was that these clothes were comfortable. Now shoes were the problem and while I had decided which ones to wear (after a long process of deciding… back home with Adam actually…), as the weather looked a bit rainy I picked my red ankle boots (which added a little bit of colour) and not the black shoes I had selected originally. Women always change their minds about shoes… Some might think who will actually care? But I think it matters and we need to feel good in our own skin. An outfit can and does help us in this process and make a difference at least to us. Adam had bought me recently a lovely ring (the one I mentioned earlier, which I thought I had forgotten at home) for our last anniversary which reminds me of the sea, so I did wear this as it helped me feel that I had him and my whole family with me.

I started getting ready, packed all my stuff, had a healthy breakfast which included cereal with nuts, seeds and fresh fruit. I also had a green tea. There was still some “energise” super smoothie from the day before so I finished this as well.

I left the hotel early, around 8am. I had plenty of time. The viva was scheduled for 10am.

On the street, my suitcase suddenly felt even heavier than the day before.

It was finally Big Friday.

I felt that I couldn’t remember a thing that I had done in the last 4.5 years. And I started worrying again. I took the bus to Edinburgh Napier University. I arrived early. I went to the cafe and had another green tea… I felt like a proper student. It was a good feeling. I tried to relax and tell myself that everything would be ok. My biggest worry was that I would be asked a question which I couldn’t answer. But everybody had been telling me “nobody knows your work better than you do”. Was this the case? I guess, we would find out soon.

Then it was time to meet my Director of Studies, Sandra, 30 mins before the viva. We had a chat and then the Chair of the panel took us down to the room where it would all happen.

That was it.

I was in the room and the viva was going to start.

Sandra experienced the viva with me. I sat much closer to the examiners than I thought I would. Around a table. Not them on one side and I on the other. I was inbetween them. This was a good thing as it didn’t feel like “them” and “me”. It was “us”.

It was estimated that the viva would last 2 hours.

We finished in 1.5 hours.

When I entered the room, the atmosphere was very friendly. The room was filled with  smiley and welcoming faces. I saw the two copies of my thesis that the examiners had in front of them on the table. They had loads of colourful sticky notes and I thought “Oh my god, this is going to be tough! It will take us ages to get through all these…”

I was asked a series of questions but it didn’t feel like an interrogation. It was a professional discussion. I relaxed into it and was surprised how natural it came to me to respond to their questions and stay focused on the work I had done. Adam had advised me “Don’t waffle. Focus.” I guess, he knows me… But I did stay focused 😉

I got a sense that the examiners found my work interesting and were positive throughout. This helped and I could just be me. I was open and honest about the work I had done and I think the examiners appreciated this. One of the examiners said that they liked the approach I had taken in the literature review (this happened near the beginning) and felt that my study makes a significant contribution to knowledge and that I should target heavy-weight journals and that this is REFable work (near the end of the viva). I had written these comments in my notes.

After the viva, Sandra and I were asked to leave the room. Sandra had captured important bits from the discussion and I am grateful for this. I could already sense that there were a few things that I would be asked to fix. But that was fine.

During the viva, I had my thesis and the appendices in front of me but didn’t need to open them at all. I didn’t open them. What I did find useful is writing down keywords relating to the questions. This helped me stay focused and respond to the questions with greater accuracy. I also had my notes (some copies of pages from the thesis). I mainly used the framework and the outcome space figures. I think it did help that I had printed these out. The little bag with LEGO(R) bricks was used to explain the methodology. I wasn’t sure how this would be received… But I decided to take this risk. I am pleased I did, as it helped me relax a bit more and show that complicated things can be explained in simple and creative ways.

Sandra and I stepped outside when it was all done and we then waited for an hour to be called back in. This must have been one of the loooooongest hours… I spoke with Adam and told him that the viva was a positive experience but didn’t know the outcome yet. Then it was time to go back in. The outcome was…

Award PhD subject to minor corrections:

  • some typos and repetition
  • enlarge the picture of the outcome space and the framework I developed
  • explain briefly the link between the structural factors and the lived experience area of the outcome space
  • rewrite the abstract as I didn’t sell my work
  • remove some of the appendices

Well, I was informed that I have 2 months to fix these and submit the changes (from the moment I receive the official letter from the Research office) to the internal examiner… I have already started working on the above (Sandra predicted this) and hope that by the end of next week (we will of course need to wait to receive the official notification from the Research office first), we will be able to submit the final final thesis with a record of the changes made.

In my hands, I have a copy of the informal report from the external examiner which says some very encouraging things about my work and definitely made me smile. Not sure I am aloud to share this in public, so will wait until I find out.

I received a text message from Nassi (15) my eldest just after 2.30pm who I guess was thinking of me. He asked me “Πώς πήγε;” It is always so nice to receive messages from my little boys. They always come through in Greek despite the fact that when in the UK they always speak to me in English. But that is ok.

When I arrived home, two big bunches of colourful flowers were waiting for me. Ody and Nassi had picked them. It was such a nice feeling to be back home.

Thank you to the Chair of the viva panel, both examiners, Sandra for being there with me, the whole supervisor team, Norrie who chaired all progress meetings also for suggesting the examiners  and all family, friends and colleagues who have supported, encouraged and believed in me in this process over the last 4.5 years.

Thank you so much Simon Rae for creating this and Sally for sharing with me and all. You touched me deeply.

If you have followed my viva prep chronicle here on this blog (there are multiple blog posts that capture my whole viva prep since I submitted the thesis on the 5th of May 2017)… I have to tell you that everything I did helped and I am pleased I started this preparation.  I am grateful to everybody who has helped me. Even the early and little last minute rituals made a big difference, even my little art projects and the pottery I made with my sister in the summer, to my readiness to perform in that viva. Some of it might have seem too much (I think a colleague of mine said, “I don’t know anybody who has prepared for their viva that much”, I think it was Rachel), but my body and mind did synchronise and worked together in harmony and I achieved a good result. I am very happy.

Thank you Sandra for being there with me on the day.

Note 1: Below is the Powerpoint I had put together in preparation for the viva. 

Note 2: By 8.20am this morning (9 September) I had made most of the corrections. Three more to go and I am done ;).

Note 3: Just the abstract now and I am done 11.55am (9 September).

Note 4: Working on the abstract (10 September), the final change I need to make and I am done.

Note 5: Everything is done now (10 September pm). Sent everything to Sandra for a final check.

Note 6: Contacted the Research office (11 September pm) asking when I would receive the official notification so that I can submit the requested changes to the internal examiner.

Note 7: Received the official letter today (14 September) about the outcome of the viva and what I need to submit, in what format and where. Have done all this and forwarded to my Director of Studies today. Hope to be able to submit final thesis to the Research Office beginning of next week. 

Note 8: I sent all the changes, the thesis with highlighted the changes I made and an accompanying document with the location of the changes to the research office (15 of September, exactly one week after the viva). The internal examiner will now check these. Hopefully everything will be ok. 

Note 9: Examiners approved the amendments (21 Sep). Committee meets on the 4th of October. I can graduate end of October. Yeah! I can wear the silly hat… this will be my first ever graduation I attend. It will be end of October.

Note 10: BTW I registered for a Research supervision and examination module.

Important stuff (pp. 4-6 from my thesis)

Thanks and Acknowledgements

First of all, I would like thank Adam Frank, my husband and father of our two boys, Thanassis and Odysseas. There have been extremely difficult and demanding times for all of us while I was working on this research which took me away from many precious family moments. I know that I would not have been able to carry out and complete this study without his patience, understanding, tolerance and unlimited support in so many different ways. I will be forever grateful to Adam for his unconditional love and support and the boys for their unlimited patience and understanding.

A big thank you goes to the supervisory team who believed in the importance of this research and supported it.

  • Prof. Keith Smyth, initially at the Edinburgh Napier University and then at the University of the Highlands and Islands, for believing in me and my initial research idea which was a result of my MSc Dissertation in Blended and Online Education, and for his valuable support and advice throughout.
  • Dr Karen Aitchison, Head of Academic Practice, of the Office of the Vice Principal (Academic) at Edinburgh Napier University in her capacity of Director of Studies until March 2014 and supporting the application and start of this research especially.
  • Tom McEwan as second supervisor from April 2014 to July 2015 for his critical comments and advice during this period.
  • Dr Sandra Cairncross, Assistant Principal at Edinburgh Napier University and Director of Studies since April 2014. Her systematic approach and persistence played a key role in bringing this research to fruition.
  • Dr Norrie Brown, Senior Lecturer and Senior Teaching Fellow, School Academic Lead for Quality Enhancement, School of Health and Social Care at Edinburgh Napier for chairing the progress meetings during my studies with great honesty and directness and for his constructive feedback on the draft thesis.

As an open researcher I would also like to acknowledge the following individuals for their help on this journey:

  • Lars Uhlin, Karolinska Institutet, for his interest in my PBL work and for co-developing and co-delivering three times the open course Flexible, Distance and Online Learning (FDOL132) and all further colleagues who supported this initiative and participated.
  • Sandra Sinfield, London Metropolitan University, Dr Nikos Fachantidis, University of Macedonia, Sue Watling, University of Hull and Prof. Norman Jackson, Creative Academic, who embraced the open course Creativity for Learning in HE (#creativeHE) and co-organised and co-facilitated this and all course participants.
  • Penny Sweasey, my line manager at Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met) for granting me some time to work on this research in the form of study leave.
  • Carol Yeager, Dr Charles Neame, David Hopkins, Frances Bell, Dr Leslie Robinson, Prof. Norman Jackson, Dr Janice Whatley, Viviene Vladimirschi, Dr Bea de los Arcos, Dr Beck Pitt, Dr Cristina Costa, Barbara Thomas, Dr Javiera Atenas, Dr Anne Algers, Prof. Ale Armellini, Bernard Lisewski, Prof. Carol Haigh, Chris Rowell, Simon Thomson, Dr Caroline Baylis-Green and especially Dr Stephen Powell and Dr Peter Gossman for our valuable professional discussions and moral support.
  • Colleagues from the Global OER Graduate Network who found me and helped me to connect with fellow PhD students in Open Education from around the world and participate in some of the network activities, which I found invaluable for my development as an open researcher and made me feel part of a community of open researchers.
  • Further individuals from my social media networks such as Penny Bentley, Prof. Åke Ingerman and especially Margy MacMillan, who responded to my calls for help on social media. All of them were instrumental in my development as a phenomenographer.
  • Colleagues Stephan Caspar, Viviene Vladimirschi, Dr Stephen Powell, Frances Bell, Ronald Macintyre, Nikos Moratoglou, Denis MacGrath, Dr Whitney Kilgore, Dr Sukaina Walji and Dr Carina Bossu who reviewed the draft framework of this study.
  • Many colleagues from the ALT and SEDA communities and especially Prof. Sally Brown, Prof. Phil Race and Dr David Baume, for helping me fill in some of the gaps in the academic development timeline.
  • Study participants from FDOL132 and #creativeHE for being so generous with their time in providing demographic information, participating in the interviews, checking the transcripts for accuracy and commenting on the phenomenographic findings including the outcome space.
  • Thank you goes also to everybody who participated in FDOL132 and #creativeHE.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Higher Education Academy for awarding me a National Teaching Fellowship in 2015 and Manchester Met for supporting my application. I used part of the award to pay the fees for the last two years of these studies.

This thesis is dedicated to Adam, my boys, Thanassis and Odysseas, as well as my Mami and Papi who always supported my love for learning.

 

Nerantzi C. (submitted) Towards a cross-boundary collaborative open learning framework for cross-institutional academic development, Doctoral thesis, Edinburgh: Edinburgh Napier.

Big Friday… almost there now… #go_gn

This Friday is big Friday for me, a day that marks the final examination of my PhD studies which I started on the 14th of January 2013. Four and a half years ago or 1699 days, or 4 years 7 months and 26 days including the 8th of September 2017 (I used TimeandDate to calculate this for me).

Throughout the summer I have worked systematically to prepare for Big Friday. I have captured this preparation here on my blog through a series of posts but also through visual messages on Instagram hoping that some of this will be useful for others. 

In the final 10 days, Adam volunteered to grill me on a wide range of questions that I have prepared. I know some of you will say, but it won’t be a grilling… Every evening for the last 7 days, in our living room, I sit in my comfy armchair (I know I won’t have one on the day…), my thesis in front of me, a few empty pieces of paper, a pen and some notes I have prepared to take with me into the viva. These notes, over the days, have been refined. Practising has enabled me to find out what would be useful and what wouldn’t. The grillings were really helpful and I am grateful to Adam for helping me with these. 

In the last few days, I also had a final conversation with Sandra, my director of studies and Keith my supervisor. Both conversations were really useful. I was reminded of the process, what would happen on the day and help me feel a little bit more confident.  With Sandra, we also did a mini mock viva, which went well. 

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I have also re-read the thesis over the weekend and Monday. I did this slowly and systematically. I decided that not reading the thesis in a linear way would be more useful. So I started with chapter 1 (introduction), then moved to chapter 8 (conclusions), then chapter 4 (background info about the collective case study), chapter 5 (findings), chapter 7. (Framework), chapter 2 (literature review) and finally chapter 6 (discussion). This was a useful order for me.

Tonight is the last grilling. Then I need to relax and get ready for the day.

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Tonight! Will also taking my favourite olive shower gel with me…

I have my outfit sorted… shoes will depend on the weather. Also, I have looked into what I should eat so that my brain works properly. I have started this process over the summer when I was away so hopefully my body and mind will be on my side on Big Friday.

A big thank you to everybody who helped me on this turbulent and equally fascinating journey over the last 1696 days… it is not over yet… 

10 am this Friday, Edinburgh Napier University

I hope I will survive it!

In 14 days it will be all over #phdviva #go_gn

Time has started flying… literally. I am now more nervous than ever. I have  been preparing for the viva since one month after submission of the thesis on the 5th of May… for almost 3 months…

The thesis was a companion this summer again and traveled with me to Greece, on a boat in the Aegean.

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the endless blue of the Aegean…

I engaged with it almost on a daily basis… my boys started showing an increased interest in my work, beyond the “mummy when will you finish that PhD?” Recently we even watched together one of Tara’s videos (thank you dear Penny for sharing, what would I do without my #go+gn family?)… and Nassi (15) afterwards checked some things Tara mentioned in my thesis… have I done it properly Nassi?

I have used a range of techniques to prepare for the viva and have progressively focused on what I have actually done, what I have found and what this could mean. The thesis has been annotated and I have sticky notes (some say these will not be useful and that the thesis should remain clean!). The preparation has led me to read a range of advice, sometimes contracting each other. Not sure yet what will work for me during the viva. I guess, I will find out.

What I really need is to be focused and actively listen to what I am asked and articulate a response that reflects my work, makes sense and shows to the examiner that I know my work and what my original contribution is.

The visualisations I have linked to my research design, the outcome space and the framework I developed will be useful stepping stones during the viva and I plan to print them. In the last few days, I have also created a page that included key visualisations, tables etc. with their page numbers which I might want to refer to. I suspect less will be more and I need to be clear and precise throughout and transparent. I am pleased that I have also kept a reflective diary during the study and mainly during the analysis stage but also used this blog (some of these posts are private) to reflect on the process and my dilemmas. I was never sure how much I should blog about it…

In under 14 days it will be all over…

I can’t say I enjoyed this… #go_gn

… It was hard. 

I felt that my preparation wasn’t good enough and despite reading loads of questions and articulating possible answers, I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to. I wasn’t happy with how I did.

 It was super hard.

Was it so hard because I knew the mock examiners? Well, we work together closely…

During the mock viva, I didn’t have time to write anything down or search through my notes. The sticky notes on the thesis were also problematic… maybe I had too many…

  • The visualisations of the research design,
  • the outcome space and 
  • the framework 

were useful.

I should have added the page number to the above pages I had printed separately so that I can take the examiners to the exact pages in the thesis quickly. I have done this now. 

I felt that one additional diagram (not in the thesis) I had prepared around the literature review was useful but I will need to add the gaps I had identified to each section for a quick reference.

Also, I felt that having my findings, mainly the categories of description and their variations in front of me (not just the outcome space), would be useful as well as my summary sheet with my responses to the research questions (the table I had created). 

I am grateful to my colleagues who organised this mock viva. They both said it was like a typical viva. I felt dreadful until it was over… They told me that I sounded at times defensive (I even said “I have evidence of this”) kept talking after I had answered the question launching into other areas… also that I wasn’t enthusiastic enough… It was an uncomfortable experience… but an extremely useful one…

Less is more, I was told.. 

I need to get better at this viva thing!

First, I will need a few days to recover. Then I will continue my preparation. I can’t wait to jump in the deep blue sea!!! I need to fill my batteries with fresh energy to get through this…

mock_viva

Almost none of this worked… overengineering is problematic!

The countdown to the viva has started… 46 days left #go_gn

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navy

Chrissi a computer programmer in the Navy

Yes, I got a proper tape measure (actually 2 from the Poundshop, yes, for £1 both of them and I am not throwing away the 47-150cm bit but will make a lanyard out of it). Last time I bought one I was waiting to finish my service in the Navy. I had 150 days left then. Now I have 46 until the viva. So I cut the tape to 46cm… this is my starting point… and I will cut 1 cm each day… yes, not inches… every day I will cut 1 cm until the big day when there will be no tape left. There is a strange satisfaction in doing this and seeing the time pass in front of your eyes. 

My viva date was confirmed todayIt is the 8th of September 2017 and I am pleased that I didn’t wait to start preparing for it until I knew the date. Pleased I had my own internal deadlines. The main preparation I wanted to do is done.

I have…

  • re-read the thesis carefully and critically.
  • created one page hand written summaries for each chapter.
  • made annotations throughout the thesis, initially I thought I should keep the clean look.
  • added sticky notes to help me locate things quickly… hopefully.
  • I have found a few errors… things that I should have seen… frustrating!

AND, as a result of the above, I did definitely overcome the fear of reading the thesis, which is a good thing.

thesis_all_sticky_notes

In a PowerPoint, I captured the following

  • a presentation of the study
  • questions and answers linked to the whole thesis and individual chapters
  • questions which I have found with the help of colleagues and friends and the web, of course
  • typed up the page summaries for each chapter
  • copy of all visualisations used in the thesis and two more that will help me explain the framework and my theoretical framework, I hope…

My plan is to print this powerpoint presentation and use as a mobile revision tool in the next 45 days… The whole thesis is coming with me to Greece again this year. It wouldn’t be the same without it… but hopefully next summer I will be PhD study free… 

Colleagues have offered to do a mock viva this Friday. I am very nervous.

I will also ask my boys to keep asking me viva questions on the beach. Soon they will stop asking me “Mummy, when will you get that PhD”… if I pass… 

What else do I need to get ready? 

Thank you all.