Saturday, January 23, 2010

What should I do now?

Now that I have officially withdrawn from my PhD, I am left wondering what I should do next for professional development and career progression.

Once more to the breach?
On the one hand, I am tempted to start again with my PhD and enroll into another program, maybe a doctorate ...but this time making sure I am fully supported and am completely happy with my topic and methodology. Or maybe I could do a PhD by publication.

I am conscious that at my age, time is running out and I do feel the PhD is unfinished business. I am concerned that my professional credibility will suffer if I do not have a PhD. Even people like Leigh Blackall, who always said he wouldn't do it has changed his mind.

Is a PhD necessary for my career?
At the same time, my career direction has changed over the last few years. I am not planning on being a professor, but am moving into more short term project and consultation work. At the same time, I am keeping a foot in the academic camp. So I am wondering if a Master of Education might be a better fit with my new job as educational facilitator/programmer. On the other hand, I already have a MA (Midwifery) so what's the point in having another Masters degree.

I would love to hear your thoughts - how necessary is a PhD? What might better fit my context? Any suggestions on what I should do next?

Image: 'question mark ?' Leo Reynolds


Unknown said...

People very much like you are starting the EdD programme with me. Have you thought about something like that?

DaveB said...

haha - snap, just finished suggesting EdD as comment to your previous entry

Cristina Costa said...

Sarah -
sad to hear of your decision, but I so well understand you. Doing a PhD is a journey of 'misery'....
You are the 2nd person who I have heard of dropping this path in the last few months.
so here are some comments - personal ones.
1- a PhD will probably not add much to what you already know and will continue to know within your networks of knowing (;-) ). They are probably your main 'school' [ I tell you this because they are mine!) but that certificate still says so much to soooo many people (employers, in particular). Going back to my own experience, I decided to go for a PhD because my dream is to go into a professorship (and maybe I will never get there, but I need to try it, so I put myself to the sacrifice!)
2 - It gets harder to follow the PhD path as we get older, have gathered more experience and develop more mature views about the reality we are in. We expect something more from formal education. I guess - that independently of what we say about young people wanting new forms of learning and teaching, only those who have been 'submitted' to such innovative experiences know what this is and means. The others, in a way, resign to the possibilities they are offered. They don't know better (have not been given a chance)
Additionally, I do not have the same capacity to endure formal education as I did in my undergradute course or even during my MPhil although I was already working then).
Now with the PhD is somehow different. A PhD by research is a very lonely venture, anchored in a very old fashion process, which has not brought me ongoing joy. I find it difficult to be constantly motivated and inspired to keep going.
In short, I think the learning and teaching agendas already started to drive some change (slowly but they will get there). However, as far as I am concerned no suggestions have been put forward regarding the change of the PhD student / research agenda to make it more 21st century (just to use the buzz words). We still have to experience the same processes our dear professors went through, with only the little exception that instead of a type writer we are allowed to use a computer!(although it is not necessarily envisaged we use it as a gateway to connected learning)

Anyway - dear friend - I am sure you have reached the right conclusion. And I hope you will find something that will help you fulfill your dreams - be it found in a PhD, any other kind of degree or not. Sometimes we have to play 'a game' to fit in with the requirements of society, not always in accordance with our own approaches, but somewhere in between we will find balance. And that is all we need!
I am also struggling with my PhD. There are better days than other, but I just hope to dream of finishing it so I can go back to my way of learning ... (how I miss facilitating the EVO course, participating in more learning fora, etc) I long for the day I will be able to do that again! ;-)

@rdjfraser said...

Whatever you decide to do I'm really looking forward to hearing about what you do next!


Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you all for your support and suggestions - I have been blown away by the responses I have had here on my blog and on Twitter - thank you all very much.

Anne Marie and DaveB: I have been thinking about an Education Doctorate which will be very appropriate for where I find myself now. So I am going to look at the options here at the University in Dunedin. Funding is one big issues, and I don't know if the School of Education will admit me as I do not have any academic education qualifications apart from my PG teaching cert - we'll see.

I also have a couple of universities in Australia interested in working with me to pick up with my PhD - so there are a couple of options I can play with.

Cristina: Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I quite agree with you about the modern PhD. I think it will be interesting to see how Leigh Blackall does with trying to meld his 'modern' way of thinking/researching/teaching with the concept of the traditional PhD. Good luck with your work - I know you'll finish it & do some fine work - look forward to hearing all about it when you become a "DR".

Rob: thanks for dropping by - I'll get "there" in the end - wherever "there" is :)

Bronwyn hegarty said...

A doctorate of ed has been well worthwhile for supporting my career in educational development. My feeling is that you transfer some of what you have learned about ementoring into a DEd and find an Australian university in the Hecs scheme. ementoring using open networking tools.

Then it wont cost you anything plus what you have already done will be built on even further. Go womin!

Sarah Stewart said...

Bronwyn: the cost of doing a doctorate in NZ is the one things that puts me off. Having said that, I don't know if I'd still be eligible for free fee in Australia considering I have just withdrawn from one program in Oz.

Jo said...

Sarah - I think that for you at the moment your decision has to be the right one. I feel that doing a Phd is very time consuming and too narrowly focussed if your plan is to encompass a broader agenda. This is not to say that this would be the right decision for everyone or even for you in the future.

I worked in a Uni in the UK as an Experimental Officer for 10 years and spent much of that time supporting PhD students (in a health related area). Indeed this was one of the things that took me into teaching/facilitation. The supervisors of the students rarely had enough time to spend supporting them and I found myself in the role of teacher of techniques (many of which I had to learn myself first), mentor/facilitator, English Language coach (most of the students were ESL), developer of technical/technology solutions and ideas provider when they were lost for what to do next. I also came to feel that a Phd is often very much about knowing more and more about less and less and tends to narrow rather than broaden focus.

During that period I was offered the opportunity to do a PhD. I thought long and hard and eventually decided that it would (for me) be too limiting. I am very much a generalist and a polymath. I have always been able to make connections across disciplines I immensly enjoy that and feel that this is one of my strengths. I have re-visited the possibility several time since particularly in the Education/Training areas but still feel it is not for me.

I think that now (for myself and possibly for many others who are involved in e-learning/Web2.0/social networking) we are in an area where change is so rapid that a traditional PhD particularly part-time (because of the elapsed time involved) is no longer meaningful. By the time it was finished it would be out of date and the only possible reasons to do it are a desire to become an academic or other professional requirement.

I suspect that in the future a professional portfolio demonstrating similar skills in research and innovation to those required (in theory tho' often not in practice) for a PhD will be the direction in which most of us will go. Ability to learn, select what is relevant, transfer skills and re-learn when necessary is far more useful than following a "traditional" pathway to any higher degree.

Sorry as usual I have written far too much!

I'm sure that whatever you do you will do it with your customary thoroughness and deep reflection.

Helen said...

Hi Sarah
I was surprised to hear of your decision and I am sure that it is well thought out and right for you, at this point in time. I think the best thing to do now is to take some time to plan your next move. There's no rush and I reckon it is better to make a well thought out move, than lurch into something else that also might not be right.

I have read other people write that a PhD is a misery and a lonely time, but I would like to add another view. I am plodding along with my PhD and thoroughly enjoying the journey, as well as looking forward to the time when I can get it all together into a thesis. I feel well supported by my supervisors, and I have met a couple of other local PhD students and we can share our experiences - good and bad. I have developed so much through the PhD program, my writing, research and presentation skills and I have met some amazing people through attending conferences around the world - and you are one of them!

All the best Sarah and I am looking forward to hearing what you decide to do next.

Sarah Stewart said...

Jo: Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. The problem is relevancy was certainly one of the issues that I encountered - my research just wasn't developing any new knowledge - and I hadn't realized that when I started out because I had approached eMentoring from a clinicians point of view, rather than an educator.

I was advised to do a PhD because it would seem to be more "credible" than a doctorate, especially if I wanted to go on and be a professor. But now my career direction has changed, I see that this is not so much an issue. In the end, I must do what benefits my learning, rather than other people's perceptions and attitudes.

Helen: Sounds like you're having a fabulous time...good luck.

I have also learned a lot, been to some great conferences and had several good articles published. But I am finding that I am learning more (& getting more research outputs) via my 'small' projects & social networking. What I need to do is find out how I can make all those things into a PhD or equivalent so I get academic credit for it ...which takes me back to a portfolio approach, as Jo suggested.

InfoMidwife said...

funny Sarah, I am in the same position.....not sure which way to go.... will watch you closely and see which way you go....good luck..

ailsa said...

Best wishes Sarah, not all PhDs are lonely. I too am doing mine through an Aussie Uni (Deakin), they come to NZ once a year. This has made for a nice network of people here. I think I am exceptionally lucky to have the supervisor I have. I had a short stint with someone else that did not gel- glad she had the wisdom to drop me, coz i didnt feel like i had 'the power' to drop her. Most important was settling with a method to suit the subject and my beliefs, and having a supervisor who extends and supports my thinking. If I was choosing one, it would be one really secure with his/her own methodology and not insecure in their university.I cant stand being micromanaged and I see that this happens when the supervisor is either not confident or where there dept is not confident in them, or when the uni is a new one. I didnt choose my supervisor this time, in my Masters experience I had, and it was not the best. I started enrolled in an EdD but things shift and I am now content shaping up a PhD. I just dont write enough...back to it...
I think the most important thing is wanting it (enjoying it is a big part of this).

Sarah Stewart said...

Infomidwife: I have given myslef this year to think and prepare for what I do next. In the meantime, I have heaps to articles of write about the projects I did last year.

ailsa: thanks for dropping by. I agree that your choice of supervisor is crucial. Mind you, I've also heard of people practically supervising themselves - I am afraid I do not have enough intrinsic motivation to do that.

Good luck with your phD.