I was fortunate to attend the 2019 Centre for Doctoral Education (CDE) Graduate Seminar. This was an opportunity for doctoral researchers to hear from those that had recently completed their degrees. Three graduates spoke and I was particularly pleased to be able to listen to Dr Michelle Groves who completed her EdD and who spoke about ‘From practitioner, to researcher, and back again’.

Michelle is Director of Education at the Royal Academy of Dance and, like most EdD students, undertook her doctorate whilst in full-time employment.

We heard from two other PhD graduates where there was a sense of ‘next steps’ in their journey in being an academic. Indeed, some PhD students had not been in employment before. What differentiates an EdD from a PhD is that the EdD student is in practice already and has lots of experience within their domain. Michelle said the last thing she would describe herself as is an academic.

The talk was not about the research per se, but rather about the journey of being a researcher.

Michelle talked about her response when people ask her, “What do you do”? This is somewhat difficult when we occupy different professional identities. Depending on who is asking you depends on the answer you give.

Michelle spoke about her career in ballet training and the journey she has been on. She left us with five things that she knows now that she may not have known during her journey – useful for me and hopefully for you too if you are on a similar journey.

  1. Making the implicit explicit. We have so much knowledge that we assume people know. It is important to explain even the simplest of things. Michelle also advised to write everything down – get your ‘inner voice’ on paper [or electronically for me! – see my post about how I use the reMarkable].
  2. Be resilient but also forgiving. We have great intentions to work, but we may be prone to procrastination. Put down two or three things to accomplish. Remember, we are working full-time. A task may be as simple as formatting the reference list. It enables you to feel you have achieved something. Be realistic. Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up. Ensure time to think (advice of her tutor was to get a dog!) – walking, talking, thinking. Some people can sit and write, but others need to ‘incubate’ first. One of the most stressful parts of EdD was the administration!
  3. Don’t be too precious. You may write something that you think is good, but your supervisor doesn’t think the same! Don’t throw anything away.
  4. It’s good to talk. Supervisors would appreciate more communication – be honest with how you are getting on. Communicate with others. If you can’t explain your thesis to your grandma in three minutes…
  5. Researcher know thyself. Situate yourself within your research – EdD really has to come out, how it has impacted and shifted your thinking. Reward yourself.

Thank you Michelle – this was a useful and relevant talk at the 2019 CDE Graduate Seminar. My EdD colleagues are able to watch the presentations here (you will need to log in via Moodle). Michelle is Recording 2.