University

End of year 1 of 5 – the Professional Doctorate

Professional Doctorate

This post is ever so slightly overdue. Caused, in part, by not completing year 1 when I had originally hoped. But also because I knew this wasn’t going to be the easiest post to write. It’s reflective, personal, and difficult because I know that I’ve taken things personally, and it’s difficult to be objective when emotions come into play.

But yes. The fact is I have completed the first year of my professional doctorate. I may have become the tortoise rather than the hare, but, based on year 1 I am doing enough to get through to thesis stage.

The first year

Year 1 consisted of three modules. The first, Changing Modes of Professionalism was probably my best. I was in compete ‘new student zone’ and fortunately I was being treated like a new student. From being able to review the standards expected, discussing my ideas, working to the advice given and submitting a full draft. I took all the advice on board and this was evident in the percentage allocation.

The second module, Quantitative Research Methods, was almost polar opposite. It was more, well, quantitative. Slightly like a check box exercise of making sure you had followed all the steps, executed them successfully, and understood the result. I did my best, struggled, but fortunately with a draft completed, feedback received and incorporated, I passed. Much appreciated in this was that my percentage allocation was the same as my first module.Combining work and universityTo say it all went downhill on my third module would be an understatement. This wasn’t great, given my third module was aligned to the pathway was I am taking.

Democracy, Politics and Institutions: Exploring Governance and Public Policy wasn’t at all what I had hoped it would be. One of the pieces of advice I had drilled into me was to make each assignment a contribution to my thesis. Whilst this module was pathway specific the assignments offered no alignment and this was my greatest struggle. Developing knowledge in a new subject area and undertaking a post-graduate assignment in this area was, evidently, beyond my capability.

The added struggle was the deadlines not only overlapped with module 2, but also the Easter holiday, the second deadline coincided with the May school holidays. I know leaving assignments to the deadline is poor practice, but it’s built into my psyche.

So, it should have come as no surprise that I failed.

Coping with failure

Oh hell, I failed.

The results were received on a Friday lunchtime. Fortunately I was working at home. I ended up on the floor crying into my gorgeous, dusky pink, thick pile rug. This detail is offered because a rug, rather than a pitiful tissue successfully absorbed my tears and offered comfort.

I was gutted.

Then came the need to resubmit. To decide that this journey was worth staying on. 

It wasn’t made easy. My feedback stated that it would be useful to meet with my first marker. Receiving the feedback at the beginning of July with a deadline of early October, I am sure you can imagine how easy that appointment was to arrange with an academic. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. Summer holidays and all.

Fortunately, so fortunately, my supervisor was available. And I genuinely believe if it weren’t for him and my husband I would have thrown in the towel. NB There is no comparison in real life.

I have completed a degree and an MBA and nothing has warranted a meeting with my supervisor. I have met my supervisor for my doctorate twice, first with no understanding of why, the second with every understanding of why.

My resubmission duly received the capped grade, and it offers a flatline ability to progress to thesis. Subject to maintaining my average in year 2.

What I’ve learned

I’m scarred by module 3. Module 3 now serves, unfairly, as my benchmark.

Every academic is different, they have different nuances, different focus in their feedback. It makes it really difficult to write consistently. 

Writing for academia is so far away from writing in business- and I don’t even work in business- I work for a non-departmental public body- a charity. I thought I had waffle down to a fine art. No. 

Words in academia have different meanings. And I’m not even sure what that’s in relation to. My biggest struggle has been with the word ‘concept’ and whether it is a ‘thing’ or a ‘belief’. Honestly, my sanity doesn’t allow me to go back there.

My MBA was undertaken in a business school, where it felt slightly more like a positive transaction. There was a sharing of experience. My doctorate feels more like a transference of knowledge. In some instances, that transference lacks a discursive element.

Related to this, in some instances, there appears to be a ridiculous hierarchy. Unfathomable. I have been fortunate in adult life, no matter how naively, to be able to challenge, and to have my views heard. In some instances, this doesn’t appear to be reflected in academia. The flipside of this is I am sure you could meet people in my workplace who also reflect this.

The Professional Doctorate and Imposter SyndromeNew year, deadlines and karaoke

My key learning (not really, I have learned a ridiculous amount, maybe my most transferable learning) is that of imposter syndrome.

I only came across this term recently. But it is ridiculously true of me. Forever.

It is strengthened by the number of peers who haven’t returned. For our year group I think we are now on four non-returners. Three are from outside of academia, one from within. Of us who remain, I count two of us from the ‘outside’, and six as having a regular association with university life. Having met the group a year ahead of us, this seems about right.

This means, for those you speak to from ‘academia’ there is an appreciation of marking papers, the complete no-no’s, the understanding of what is important. And this is the challenge. I’m an imposter. I don’t get it. 

But I do have an idea for a thesis which will make my world, no matter how constrained, a better place. 

I just hope for year 2 it will be a consistent opportunity to develop my thesis, that even if I’m ticking boxes I understand why, and I can take this learning and apply it to the next stage.

But, as with all learning, thank goodness for a peer group, for accepting the imposter and for offering every reassurance I needed. 

And, thank you husband, for not being predictable, for not agreeing with my plans to draw a line under the whole thing, no matter how many times I try to convince you it’s for the best.

Year 2, let’s be having you!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Perdita
    February 1, 2018 at 11:02

    It’s interesting how many of us return to academic learning after a period in the workplace, where language and standards are fundamentally different. It works the other way too – I’ve worked with Drs who struggle with the more socially nuanced, looser language used in the workplace.
    An interesting thesis would be on how to bridge this learning gap.

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