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Defending from attack

This adversarial process with its use of the language of battle seems oddly archaic to me and counter to the spirit of first person action research. My first instinct is that this is an expression of a patriarchal, hierarchical, academic system. The partiarchal model I'm referring to in this instance isn't gendered, but a reflection of the academic power structure. The degree is in some ways shaped to resemble post graduate research. In universities the vivat or defence is part of the process of awarding the higher degree. It often consists of a long adversarial questioning of the research undertaken during which the candidate must 'defend' their research.
"Nothing is more symbolic of the competitive climate in academe than the final oral in which committee members 'grill' candidates while they 'defend' their research. Committee members often compete among themselves, as if knowledge were combat sport, to see who can deliver the knockout blow."
(Kerlin 1998)
As part of this aping of the Ph.d. defence process I felt I was expected to toughen up and robustly defend my work against a style of critique adopted by the learning facilitator as a pose to ensure we had enough critical feedback to defend against. This was for me a totally negative experience which caused considerable emotional fallout. Writing this now part of me feels I should have been able to handle destructive criticism, to see it for the masquerade it was. It wasn't the criticism of the research I couldn't handle but rather the tone used to deliver it. I had good quality feedback from my exhibition that would have provided me with adequate points to cover for the 'defence', and my peer review partners had also provided questions. This feedback whilst critical preserved a positive tone which allowed me to consider and answer the points.
I feel quite strongly that there was a push from the learning facilitators in the learning set to encourage us to make our own peer reviews closer to the kind of thing I'd received. We resisted this, kept our criticism friendly, focussed and positive. We (Andy Roberts, Eve Thirkle and myself) have a long history of peer reviewing each other's work dating back to term one of the degree. During that term we found and agreed some guidelines for reviewing work which have simply passed into our practice(2). We were not going to abandon them now. Instead we provided each other with praise and questions in equal measure. Strong questions were posed to allow us to expand on areas where we felt the work needed further exposition, sometimes because as we already knew that more evidence existed but had not yet been included, sometimes because we wanted to highlight areas of weakness that needed to be strengthened. We did not hold back from asking powerful questions but we asked them in a way that was not destructive.
This collaborative approach changes the tone so it ceases to be a 'defence' of the research and becomes an exposition, an extension of the exhibition and allows us to explain in more depth aspect of the research.
We also explored the possibility that as external voices we might have a more objective view of each other's research. This led to Andy Roberts and I 'writing each other's conclusions'. This was a very positive thing for both of us allowing us to gain new insights into our research.
(1) Kerlin, BA.(1998) Pursuit of the Ph.D.: Is it good for your health?, Paper presented at the 4th International Multidisciplinary Qualitative Health Research Conference Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, February 19-21, 1998. available, url last accessed 5/5/06
(2) Roberts A, (2004) Peer Review Guidelines, Ultrastudents swiki "Try to strike a good balance between negative and positive comments. Too much praise and flattery can be misleading as well as nauseating but when criticising it is all important to be tactful, since in a text-only medium it is easy to interpret remarks as a personal attack even though none is intended." quoted at:Ultrastudents wiki

Posted at 12:09:11 pm by lmhartley
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Impact is often a slow burn

Impact - big issue for me at the moment in the Validation and Defence module. I wrote a long blog post and reflection about it over at Acting to Improve. So there I am this lunchtime when I get a message there's a TA meeting about behaviour management at 1pm. I knew there'd been a teacher meeting about it earlier in the week so no great surprise there. Ah - but then I get to the meeting and am amazed to find some research I did for my ILM2 last year being handed out and people being told that my recommendations about levels of unacceptable behaviour and clear consequences are about to become school policy, with full credit being given to yours truly for having done the ground work. I thought it had all vanished without trace. I didn't get one of my better marks for the work and had more or less written it off. It's taken a whole year, talk about a slow burn! So what are the implications of this for my current research impact?

Posted at 5:02:35 pm by lmhartley
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Workshop Reflections

My degree exhibition workshop was in school last week where staff could come and view the site whilst I supported, answered questions and gathered feedback. Scheduled to last about 30 minutes it went ran from 3pm through to 4.30 with people coming in and staying for between 20 and 40 minutes. People looked, talked, ate cake afterwards :-).
Click on the image to see a slideshow of the event.
It was very different to the pilot exhibition. I got lots of feedback, mostly positive but some critical too.
I'm going to reflect on it using Gibbs Reflective Cycle.
There was feedback from what people said in person, from my observations, from the exit survey (which worked surprisingly well collecting lots of qualitative data) and from blog comments. There's been feedback since too with learning journal observations of informal conversations and a couple of interviews.
Now I'm wondering about how best to measure impact in school after a very positive interview with my head teacher.

Posted at 6:17:29 pm by lmhartley
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Classroom Displays Blog on the TES site

The Classroom Displays blog got blogged by someone at the TES!
UK Educational Resources - TES - The Times Educational Supplement
Classroom displays by teachers around the world are now commonplace on the web. For example, go to the and you will find detailed examples of work displayed by teachers. Some of them have linked their pages to Flickr (, which is a free photo uploading service that allows you to share comments on pictures.

It's a really interesting article about the shift web 2.0 is causing in education resource production, too. So there's evidence of impact :-) Fits very neatly with my research findings.
On a less happy note some one managed to mess up the link in the article so I've em-mailed the TES to see if it can be fixed.

Posted at 1:41:40 pm by lmhartley
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My Degree Exhibition

My Degree Exhibition is now open.
Come and see my research, find out what I've been doing for the last 3 years :-) Come one, come all! But don't forget to leave me some feedback, please.
The actual f2f event will be in the ICT suite on Wednesday after school. I'm going to wander round supporting/talking to people about the research while they explore the exhibition. I've got back up cd's for them in case the internet crashes. Wish me luck :-)
I've got another version to share with the children - that should be interesting too!

Posted at 12:07:28 am by lmhartley
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Just when I give up on a goal in 43Things I have to sort it out after all! I gave up trying to learn more about Dreamweaver yesterday. All this web 2.0 stuff makes it irrelevant right? Wrong! Last night I realised that for my exhibtion I need to make anchors to definitions in the glossary page. Can't do that in VoodooPad (memo to self - moan about that on the VoodooPad list!) so I have to open up Dreamweaver and edit the two VoodooPad html export docs. Ah well - it actually took about 10 minutes to work out how and do it :-) But I was really grumpy that I had to!
So this counts as learning more about software packages, which I was convinced I wouldn't do in Module 3 as I'd sworn not to do a presentation.
I'm happy with the way the web site for the exhibition is coming on. It needs more visuals, and I'm deeply tempted to add some video/audio stuff - just to make it less boring for me if nothing else!
The plan for the exhibition is a little unusual . I'm putting it on-line as a web site on March the 6th .Then on March the 8th I'm holding an afterschool workshop in the ICT suite. After a brief introduction from me I'm going to do what I do best in there and wizz round supporting people while they explore the exhibtion. It should be fun, if a bit manic! It should give me chance to make observations, collect feedback, and generally prevent the 'it's very nice - so where's the cake?' syndrome!
There will be cake and coffee of course, but that will be in the staffroom afterwards. You can't take food and drink into the ICT suite. Sneaky? Me? lol!

Posted at 11:48:16 am by lmhartley
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Invented Memories

Invent a memory of me and post it in the comments. It can be anything you want, so long as it's something that's never happened. Then post this in your blog so that people can invent memories for you. Who can resist a meme?

Posted at 10:53:08 pm by lmhartley
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More McNiff and values

When reviewing the impact my actions have had by analysing the data I need to set the criteria. This will help me to asses whether my action has taken me nearer to my values (McNiff 2002).

My Values and McNiff notes
Notes and ideas for setting the criteria against which to evaluate my research
Flat world - equality of voice
sharing resources beyond community boundries - putting what is inside on the outside
value of CoPs & CoIs
collaboration at all levels
lack of geographic boundries
practitioners as theorists

The consideration of ontology, of one's being in and toward the world, should be a central feature of any discussion of the value of self-study research (Bullough and Pinnegar, 2004 p. 319)

The value informed life
My belief in:
an appreciation of the common good
personal integrity
personal responsibility
the right of the individual to contribute and be heard
the need for creativity as basic to humans
the importance of lived experiences
the need to test theory against practice

Theory into practice (personal values)
Have my actions moved my lived relationship with those I work with both in school and online nearer to my values?
In what ways?
Cite specific instances from the data collected.

Given the value I place on informal, situated learning (add ref to relevant reports) have my actions provided opportunities for myself and others to learn in this way?
Again be specific.

Posted at 11:14:57 pm by lmhartley
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Unblocking Blogs

James has got the structure of nonscholae up today. is a site devoted to the responsible use of blogs, instant messaging and other social software in schools.

Non scholae sed vitae discimus
We learn, not for school, but for life - Seneca, Epistulae

We believe that these tools and resources should not be blocked or banned from schools. As educators, we should be familiarising learners with these technologies, supporting and facilitating their responsible use and equipping our students with the skills to keep them safe and savvy in the online world.

However, at the moment, many schools are simply closing their eyes, banning these technologies and doing their learners a disservice in the process.

I've asked my head to get the LEA to unblock the Classroom Displays Blog at school in time for my exhibtion. I discovered today that the smart filter even blocks it on the staffroom computer, which wasn't even supposed to be filtered at all :-(
So much for showing someone the blog at school or teachers accessing it during PPA time. Grrr!
Quite how I'm going to do a workshop in the IT suite as part of my exhibtion week if I can't get into the blog is another issue.

Posted at 6:33:15 pm by lmhartley
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Oh good grief - podcasting on radio 4. Sheesh! Jenni Murray just asked "So is it like audio blogging then?" Mainstream or what!!! Radio 4 The Message
As part of a trial the BBC has been offering some programmes and programme highlights as downloads and podcasts. The trial, which was due to finish at the end of 2005, has proved so successful that it will now continue into 2006, with a number of new programmes due to be added. But what is a podcast, what can you listen to and where's the catch?
Interesting though, they are covering the "Why Podcast? Why blog?" questions.

The explanation about the podcasting trial and the list of available programmes are here .

Mind you we were very tempted to record the first ever ukcider tasting podcast last night lol! Now where did I put that digital sound recorder???

Posted at 4:45:01 pm by lmhartley
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