Transitions to Postgraduate study, Penny Jane-Burke, Institute of Education and Roehampton University
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Transitions to Postgraduate study, Penny Jane-Burke, Institute of Education and Roehampton University






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Transitions to Postgraduate study, Penny Jane-Burke, Institute of Education and Roehampton University Transitions to Postgraduate study, Penny Jane-Burke, Institute of Education and Roehampton University Presentation Transcript

  • Transitions to Post-Graduate Study Access, Assessment & Writing Practices Professor Penny Jane Burke Director: London Paulo Freire Institute University of Roehampton
  • WP in PG Study
    • PG Study – beyond concerns of WP?
    • Research: policy pays too little attention to academic cultures & practices
    • key transition points students need to negotiate as they move into unfamiliar academic territory
  • WP in PG study
    • very little research about:
      • the background of PG students
      • how they fund their studies
      • what motivates them
      • whether access to postgraduate study can be considered unequal.
    • UK postgraduate numbers increased fivefold between 1990 and 2006
    • Differences by subject in terms of class background (see Paul Wakeling, 2010)
  • Methods
    • Transitions to Masters Level Study – funded by HEA
    • Year One: individual and group interviews with students on PG courses in Education (n=60)
    • + journal reflections
    • Year Two: interventions developed – WP strand: writing workshops with MA Education students (n=24) - focus groups discussions with workshop participants
  • Aims of writing workshop intervention:
    • To critically engage students in writing workshops that explore the methodological frameworks and approaches underpinning the assessment task(s), criteria and disciplinary and course expectations;
    • To help develop an understanding of the assessment criteria in relation to their writing practices;
    • To draw on Richardson’s notion of ‘writing as a method of inquiry’ to support the students in developing their writing approaches in the context of their course of study;
    • To provide practical and conceptual resources and tools for the students to draw on in their writing;
    • To encourage critical and reflexive approaches to writing, which consider deeper level questions about writing including processes of referencing and ‘orchestrating the voices’ (Lillis and Ramsay, 1997), the ontological and epistemological frames underpinning writing and 3) the disciplinary conventions and expectations shaping and constraining writing practices in particular contexts;
    • To engage students in focus group discussions about their experiences of writing and of the writing workshop.
  • Writing transitions – Assessment Practices and Frameworks
    • [My tutor] was very supportive during that. I think not just for me, but for several people during the enrolment process. He made sure he was available to take us over to the centre where we had to enrol. The day when I did finally enrol, he arranged to meet me before hand to make sure that I had absolutely everything necessary with me. He spoke to someone in enrolment before I got there to tell them that I was coming . So that was very supportive (Mary, Interview 1).
    • I explained that I didn’t have a BA yet and my background and the tutor advised me on how to do the application and told me I was a good fit. Support was received by email and that was fine. I submitted my transcript to date for the BA I’m working on and reference letters and writing samples and a bio. I had to write an essay after I was offered conditionally. I received deadlines in the post for this and it was straightforward (Diane, interview 1).
  • Changing sensibilities
    • Following last weekend’s signature pedagogies session, I was so much more confident about delivering this than I would have been previously. What is particularly interesting is the contrast between the theories of teaching and learning studied at level 4 and those at level 7. This class will also be part of my research for Researching & Improving Professional Practice and it was fascinating to observe their engagement with theory relating to signature pedagogies (Mary, reflective journal).
    • I’m having a crisis of confidence to be honest – before Christmas I felt quite confident and that it was going to be quite easy - and I think I underestimated how difficult studying at this level is and having a full-time job (Mary, interview 2)
  • Complicated transitions…
    • I didn’t find any difficulties. The PGCE was a very smooth sort of transition into the MA and during this I read a lot of education theories and stuff. Although the PGCE is more focused on reading pedagogic stuff, the MA is more abstract; it was really a smooth transition into the MA (Victor, interview 1).
    • At the moment I’m not really able to look from a particular angle to define a theme for my essay and to get to any particular point…I had a tutorial with another professor but it didn’t really help and I just feel stuck. I’ve read so much but there are so many different theories and I can’t find a focus . I’m not sure what they expect at M level and I really want to write about what I understand . On the PGCE, the writing was more concrete – we looked at curriculum and the theories were related to my practice. At M level it is more theoretical (Victor, interview 2)
  • Embedded approaches
    • Mark: I think writing is one of the things that I feel able at, so that I wouldn’t perhaps have chosen to go to an extra course , but it is actually really useful in enlightening me to the different styles of academic writing that were needed for this particular course. So it is perfect that it is embedded into the course .
    • Gary: I would have liked something like this in my undergrad. It would have directed me so much better… something actually in the course saying this is how we do it, this is how we expect the writing to be, because again I think the writing is very personal to a subject and like my writing now is very different to what I was doing in my undergrad and even in what I was doing in my PGCE . Like there are very different styles of writing and so it would have been useful. This [workshop] was excellent because I have actually realised what I need to do in terms of my dissertation and how I need to structure it, maybe what thought patterns I need to have instead , and obviously having that clear guideline will hopefully help.
  • Anxieties…
    • Beth: I think it is really important actually to embed it and wish that it had been earlier on for me. I think it would have helped with the anxieties that I was talking about at the start. You know they are just going to laugh when they get these essays; it is just not at all the standard that they are expecting . Because if you have never worked at that level before, you don’t know at all whether you are achieving the standard…
  • deconstruction of key concepts in writing methodology
    • Tina: I really liked the bit where you were talking about all the different ways of interpreting , be explicit and be critical, because I am an English teacher, so I find the writing bit okay and I mark people’s essays all the time, so I find that bit fine, but I think as a teacher I write, ‘be explicit’ and it is quite useful to see it like that and I can imagine me writing a similar thing and then going back to that checklist and just sort of, it is that meta-cognition isn’t it, I guess? Because I can always be too comfortable with what I am doing and it is making me think a bit more carefully I think.
    • PJB: Well, actually that hopefully is where the connection between the research and the practice comes, because hopefully some of this will be helpful to your practice that way.
    • Tina: Well I could see myself giving those bullet points to my students, to my sixth form, to check against.
  • accessibility to concepts and ideas
    • Matt: I mean for me, the way you deliver things is much more dumbed down academic speak and clarifies things for me than some of the other lectures that we have and I come away thinking, ‘I know what these words mean now’ and it actually does mean something to me , whereas in a lot of other sessions we have had, I go home with a headache thinking, ‘What has happened?’ But on your last session, I had a eureka moment; finally I get this.
    • Tony: Do you often think though that is sometimes the way it is presented at times, you have got nothing to put your hat on? You can’t hang your hat on anything . Because actually it is not saying, ‘This is it’. Sometimes, well me personally I want to know that that is it. Okay, some things are not as black and white as that, but I think people sometimes just make problems and say, ‘Well what does this mean?’ Well what do you think it means? I think that is what you did quite clearly today.
  • Recommendations…
    • The early experiences of a postgraduate programme, including admissions and induction, are important in shaping a positive initial transition into the programme of study.
    • Writing as a method of inquiry and learning should be integrated into the programme of study, rather than offered as separate, remedial, skills-based provision.