research, Rural Women Educators, Writing, Storytelling

Data: a gathering with friends


How to you read your data? How do you analyse and dissect the information you have gathered doing your research?

I have spent the morning ‘hanging’ out with the data today and it has been a joy.

It is as though I have been to a gathering of friends, meeting to have a meal at the end of semester. Each one is keen to share what has been happening in their world. There are voices interjecting as someone new comes along; another person shifts seats. There is laughter and clapping, as dishes are passed down the table. There are some quieter voices at one end of a table and hushed tones of reassurance. Someone wipes a tear from her cheek.

The data is after all stories of real people in real situations. Each woman interviewed has presented her story as an educator and leader in a rural context.  The story of the personal and the professional. The’ story as an identity’. And my role is to create a story out of the disparate and interconnected stories that are before me.

Just as I would in a gathering of friends, I acknowledge that I cannot talk to everyone at once. I may have several meaningful exchanges but the reality is I may only touch base with one or two of the people. I may need to do more listening and reflecting on the body language and facial expressions than ‘take in’ a whole conversation. I must listen to the silences, the gaps. I can sit and observe, watching carefully.

I apply this to how I approach my data, the words on the page, the transcripts that bring to life the interviews, the conversations.

I have listened to each interview in real time and as a recording. I have transcribed each interview, pulled out extracts, coded each according to themes, tracked common ideas and words, identified metaphors and highlighted questions. The whole ‘gathering’ then becomes smaller groups as I break down the data into bite size, digestible chunks.

Each new approach offers new insight, as I play with the data.

As I cast my eye along the table and the gathering of participants, I know that getting to know each one and the group as a whole will take time. But this is how I am reading and making sense of my data today. As a gathering with friends.


research, Storytelling, Writing



Many of us seek justification, to explain and support our decision making. Some good and some not so good.How do I justify the fact that I make time for this blog when there is so much to do? When teaching and learning demands overwhelm, when research deadlines loom?

Naomi Barnes has articulated my concerns in her blog post on EduResearch Matters for AARE. Her blog post was a breath of fresh air, a reminder of writing for writing’s sake. Barnes argues that writing is an important part of her scholarship and research.

I would suggest that I write to refine my ideas. I am constantly surprised how much I discover about my own thinking as I write. It is a space to reflect, to connect the dots, to question and highlight. My inspiration may be academic, it may be data but more often than not it is a random encounter with an image, a tweet, a piece of music, something I saw on my walk, something a student has said. It is this beautiful connection between the personal and the professional, the very identity that my research is interrogating.

So thank you Naomi Barnes. May many more PhD students come to revel in the pure delight of blogging and unearthing new ideas.

identity, research, Women and Leadership

Reflective Practice

img_8170Many women educators who aspire to be leaders struggle with self doubt and an imposter syndrome. A recent study by Zoe Kinias and Jessica Sim suggests that there is a simple exercise that may support women and actually help them tackle the doubt that plagues their entry beyond the ‘glass ceiling’.

Kinias and Sim argue that a simple reflection exercise on core values can transform performance in a competitive setting.

My response to this data is to connect this idea to my own research and question whether reflection would support a women building her leadership capacity in education.

According to Kinias:

The transition into a new organization or role can be critical for people’s identities, which can substantively shift the trajectory of their experience…… Thus reflecting on values bolstered participants’ resiliency against the potential threat to their self-worth that resulted from being a woman.

As educators we know that reflective practice is powerful and a vital part of our professional learning. We can enjoy that practice via a coaching conversation, team collaboration or individual reflection in a journal or the like. So why are we surprised?

In the busyness of this teaching life we often fail to make time to reflect on our core values and return to the essential tenants of our beliefs. We need people to encourage us to have reflective conversations, to drive our thinking back to what matters most. In the absence of a coach or critical friend I would argue that a blog can be a therapeutic means to reflect and make sense of my own professional and personal identity.

identity, Phd Candidature, Professional Learning Networks, research, Women and Leadership



This teacher life is a crazy one. Each day we turn up to school, put on our teacher face and work hard to inspire our students. We juggle multiple balls each lesson, as we attempt to convey a clear learning focus, communicate the big learning idea, manage complex class dynamics, motivate reluctant learners, differentiate our program and all the while smiling. Because we love it.

My recent re-entry into the classroom has reminded me of the hope that each teacher nurtures, quietly inside. Hope that we can  make a difference. Hope to support young people on their learning journey. Hope that they will understand. Hope that they will grow in independence and knowledge. Hope that will unlock something and that it will usher in a lifetime of learning.

But this hope that each teacher holds onto is fragile. We are vulnerable to sickness, loss and grief. Our personal life continually  drags this hope through the muddy trenches. We dust off hope and wipe it down, as we front up to a new class, a new day.

I am experiencing that delicate balance between personal and professional identity on a daily basis. I am observing colleagues around me who are clearly fighting their own disappointments and battles while simultaneously working hard to help the battles of numerous young people.

More than once I have recalled my PhD research and the nature of my data collection. Earlier this year I interviewed 12 women who hold leaderships positions in education. These conversations sparked deeper, ongoing reflection. This was then followed up by a series of email exchanges over the course of a term. Each email invited the women to reflect again about their leadership style, experiences and how professional learning has shaped their journey. I now ask the question – how did they do it? How did they find the energy, the time and the focus in the midst of a very busy school term to stop, reflect and ‘talk’ to me.

How did the interview questions impact that hope that each of us holds close?

I am now considering the impact of relationships, structures of support and connection and the way they influence our sense of self, shape our identity and grow our hope in our profession. The question is do you have those relationships, that professional learning network, the personal support of partner, family or friend to walk you through the trenches of this teaching life?

Education, research

Research Ed Melbourne

Screenshot 2016-05-22 15.31.11This quote attributed to Robert John Meehan was tweeted yesterday as a part of #rEdMEL

I heard about about Research Ed a few months ago when some of the key educators I follow on Twitter began retweeting #rEdMEL and ‘spruiking’ this one day conference for teachers, academics, researchers.

I was interested in the target audience – education practitioners and leaders, as well as researchers and academics all in one space to start new conversations, to collaborate ideas and to debate the state of play in education today? It just sounded too good to be true.

And this is one aspect of Research Ed that I want to follow up on. UK educator Tom Bennett (@tombennet71)led Research Ed in Melbourne, Australia. I was unable to attend in person, but thanks to my Professional Learning Network on Twitter I was able to dive into the live stream (yes it did trend on Twitter at one point) and follow some interesting conversations throughout the day.



Sometimes it is a succinct quote, an idea questioned or slide shared that is a little bit of gold that gets your brain thinking in a new way. (Left to Right: @CmunroOZ and @debsnet) I love that about the online world of learning.  Others like Greg Ashman and Deborah Netolicky have reflected more deeply in blogposts and I suspect there will be more of these as the week unfolds.

As a researcher and educator who lives 300kms from Melbourne, #rEdMEL via my PLN has been rewarding. But one of the most powerful outcomes I observed from afar was that many of these people who have been part of a Professional on line community for years, were able to meet up and talk together, some of them even working together and presenting as a team for the first time. The face to face connection and collaboration, the incidental chats over coffee, at the basin in the restroom or over dinner. These were all powerful encounters capable of long lasting transformation. A new Australian-centric research and education network was being grown.

I am reminded that we all have little ‘research eds’ in our work spaces, our schools and universities. The powerful conversations and collaborations, the active learning research and the reflective practice is all happening, but sometimes going unnoticed, without fanfare or celebration. This week the challenge for me is to connect the dots, with those powerful teaching practices I observe, a great student outcome, a small win for a colleague struggling, a coaching goal met or a  research deadline finished. There is a great life in research ed when we work together.



literature review, research

Research Hack


I have been preoccupied with this idea that I may not be researching in an ‘optimal’ manner. Think smart, effective, strategic.

I had heard some where that google scholar was a uuummm- yes, you guessed it. A no no.

This has prompted some general conversation with my supervisor and a flurry of emails to my university librarian. Help!

Weeks later I am still waiting to hear back from my librarian for an email or Skype conversation. In the meantime I have made friends with google scholar again and  she and I are doing fine.

This article by writing for research on “Doing a Quick Literature Review” sets out helpful strategies and guidelines for all types of research. It is the article I wish I had stumbled across early in my PhD. So when I meet newbie PhD students who is burdened by trivial questions like which citation manager should I use and how should I find the literature for my review – I will direct them to this blogpost and give them permission to let google scholar hack into that research bubble and make a grand start.

Powerpoint, research, Storyboards

Storyboards and PhD Research


Twitter is revealing all sorts of treasure to me. I am like a kid in a candy shop. I have stopped pinning pretty pics on Pinterest and filling my Instagram feed in favour of this new ‘intellectual’ and brain busting social media. I know it is not new and I joined Twitter way back when….. but I have never really put it to work for me. As a researcher and writer it is truly coming into its own – with some challenging and interesting material. Delivered to me on a silver platter.

As I am punching the keyboard this morning trying to make sense of of my research question I ‘stumbled’ (think took a a break via Twitter) across the concept of using a story board technique to define, organise and collate my ideas. I L.O.V.E. this idea. I often find myself making poster size flow charts of ideas, complete with post it notes. So the idea of story boarding confirms the validity of this old school approach. But the new twist is to use Powerpoint as a tool to create each board. Simple but effective. I can edit, share, re-organise each slide as it was a board.

This ideas is attributed to Writing For Research @Write4Research driven by Prof Patrick Dunleavy.