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.


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.



#survivephd15, identity, Phd Journey

Keeping it Real


Walking the Dog.

This is a journal of PhD ideas. But grappling with research about women (yes, I am a woman) I am confronted by the reality that it cannot all be about theory. It is not enough to understand the theoretical framework underpinning this research idea or that methodology. I need to acknowledge the blood and guts, the core of who I am as researcher.The professional and personal intersect and continually compete for attention. There is tension.  And this is it, the practical reality of my day.

I am a woman.

I am a researcher. I am an educator.

I am a wife and mother of five.

This day I am preparing for a 7th birthday party, making cakes,treat bags and planning party games.

I am tidying the house. I am doing the grocery shopping.

I am answering emails. Checking Twitter.

I am blogging.Keeping up with my research journal. Adding another 500 words to my methodology chapter.

I am listening to ABBA.

Somewhere  in the day I will get my hair cut.

I have parent teacher meetings. School pick ups.

I am completing tasks for my online Coaching course.

I am sending messages to friends – too time poor to call.

I squeezed in a 5 minute reading, reflection and prayer.

I will walk the dog. Feed the animals.

I will listen to radio national while making fruit kebabs.

I will revisit how I want to present this PhD by project and let my wild, creative imagination escape for a moment.

I will update the family diary. Add in new sporting commitments, formal dinner dances.

I may even pay some bills, RSVP to an invitation.

After the SPY party is over I will prepare dinner and enjoy a glass of red.

I will tuck small people into bed.

I will work some more, writing and reading for the PhD.

I may catch up on Bloodlines on Netflix.

I may crochet – aka therapy.

I will say goodnight to the older kids.

And collapse into bed with my man.


Tomorrow I will do it all again.





Education, Qualitative Research, Strategies, Writing for Research




it’s me

I was wondering if after all these years

You’d like to meet,

to go over


If you had asked me a year ago I would have not believed that I  would be staring at the data, that wildly exciting, challenging, heart searing data and wanting to meet.

Here is the thing. Research is mostly messy. I have been balancing hundreds of new ideas daily, great input from my online Professional Learning Network (PLN), I have found new ways of thinking and have been reading some great new literature that is helping me make sense of everything.

But I need to meet the data and say HELLO. Going over the data and making connections, identifying themes, coding, memos, links….ahh well that there my friend is a messy thing. I am like a deer caught in headlights. Stunned. Paralyzed. Scared.

So I am …meeting with my data, making friends, going over it all. Slowly.

Debating whether I use some software to support that meeting, a segue between the raw data and my brain.

I would love to hear your encounter with data and that messy place of research.

So, as Adele says so well……HELLO…..I am hoping to tell you more from the other side.

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.

professional learning

Professional Development Essentials


Professional development is essential to all occupations, but how it is negotiated, debated, contested and articulated in education is insightful. According to Nick Morrison, who reports on the Teacher Development Trust, a charity focused on raising awareness of the importance of professional development, professional development and learning needs to be meaningful. This report  from the Teacher Development Trust aims to fill a gap in our knowledge about teacher learning. It has identified the following key elements of great professional development:

  • Duration: effective professional development lasts at least two semesters, and needs a ‘rhythm’ of follow-up and consolidation;
  • Targeted: the content should be relevant to the teachers’ needs and day-to-day experiences;
  • Aligned: no single activity is universally effective – instead it is a combination that reinforced the message from different perspectives that works;
  • Content: successful development must consider both subject knowledge and subject-specific teaching techniques;
  • Activities: successful development features common types of activities including discussion, experimentation and analysis and reflection;
  • External input: constructive external input provides new perspectives and challenges orthodoxies;
  • Collaboration: peer support gives participants an opportunity to work together and refine new approaches;
  • Leadership: effective leaders get involved in development, define opportunities and provide the support needed to embed change.

It is clear that current PD delivery needs to change.

“It needs to be embedded in a school’s culture, and rather than ticking boxes it has to be well-thought out and executed.”

Let’s start thinking!


Reading too little, reading too much


I confess that reading around the key topics and themes in my thesis can be both rewarding and disabling. The literature around professional teacher identity and professional learning has revealed a wealth of ideas and issues pertaining to the profession and the delicate, often strained existence between the personal and professional self that is constantly being contested and changed.

I have read the core literature. And I should stop. I am looking out for new additions to my reading list, new ways researchers have framed ideas and explored the professional identity notion. But I have found dipping into a few key works and taking the time to read some books published as opposed to the odd journal article has brought some reward.

Parker (2007) The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life is a tenth anniversary edition of a classic text. The landscape of the inner and outer life of the teacher, marked significantly by Parker’s own reflections has made this text an important one. I think I found some relief reading a colleague’s journey into the rich and complex domain of a teacher’s life. Parker gives merit to this notion of needing to ‘know thyself.’ A combination of intellectual, emotional and spiritual pathways is explored as the best way to know and understand the teacher. This idea confirms my need for connection and collaboration; for reflection, feedback and evaluation; for a vocation beyond myself.

Similarly,  Day and Gu (2010) The New Lives of Teachers build a compelling thesis around the professional identity of teachers and the influences of the personal, emotional, organizational and intellectual. The context in which we teach is incredibly powerful and how we negotiate the ‘personal’ has a direct impact on teacher commitment and sustainability.

So I am reading to confirm ideas I have already formed around teacher identity. And I am reading to challenge and direct my writing as I start to pull together a clear proposal for my  project. As a researcher and educator I am committed to life long learning, I want to teach encourage and motivate. The question is how do I support my peers in doing this? How can what I ‘produce’ through my research be relevant as a professional learning tool for women who are leaders in education?

Reading too little or too much unearths many of these questions.