To kick off the start of the new semester, here’s a fascinating blog post by Trudi Martin (Manchester Institute of Education) who is currently studying for her second PhD! She is a doctoral researcher exploring the provision of education for pupils with profound and complex learning disabilities; the research also investigates the impact of the new SEND legislation and the introduction of Education, Health and Care plans.
A tale of two PhDs
There’s no easy way to say this – I am currently studying for my second PhD. When people hear this mildly interesting fact their reactions fall into one of two camps. Those who have never done a PhD look at me as if I am some distant relation of Stephen Hawking and those who have done a PhD, or are currently in the midst of one, look at me as if I am a distant relation of Dopey from Snow White. But, dear reader, what this enables me to do is to let you know what nuggets of learning I bring with me from my first foray into higher academic study to this second doctoral expedition.
My first PhD was done at a Business School, where the ethos and – dare I say it – the macho stance of MBA students rather dictated the learning culture, which was demanding, focused and, yes, very business-like. My reason for feeling out of step with the place didn’t fully strike me until I came to my present institution. The atmosphere where I am studying now is more supportive and collaborative. I am not saying everything in the garden is rosy, and there are things that could be done better, but the intention to make the doctoral journey as positive and as enriching as possible is certainly there. So if you are feeling slightly out of kilter with your learning environment, take a look around you and try and identify what it might be. Sometimes when things don’t feel quite right, it is good to stop and reflect on what it might be and how you can do something to change it. I didn’t do that the first time round as I was so focussed on the PhD itself and not the experience of doing a PhD. I should have paused and thought what I could have done about it, rather than spent my time doing the academic equivalent of pushing a trolley with a wonky wheel around a supermarket.
Another difference between now and then was that I was bringing up two young children when I did my first PhD (and as many parents will tell you, bringing up children is an enterprise commensurate with any academic undertaking – and more messy). I worried that my sons would be scarred for life having lived through their Mum’s PhD (not to mention the less than academic words that floated from my desk on occasions), but such concerns have disappeared because my eldest son is now doing a PhD all of his own (sidewayslookatscience.wordpress.com). When I visit London to see him, we end up talking about things we have in common, such as social theories of learning and the pitfalls of ethnography, despite the fact that our research is in very different areas – his in science communication on the web and mine in disability. And a final thought occurs to me – when I leave to head home and give him a big hug, I am truly able to say I am embracing interdisciplinarity!