#AdjunctChat is Coming; What does that mean to You?

I have taught as an adjunct faculty member at New York University and Pace University since 2005 and 2009 respectively, and while I do it for the love of teaching and academic discourse, I also realize that my commitment to the universities is only for that semester in which I am hired to teach. There is little ongoing support or communication outside of my ongoing teaching appointments. While I do not expect anything more from the institutions–after all, adjunct faculty are effectively (highly educated) contract workers–I do have some needs for support and communication and sharing and discussing these experiences with others who may also be in the same or similar situations.

It appears I am not alone.

In fact, the Chronicle of Higher Education cites the number at 70% of higher education faculty as off the tenure track. While not all of them are adjuncts, a good number of them, or us, are.

After so much personal success and academic fulfillment while completing my PhD through the wonderfully supportive community that is #phdchat, I felt my needs begin to shift, leading to my thoughts about a similar chat for adjuncts, or those who generally teach less than full-time and are not on the tenure track. That is the initial idea behind #adjunctchat.

AdjunctChatWhile I know others seem to find this idea useful, I am not sure what it may mean in practice, so with that I am looking forward to a first synchronous #AdjunctChat on Twitter on  Tues, May 14, 4:00pm EDT.

All that remains now is to brainstorm what to chat about!

Successful Viva = PhD

As I mentioned in my Tweet on March 25, 2013, I successfully passed my Viva Voce exam at Lancaster University and was awarded my PhD in E-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning (Educational Research) forthwith. In the British system, passing a viva forthwith means I passed without corrections and was thus awarded the degree.

Jeffrey Keefer Viva Tweet

As a result, my doctoral thesis, entitled Navigating Liminality: The Experience of Troublesome Periods and Distance During Doctoral Study, is being printed and bound at the university.

I especially want to thank my supervisor, Professor Malcolm Tight,  (standing next to me in the image below), and my examiners Professor Paul Trowler (in the left on the picture) and Dr. Margaret Kiley (who attended remotely from Australia). Alice Jesmont (also in the picture below) has been invaluable in her assistance while I attended Lancaster University, along with Dr. Gale Parchoma, who started off as part of my supervisory team before moving on to the University of Calgary.

Jeffrey Keefer Viva

I am now working at publishing some of the results of my work, so hope to have lots more to share. Thanks goes to all who have supported, guided, and helped me along the way, about which I will also speak more in the near future.

Quick, in 140 Characters, What Is #myResearch?

There have been a variety of memes over the years to summarize one’s own research, perhaps in 100 words or in haiku, though the newest meme for this seems to be started by Raul Pacheco-Vega here and here and here. While the #myResearch tag has been tried before, it seems to have caught on this time (reasons for it just may be some interesting research in itself!), due perhaps because the right people seeing it, researchers have free time on Saturday evenings, it is the beginning of the semester, the current moon phase is waning gibbous, or choose your own reason. It is not clear why it caught on now, but thankfully it did.

Whatever the case, I find it useful to clearly and concisely state what my research is about — it keeps me focused AND there are possibilities for identifying other people doing related work. This is what I said:

#myResearch explores the experiences of doctoral liminality by postgraduate students who study at a distance bit.ly/prxlp1 #phdchat

Try it if you haven’t yet, and be sure to link to the #myResearch tag.

By the way, the more difficult you find this opportunity to share, the more you just may need to do it as an exercise in communication.

Transcribe via Pomodoro

I have found the most difficult challenge in my doctoral thesis (dissertation) thus far to be transcription.

As a matter of fact, there are few things I have struggled with more than transcription. While I love hearing the interviews again – I make connections, I feel even more connected to the experience – but for some reason(s) my mind goes numb when I think about transcription. I either type slowly or my mind wanders or I nod off or whatever, so much to the extent that I finally had to hire somebody associated with my university to help with my transcription. Either I was going to go broke and get it done or I simply was not going to finish.

Thus, even with transcription behind me, I still have to re-listen to the interviews and review / correct / edit them. Even the best transcriber in the world was just not there at the interview, and thus cannot know the context as much as I do. Thus, I need to re-listen and check and verify and tweak before I return to the interviewees for their checking, and while this is close enough to the transcription process that my mind borders on numbness and revolt, I have discovered a technique (once again from my wonderful #phdchat network!) to help me chunk this process into small portions that are not overwhelming.

Enter the pomodoro.

The Pomodoro Technique is a simple time management process where you do a single task for 25 minutes, without any distraction, followed by a 5 minute break. Track the success. Repeat. Get the idea? Large tasks can be overwhelming, though if we break them down to doable chunks, called pomodoros, we are able to make progress and track it along the way.

The process can get a little more organized, or course, though this is the extent that I have started to use to help me to get through my transcription, and thus my thesis, at this point. Working through a 90 minute interview, stopping to rewind and make corrections and edits along the way takes hours, but chopping it into short 25-minute pieces – hey, I can do that!

While this can be done with a simple timer (I bought one for this when I started, one of those wind-up kitchen timers), there are also a number of applications and apps to help with the process. I finally tried and found one I like, called Pomodoro, and the few dollars I spent on it has been well-spent. After all, a few optional dollars to help overcome a major challenge by helping to break it up into shorter bits of doable effort is OK in my book.

While pomodoros can be used for all sorts of tasks, it is simply another process tool to help increase efficiency (and simply finish). I am using it with success at this point, though can imagine its application being almost limitless (especially when surrounded by everything so interesting in social media and the internet!). After all, in the spirit of the #changee MOOC, doing something new and counter to how the mainstream does, can be useful indeed. Learning opportunities indeed do surround us!

BTW, I wrote this post in a pomodoro as a colleague asked me what it was!

Correlation Does Not Imply Causation & ANT

If this does not support an actor-network theory approach to organizational politics (or the challenges associated with applying quantitative methods to social behaviors), then the black boxes we create to compartmentalize and explain behaviors needs a swift review!