The Scamp Meets a Milestone

If anything ever summed up the way I feel right now, it is this photo.

Today I have officially graduated from Edinburgh Napier with a PhD in Educational Assessment. I’m a doctor now. Dr Kimberly Davis.

I’ve thought about this day for a long time. This is my second attempt at a PhD (well, the first one was an attempt at an EdD, so not quite the same). I always thought that I would feel different once I was done. I thought I’d feel more grown up or more serious, but I’m currently wearing leopard print yoga pants and eating a cupcake, so I guess things have not changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so incredibly happy and relieved to be done. I am so glad that I don’t have to deal with Napier anymore and that I don’t have this extra stress hanging over my head. This means I can focus on my actual job, I can write for fun, and I can actually focus on getting healthy again. I am splurging on a meal plan and PT for the next couple of months so I can have my butt kicked and eat actual well balanced meals. While all this is good, and moving in the right direction, I really wanted to feel different.

I know that this is not an uncommon feeling. I know that it is even harder to really feel something when the hand-in was a PDF emailed to the research office and graduation was an email and cupcake. I didn’t really celebrate after the viva because I was ill and the experience was so awful, and the pandemic is keeping me from really being able to celebrate now, which I think will go a long way in being able to close this chapter of my life.

I have had the question of ‘What’s next?’ a couple of times, and to be honest, there is no next. I’ve been a student since I was 6 years old (with a year off between the MA and the MSc) and I am ready to not be a student. I’m ready to not have to juggle fourteen plates whilst hula hooping over a fire pit. I want to feel normal. I want to sleep in on weekends, and I want to start a hobby.

I’m also really looking forward to being a good friend again. I want to go out when the rules lift and meet people and do fun things. I want to help and support all of the people that spent the last five years supporting me. We got the tentative date of pubs being open on the 15th of July, and that might also be a tentative date when we can travel within the UK again, and you best believe I’m getting my doctor butt on train and going on an adventure.

If anyone wants to read the thesis, it is 221 pages of pure assessment and feedback fun.

Okay, if anyone is having trouble sleeping during the pandemic, my thesis is 221 pages of proven sleeping tonic. It’s even more fun when you have Microsoft Word read it out loud to you in one of the three preset slightly robotic voices.

The Scamp is Restless

Day 400, 615 of lockdown and I have lost the plot. I’m tired of being inside, tired of having my holidays cancelled and tired of only having myself for company. I am lucky that people video chat, call and even stand outside my window so I can make some human connection.

I miss my friends. I miss hugging people. I actually sorta miss my commute to Glasgow….okay, not really that last one. I do not miss being tired at night or up so early in the morning.

I’m feeling so restless that I spend a good amount of time looking for new places to live. I’ve been in my current flat for almost 5 years. This is the longest I have lived anywhere since I was 18 years old. That and the lack of actually being able to travel has made me really itchy and anxious to move. The problem is, I’ve really fit myself into this place. I compare everything I look at to this place in terms of space, location and safety…and not much compares for what I am paying.

But I am tired of living in a shabby place. I keep it clean, but the furniture (minus the bed and mattress) is at least 6 or 8 years old. The bathroom is out of date. The toilet leaks, the bathtub is sad and everything is just a depressing shade of beige (I’ve been hearing for 5 years that it is going to get redone, but it hasn’t happened). The electrical in this place is possibly illegal and of dubious safety and my washer is temperamental on the best of days. Right now, with 50 mph winds, my curtains are blowing in both rooms and I can feel the breeze (both windows are closed and locked, but are single glazed and need some work). None of these things really bothered me until I was forced to spend 23 hours a day here.

Which makes me want to move. I want something new, something fresh, managed by people who are interested in caring for their property and the furniture. I want something bigger. Something I am not embarrassed by. If you have ever tried to find a new place to live during lockdown, let me tell you, it is about as easy as trying to read a book in language you don’t speak while you are blindfolded in the dark.

I hate this feeling. I hate feeling restless, I hate not being able to really go outside, and I really hate not being able to travel. These feelings are all being compounded by my favourite place in the world: Napier.

After all of the fun with Napier while I was trying to work on the PhD, being screwed over waiting for the viva date, the horrible viva, and then rewriting an entire PhD in six months, I have yet to hear whether I have passed or not. One of my examiners is over a month late in reading my work, so no graduation for me….at least not for now.

This waiting, this limbo has kept me from enjoying anything. There is a chance they will reject my new work and I don’t get a PhD. There is a chance that they give me another 6 months of corrections, and there is a chance that they finally see that the first thing I published was a piece of shit written at the direction of someone who has no business supervising students on PhDs. To say that I am angry is an understatement. This feeling is keeping me from feeling motivation to do my job, to write some articles for publication, and do really do anything that I thought I would be doing at this point post PhD. I have weight that is not being lost, sleep that is not restful, and an attitude that is not positive.

I don’t like this feeling. I want to be happy. I want to do yoga. I want to write for fun. I want things that I’ve worked hard for to be recognized. I’d like a permanent contract at work and a promotion so I can make my loan payments, not have to pay heaps of money every 6 months for a visa and the uncertainty of this temporary contracts.

The one thing about this is that the weather is getting better, it is lighter later which means I can go for walks and avoid most people, and there are baby animals everywhere! The swans have had a successful batch of babies (7 little swanletts bopping around) and today’s walk was 2 different set of mini quacks learning to dive for food. There is nothing better than seeing little fluffy baby ducks learning to be ducks.

9 weeks down. 5 weeks to go.

Some of you better start preparing for the massive hugs you are about to get….you’ve been warned.

The Scamp Finishes a Project

Today I finished the corrections for my PhD. I’ve spent the last 6 months in agony since the disastrous viva. I avoided the corrections for about a month and half, and then the pressures of a fulltime job got the better of me and I lost the motivation to work on it. When I went to California for Christmas, I spent three weeks writing like mad and managed to get quite a bit of the rewrite done. I was feeling pretty good about myself. That slowed and then halted when I  came back to Scotland, partly because I was back to work, and partly because I came back to Scotland feeling like I hadn’t actually had a vacation.

I’ve spent the last month fighting a battle between work, fatigue and these stupid chapters. The last couple of weeks has been me staying up late, ignoring my work commitments and completely isolating myself to get it done.

But I am finally done. I think this is a better piece of work. It was the thesis that I wanted to write 5 years ago. It is something that I am proud to have my name on.  I will submit tomorrow and hope and pray that the examiners have a heart and accept the corrections. I literally have no way of knowing if they will. If they don’t, I am not sure what I will do. At the moment though, I am way too tired to think about it. I’m also behind in my work. I was meant to be taking some days off starting tomorrow, but I think I am going to have to cancel the time off so that I can attempt to catch up. To be honest, I can’t travel, so I would be working on the marking and all the work that has piled up, so I might as well get paid for it.

The annual leave can wait until I can sit on the beach again.

Here are the dedication, acknowledgment and the abstract in case anyone is curious about what the work is all about and the people that really helped me through.

This thesis is dedicated to all the graduate students who lost their lives, in part, or as a consequence of pursuing a PhD.

You deserved the opportunity to write your own thesis.

May you always be remembered as part of mine

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This thesis has been a labour of love (and sometimes loathing), and there are several people that deserve much more than a few lines at the start of this work.

Thanks to:

  • Tansy Jessop for having lunch with me at the 2015 Assessment and Higher Education conference and making sure that my TESTA journey was a successful one.

 

  • David Carless for helping me refine the recommendations and pointing me in the direction of a strong definition of feedback.

 

  • David Nicol for saying to me, ‘You should be critiquing my model! It worked in the time it was written, but it is time for something new’. You will never know how much that bolstered my self-confidence.

 

  • Joan McLatchie, Velda McCune and Mark Huxham – thanks for taking a chance on a cat loving Californian.

 

  • The Llama Ladies- You are the best friends a girl could ask for.

 

  • Errol Rivera- You talked me off many a ledge and helped me outline many a draft chapter. I’m forever grateful.

 

  • Joe Ameen- A million thanks for the chats and life advice.

 

  • Dr Ana Georgieva- You kept me sane and reminded me to be kind to myself.

 

  • Martha Caddell- You are the best mentor a girl could ever want. I hope I’m half as great as you one day.

 

  • Anne Tierney-Because everything’s better with puppets!

 

  • Kelsey Austin- My travel buddy, my heterolifemate, my unwavering support. I love you and our many adventures.

 

  • Declan- you know why.

 

  • Mondo, Brandon, Jackson, and Matt- I love you.

 

  • Wombmate-You gave me nephews, you listened to me cry and you never let me forget that I am better than my anxiety.

 

  • My parents, Rick and Michelle- I’ll never be able to pay back what you’ve given me. Thank you for never squashing my wanderlust and for all the support. I love you to the moon and back.

 

ABSTRACT

 

In designing sustainable feedback practices, it is crucial to consider the kinds of learning that higher education is intended to cultivate. This research study investigates how a programme-focused approach to curriculum design affected a students’ feedback literacy. This research stems from the growing focus on feedback literacy and what that implies for student engagement with feedback as a learning tool (Carless & Boud, 2018; Molloy et al, 2019; Han & Xu, 2019). While the current research focuses on feedback literacy at the student or individual module level, this study investigates what features of a programme can help, or hinder, a student’s feedback literacy journey. In this context, feedback literacy will be defined according to Carless and Boud (2018, p.1316) as:

 

the understandings, capacities and dispositions needed to make sense of information and use it to enhance work or learning strategies.

 

Based on a review of the literature on feedback and feedback literacy, a survey was distributed to students across five programmes at Edinburgh Napier University. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the programme leaders as well as module leaders, and follow-up focus groups were conducted with the students who participated in the survey. Analysis of the findings found that there were five programme characteristics that factored into a student’s engagement with feedback literacy. They are:

 

  1. Staff attitudes to feedback
  2. Whether there is a programme-focused approach
  3. Students’ role in feedback
  4. Whether there is a sustained approach to feedback
  5. Institutional acceptance of the challenges of developing a sustained approach to feedback

 

 

On this basis, it is recommended that not only do programmes consider a programme-focused approach to assessment and feedback, but that in order to help further the development of the students’ feedback literacy, staff must first be feedback literate themselves. Further research is needed to identify whether a shift in programme structure has an overall impact on student engagement with feedback and leads to the development of a stronger feedback literacy.

Call Me Dr Scamp

That’s right. I am now a doctor. 4 years of blood, sweat and tears. 4 years of edits, research, interviews and data analysis. 4 years of projects, jobs, networking and conferences. 4 years of hard work. I’m not sure how I did it, but I survived the process and might just be a better person for it.

The viva was a gruelling process. I had gotten sick the week before and went through the viva with a fever and no voice. My examiners hated my thesis….and I am not exaggerating. They told me it reads like a jumbled, confused mess and it was hard to figure out what my original contribution to knowledge was. They did not understand the way I positioned my work in relation to the literature. They told me I have six months to rewrite it or they have the right to change their mind.

I am not ashamed to say that I cried in the middle of the viva. I was horribly ill and felt like crap, but I was also so upset that all of the things that the examiners hated about my thesis are the things I battled against with my supervisor….the same supervisor who was not in the room to hear that he had screwed up my work. The same supervisor who decided that I was not worth his time when I sent an email saying that I was upset that his lack of planning for the scheduling the viva could cost me my job. I was also very embarrassed. The examiners don’t know how badly I struggled. They don’t know how much of the thesis was dictated to me by said horrible supervisor. They only read the product of a less than stellar time….and the only name on the work is mine. I am the one who looks like I turned in horrible work. I am the one who now has to rewrite it in 6 months.

That’s not to say that the examiners were wrong though. That work is a jumbled mess that is a product of my experience. The feedback they gave me will make my thesis a better piece of work. It will also allow me the chance to discuss my work in the way that I want to. I have a better message and have really good things to say, and now I get to say them. My due date for resubmission is on my grammy’s birthday. I am taking that as a sign of good luck.

The only downside of this is that I still have a lot of work to do, more so now because I have a full-time job. I am having a hard time separating my bitterness about the last four years and the rewrite that I need to do. It has been more than a month and I have barely made any progress. That, in turn, is stressing me out….which is not helping the writing.

On the bright side, finishing the PhD means that I was able to book a ticket back to California for Christmas. I get to see my favourite people for a whole month. I am thinking that the change of environment and the time with my family will help me tackle the PhD as well. I have not seen my family in almost three years or been in California, so to say that I am excited about this is an understatement. I cannot wait to see how my parents have changed the cabin they now live in, I can’t wait to finally meet my nephew in person, and I cannot wait to sit around a table with my siblings while we play games, drink beer and tell each other to fuck off while we laugh so hard our sides hurt. I can’t wait to drive a car again.

I can’t wait for all the yummy Mexican food.

And mojo. Hopefully, I can find my mojo. I’m still looking for it.

The Scamp has Imposter Sydrome

One of the worst things you can do when you are sick is google your symptoms….except for that one time WebMD said I probably had Lupus.

I digress. The worst thing that you can do is google your symptoms because chances are the internet is going to tell you that you are dying within three months. Last week I went to a department-sponsored lunchtime lecture on the notion of Imposter Syndrome. This pesky problem is the feelings of inadequacy that can cause a person to believe they are not worthy of their position and live in constant fear of being exposed as a fraud.

Until last week, I did not count myself among the countless academics that suffer from IS. I have always felt that I am a good little academic research monkey who belong in higher education. I would like to think that I am a good teacher, and that my students are getting the most from me.

Now, I am not so sure. I am two weeks behind schedule with my writing and I am terrified of sending the drafts that I have to my team because I am sure that they are going to tell me that they suck and aren’t worthy of a PhD. I’ve never actually gotten this far in the PhD process, so I am not sure how to handle this little valley of shit that I find myself in.

It sucks.

At the end of the month, I am turning in an application to become a teaching fellow in the Higher Education Academy. I was going to apply for associate fellow because the university doesn’t offer me teaching opportunities, but have decided to aim big and use the rest of the teaching I do to help justify the award. I am going to do a 45-minute presentation of how great I am and hope that after that they decide that I am worthy of the award. This whole time I have felt like it was easy to provide examples that demonstrate my teaching and assessment skills, but not so much this week.

Now I am wondering if I let the ‘fake til you make it’ philosophy give me a sense of overconfidence and if I really should be worried about how good my chances are for the award. I don’t like this feeling. I like feeling confident, like knowing that I am capable of doing all the work that is in front of me.

But, on the upside, it is nice to know I am not alone in these feelings.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 5

I can’t remember if I did one for week four, and technically it is the start of week 6, but 5 is my favourite number, so I am going to do week 5 now and week 6 later in the week.

I like the challenge for week 5. I get to spend my time discussing one good thing from last week.

Easy. My visa and passports came back. I am now nice and legal again. The photo on my visa makes me laugh. It is awful. I look dead. But it makes me laugh, and it guarantees that when I have to show it at checkpoints and to the uni, people will think I am that much more attractive. I can live with that. It means I can start planning a quick weekend away somewhere around my birthday since I can’t make it to California this year.

I was also able to keep all of my jobs. Now if one f them could turn into something permanent I’d be even happier.

The rest of this month is going to be a blur of writing up the results of my thesis and conducting interviews for the department research project. I really love the project lead. She asked me first since I am supposed to be based out of the office and is going out of her way to find ways to keep me employed. I’m not sure she will be able to find the funding to keep me around, but the fact that she is willing to do that for me means a lot. I’m excited for the project to begin and I really hope that some good things can come from it. I am fast approaching the end to my 30th year, and while it did not quite go as planned, I am hoping that I can get a lot done this month and start 31 on a sure path to finishing my PhD. July will be here before I know it and I am still about 50,000 words short of where I need/want to be.

Not that I am freaking out about that or anything. No. Not at all.

I sat down with my supervisor today to go over the statistics, and he was really great and showing me what needed to be done and writing up the first part with me, so I think I am all set now to do the first part of my results chapter. The goal is to have this chapter written by the end of February, and with four jobs, I am not sure when it is going to get done…..but it will get done.

The Scamp Crosses One off the List

I have now crossed number 11 off my list! Yesterday I emailed a draft of my methodology chapter to my supervisors. I think it is pretty solid for a first draft, and I know that there are a lot of drafts to come before it is done, but I am pretty happy with how it came out. It also means that I have some words on the page in time for the halfway point of my programme. I’m going to celebrate this moment with a cookie.

  1. Learn how to drive in the UK.
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Start a new tradition
  4. Go back to therapy
  5. Visit three new countries (Paris, Malta, Hungary)
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Quit the tutoring centre
  8. Volunteer for a literacy programme
  9. Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  10. Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  11. Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  12. Master scorpion pose
  13. Attend the symphony
  14. Learn a rap song from start to finish
  15. Host a dinner party
  16. Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  17. Create something original
  18. Create a solid workout regime
  19.  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  20. Learn to dance
  21. Eat an exotic meal
  22. Learn to cook a fancy meal
  23. Yell at a football match
  24. Go horseback riding
  25. Master British spelling and punctuation
  26. Create a good sleep schedule
  27. See my favorite group in concert
  28. Fall in love
  29. Stop holding grudges
  30. Let go of my expectations

The Scamp Walks a Fine Line

Positivity is not my strong suit. I’m a glass half empty, bird shit on the face, permanent bad day kinda gal. It is something I am trying to work on it, but struggle a bit when life throws me some curve balls. At the end of this week I have my 6 month review and determination of title for my PhD. I have been feeling pretty great about the work I have been able to do so far, but I am still a little nervous about presenting it to my supervisors and my new external chair. I still have a little doctoral program PTSD, and I am in a constant worry that I am going to screw up my chances here the way I screwed up in Fullerton.

I am starting to feel the effects of the fear in a big way.

I was hired to be the first educational pedagogy PhD at the university. Along with the PhD, I was going to run a university wide project to help update and improve the assessment and feedback practices of the degree granting programs. I thought I would be able to pull data from the project to use for my own research, and be able to do both tasks in well balanced harmony. Long story short, I was told that someone more senior than me needed to be in charge of the project, but as the resident TESTA expert, I would have a role to play in the project, and be there to offer guidance and support. I have strong feelings for the project and what can be done with a fresh approach to feedback, but my ego is also healthy enough to not have to be “the leader”. I understand the underlying politics that go along with a university-wide project, and my position as someone who is not quite an employee, but not quite a member of staff in the Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement (I know, I work for a department called DOLT….when I started 6 months ago was ASPEN, which I was way more fond of). Now that the project is underway, it has become more apparent than ever that I do not have a strong presence yet on campus.

I have been trying to walk the fine line between standing up for what I want to do, and playing the political game. I am so traumatized with what happened at CSUF that I have almost become a doormat. I’m not being treated fairly, and because I am not trying to rock the boat, I have not been speaking up. In a meeting today, when I was disrespected in a room full of important people at the university, I didn’t correct the insult. I’m so afraid to make waves, so afraid that I am going to repeat the mistakes of last year, that I am in serious danger of becoming a doormat. Finding the right balance is hard, and trying not to equate this program with the program from hell is even harder.

Luckily I have some amazing friends who let me talk out out my feelings, a manpanion who celebrated my victories with me, and a mommy who is not afraid to give me a gentle kick in the ass to get off the floor and stand up for myself.  I’m really the luckiest girl in the world. It is nice to be reminded of that when I am trying to stay out of the dark and twisty.