Saturday, 22 June 2013

Dissertation Complaints Service

I handed my MA dissertation in a month ago. A month before the deadline, I hasten to add. It has since been forgotten and life is good, calm and relaxing again. 

The Guilt is gone.

But now they write to me asking for my feedback on the dissertation supervision process. 

And what a can of worms they have opened.  This isn't, I should add, what I sent them.  This is what I wrote whilst writing my dissertation, every time I received any feedback for a chapter I'd just submitted to my supervisor. This is what I wrote in preparation for the day I would be asked to comment on the process. My actual response is a lot kinder...

10 problems with the dissertation supervision process.

1) Your sentences are too long:
You insist that 'mixed SEN classes' has to be changed to ‘classes of pupils with many different special needs diagnoses’. ASC pupils has to be changed to ‘pupils with a diagnosis of autism spectrum condition’.
If you make me write long sentences then ALL MY SENTENCES WILL BE LONG!

2) Canvas vs. Canvass. 
I want to canvass staff opinion.  Canvas is old sacking.  Please stop telling me to write about old sacking.

3) Avoid grouping pupils by SEN. Consider them as individuals.
THIS IS WHAT MY DISSERTATION IS ABOUT. In my teaching, of COURSE I consider pupils as individuals.  It’s not about diagnoses. But this dissertation is about a stereotype in labeling and in grouping of students. I am trying to explode a myth about pupils with autism and with EBSD.  It is VERY hard to do that if you aren’t allowed to a) USE THESE TERMS, and B) Consider the pupils as groups.

4) Your dissertation needs to be about that.
No. YOUR dissertation might be about that.  Mine is about this. Please stop trying to change what I’m actually investigating long after the research has taken place.  You agreed to the research at the very start.  You said it was interesting. You said it was brave. You said it was new. Now I’ve actually done it and I’m writing about it, stop telling me to change the focus and talk about pupil emotions and treating pupils as individuals, on the understanding that “this will be more interesting”.  That is NOT the focus of my research. A consideration, perhaps, but not what all the research is working towards.

5) Underlining terms used in school.
STOP UNDERLINING THINGS LIKE ‘SEN teachers’ and ‘ASC department’. The school has an ASC department.  I know in your out-of-touch, ideal, self-indulgent world of research, we don’t separate ASC pupils.  Sorry- pupils who have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition. But this is a case study. In a school. Where I have been allowed to conduct research. They have a department for pupils with ASC.  It is called the ASC department.  I really can’t do anything about this when I’m writing about the school. Please stop underlining it and suggesting that I change the wording to something your dippy dreamland researchers like more.  That is what it is called.

6) Commas
Yes, I overuse commas sometimes. And many of your corrections are valid.  But once in your stride in removing excess commas, an excess of zeal has led to the obliteration of nearly all the commas in my meisterwerk. Seriously. You eliminated all the commas in an entire paragraph and now it reads like a children’s book.

7) Repetitious repetition
Constant comments about taking care not to repeat. Duly noted.
Followed by ENDLESS requests to reference a comment that was referenced in a previous section. “Use a reference to discuss pupil voice”. Terrific... I refer you to the ENTIRE CHAPTER I wrote on that, full of interesting, relevant references. Should I just repeat myself? Or would that be repetitive?

8) Trust your own judgement.  And then don’t.
I suffered prolonged conversations about how my view as a practitioner IS relevant, and how my own observations and views carry weight. Followed by constant requests to back up my views with documentary evidence and references.  There is no evidence. There are NO references. These are my views.  The ones you just asked for.

9) Anecdotal evidence that is widely published and scientifically validated.
My dissertation- as advised, is about exploding a myth. Or perhaps supporting it, depending on outcomes. This is based on ANECDOTAL evidence. On staffroom hearsay and even hyperbole. There is no material evidence for this. My dissertation is the first time this has been explored. As far as research shows, this has not been written about before. Please stop asking for evidence of this anecdotal evidence. I already told you it is anecdotal.

10) This will be more interesting.
This is a little repetitious of point 4, but we will proceed as it deserves some exploration in its own right. Having accepted, sanctioned and seemingly understood my dissertation project and the focus of my research, you now keep skewing it, pushing it in different directions and telling me to focus on something else that you prefer because “it will make it more interesting.” This is annoying and unreasonable. I can’t change the focus of my research now. It’s nearly March. There is no time, and the research is essentially finished. But what is more annoying is you saying that YOUR ideas are more interesting, and that YOUR research likes to focus on this, that and those. That is YOUR research, based upon YOUR interests.  I am interested in autism and EBSD, and how hard it is to co-educate these pupil groups. It’s fascinating, really! It really isn’t very helpful or professional to keep trying to push my investigation of pupil behaviour in different conditions into some fluffy, flowery rhapsodising over pupil emotions and individuality just because that is what YOU are interested in.  It doesn’t interest me remotely. Which is fine, but I haven’t burst into your office and ordered you to change your research into something more in-keeping with my own interests and preferences.

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