Life is great. The thesis is scary. It’ll be ok.
There is an old adage “Practice makes perfect”. It has acquired a special importance for me during the last two years of my study at Graduate School of Education here at NU. Its message is clear: if you work hard doing something over and over again, then you will progress.
Studying at Master’s turns you to a young researcher with a different view to things you did not possess before. While conducting interviews and analyzing data, I came to conclusion that experience and tuition play a greater role in success than natural talent or giftedness. Being armed with data on challenges novice teachers face at their workplaces (as it is my research topic), made me think that mostly those teachers succeeded at their workplaces who did their best to blend into unknown environment and get knowledge and skills they lacked at university.
I am getting more and more convinced that experts are invariably made, not born. My studies into becoming a teacher have shown that high achievers are in fact no more talented than their contemporaries. Conversely, the difference lies in the amount of practice and hard work they put in it. Yes, there are numerous other factors that influence effectiveness like supportive environment and high motivation that should not be overlooked. However, from my own experience, I can conclude that I would not be in this timeline of finishing my Degree without using all the reasonable diligence and putting the most efforts into study.
People say that in order to succeed one need to leave a comfort zone. Studying here does make you leave your comfort zone which is challenging and rewarding at the same time. It is challenging because you start doing things you never did before, and rewarding because these things eventually open new perspectives and horizons.
Most people practice doing what they CAN do rather than what they CAN’T do, while the key success lies in working and mastering at what you can’t do. If a person believes that he or she must be talented to excel in certain areas, then they are generally mistaken as they will question their own abilities every time they need to act and even give up trying as a result. By contrast, a person who believes that they have capacity to learn, improve and learn from mistakes will more likely succeed. We often refer to people as, for instance, “gifted composer” or “born leader” wrongly implying that their success is a product of their innate talent. However, have you ever thought how much their achievement and success is due to genes and how much is due to hard work and time they invested into practicing their abilities to succeed in chosen path? In other words, keep it up and leave your comfort zone, and the next time when you question your ability to excel, just think that successful people are not born, they are made.
PS. This last post made me sad. Just yesterday we stepped into Leadership Program at NUGSE, and two years just have gone. I want to thank my groupmates who shared their experience here and not only. I will miss all classes, group presentations, finals. A special thanks to Philip Montgomery who was teaching us best academic and thesis writing English tips. Special appreciation for your instant and effective feedback.
In this post I would like to share my experience of data collection by interviewing. According to my research design I was supposed to interview teachers and students of secondary schools. I will highlight for the future researchers that conversation with grown-ups and conversation with children are absolutely two different things. In this post I will focus on my experience of communicating with children since I found it really interesting and challenging.
To start with, dealing with psychology of communication in theory is different from what happens in practice. According to my plan I was going to have a focus-group interview where each participant would have a chance to speak one by one. I started the interview in a friendly way, explained what was going to happen, and asked to answer the questions in turns. In fact, it was not easy to make children take turns, as sometimes one student would jump up and start answering instead of the student whose turn it was to speak. Consequently, the student who failed to answer when it was his turn, refused to answer later because he/she felt offended. Then I had to be more persistent and when asking a question I would name the person I wanted to answer.
Another issue I did not know about is that students may repeat each other’s answer. For example, after somebody’s answer a student would say ” I also like to play…”. In such cases I had to ask specifying questions like: What exactly do you like to play? When?, etc.
Another issue that turned to be a problem is that it mattered when I had a conversation: in the morning the students were sleepy, before physical education they were too excited and could not concentrate on the questions, if there was a sofa in the room some of them would lie on it and distract the others.
Besides, in my consent form I planned to give students incentives in the form of sweets. In reality, teachers recommended not to bring any sweets, and, thus, I brought some small gifts to the participants.
Overall, after this funny and challenging experience, I should say, that even though I prepared well for the interviews and piloted the questions, when it came to reality, with children you can not plan a 100% perfect plan of an interview. Be ready for spontaneous things.
Three semesters at NUGSE are over for me. Now I am in the process of working on my final project – master thesis. It was not easy for me to choose the topic of my dissertation. While attending lectures by NU GSE professors every semester, I kept changing my mind about what I want to explore in my research study. Finally, during the fall semester of 2015, I decided to work on the issue of mentoring beginning and newly appointed teachers in Kazakhstani schools. The topic of my dissertation is “Mentoring experience: beginning teachers’ and mentors’ perspective”.
I ended up having a very strict supervisor, which I find useful since she pushes me in the process of writing the thesis. By the end of November, we were supposed to have written first three chapters of the dissertation: Introduction, Literature Review and Methodology. The main challenge for me was the Literature Review chapter. I have read a number of articles on mentoring, tried to analyze them and then put it all into a fifteen-page chapter. It is not difficult to organize the literature, the main issue is the ability to analyze it critically. I still do not understand how to make the literature review not a descriptive narration but a critically analyzed argumentation. I hope that by the time I am to finish writing my thesis, I will have a decent literature review chapter.
In December, I went “to the field” for data collection. I found interviewing quite interesting this time. All of my respondents were so eager to participate in my study and gave me extended answers to the interview questions. Now I have enough data to analyze for the Findings and Discussion chapters of the thesis. Right now, I am in the process of transcribing the interviews, which is not an easy thing to do. It is time-consuming and requires a lot of patience to re-play the recording over and over again. By the end of March, I am expected to start writing the Findings chapter. Until then, I plan to work on “polishing” the first three chapters of my thesis.
According to my own observations, there are at least two main types of people writing a thesis: the first – consider writing it as merely a formal step in their academic career. In fact, they are writing a typical “verbose statement about slight increase of their salary”. The second view writing the thesis by way of Samurai as they write it to make it beautiful and try to perfect the “weapon” irrespectively whether someone will see it or not. It is up to you whether to write the next mediocre plastic hand-made article or to make the sparkling blade.
I have chosen “a way of the Samurai”, and I will not be wrong having said that all my fellow students have chosen the same way. Won’t it be pleasant to open this work on any page and be proud of it?
However, this work is not as straightforward as it seems to be. Though you just need to tie yourself to a chair every single day for at least 2-3 hours, have 2-3 dozens of reviews on the subject and, certainly your computer in front of you. Such a simple set and such a big complexity! Not every person manages to plug away on one place if only this place does not bring joy. You must be assiduous enough. It is crucial to cultivate this attribute along with abilities of critical analysis and synthesis, strong argumentation, concise writing, meeting deadlines and other skills that are defined as course learning outcomes we must achieve in the end of our Thesis Writing Course.
Apart from assiduity, incentives are also vital. Control! Some people need someone who stands over their neck, others need praise, or on the contrary, a stick. As for me, I need an adult who will guide me, push me, and even scold me, if necessary. Who, if not the adult, thinks of a debt and obligations? Without this “internal adult” (he can be internal or real one – it is optional), the person will not be sensible of responsibility. If you are not able to develop your internal adult, then, your “external adult”, in supervisor’s face, will not give you a chance to chill and procrastinate. Here at NUGSE we are lucky to have very approachable supervisors, Shanyrak consultation centre and course instructors, who monitor our progress and explain all the intricacies of writing a thesis.
And, what incentives do you have for yourself not to give up and get inspiration to sit and write your chapters each and every day?