RAW: 28th March 2011 – DRC paper

At this session, Juup and Richard present a second draft of an article for submission possibly to Studies in Higher Education or Higher Education. It is (currently) entitled:

Developing researcher competence on a UK Masters course: an ecological perspective


  • Richard Fay

    So, an update. We submitted a post-RAW version of this article (“Intentionality and Developing Researcher Competence on a UK Masters Course: an ecological perspective on research education”) to Studies in Higher Education and received a fairly swift response.

    The key phrase from the Editor is: “The reviewer would like to see some more work done on your manuscript before it is considered further for publication.” So, we are not there yet and some rethinking is needed. I want to share with you what this involves.

    We have two sets of reviewer comments (see below). As Juup notes: “… the editor doesn’t give much away. The second reviewer is a lot more positive. Both reviewers ask for ecological theory to be foregrounded more; reviewer two mentions relationship to communities of practice 🙂 Reviewer one’s comment about laziness may mean we have to consider how the remainder of the data set can be seen to do work in this paper.” Here, then, we have the starting point for our discussion about re-presenting the paper for a 2nd bite of this journal’s apple.

    Here are the two sets of feedback:

    Referee: 1 — Comments to the Author
    This article describes a master’s programme designed to develop researcher competence, and analyses data on two students’ responses to it.
    I never got a clear handle on why this was ‘an ecological perspective’, and ended up just accepting that as the term used for the approach you have taken. While there is quite a lot of specialist jargon used, this is mostly handled well: i.e. in such a way that the article is not difficult to read.
    I can understand why the focus of the course was on developing researcher competence rather than, say, producing useful research outputs. That said, this is by no means the only course taking such an approach, and I personally recognise the tensions that it produces in students. Given that, though, it was surprising that the model of research you present (Figure 1) was so dogmatic and unidirectional, something – judging from the comment in the text – that even seemed to surprise you. I don’t think you adequately explain and justify your reliance on data from only two students, when it is clear that you have more. This could be read as simple laziness.

    Also: 23, 26 – ‘Manchester’: you’ve slipped up in your anonymising!

    Referee: 2 —- Comments to the Author
    This paper explores issues relating to intentionality and reflection in a research education component of a UK Masters course. It draws on a rich naturalistic dataset, and the authors write from a considered and authoritative position with respect to ecological theory. This is certainly not a ‘this is what we do around here’ paper. It was good to see a paper that takes the idea of research education seriously, and uses local pedagogic examples not just to describe, but to explore, question and (potentially) develop theory as well as pedagogy. The close interpretation of and commentary on quotes is very well done, and moves beyond ‘quote for illustration only’ approaches that I see so often.

    My main reservation relates to the way the theoretical ideas are set up. It took a while before any explanation of ecological theory, and the position of reflection and intentionality within it. I would suggest much earlier setting up key features of ecological thinking – why is it interesting, relevant to research education, different from other theories? [eg. it really is different from dominant communities of practice thinking, but you don’t make much of this]; then say why/ how issues of intentionality and reflection emerge from this. While the paper was closely referenced throughout, I wasn’t sure whether all citations were ‘ecological’ – Shotter? Schon? I can see they are relevant, but where do they fit theoretically?
    Based on a clearer set up you could manage readers expectations much more strongly by telling them what it is you are going to argue BEFORE you present the findings – that way when we read the findings we know where you are heading. Currently this is witheld until the very end. I think you could make stronger conclusions about what this all means theoretically and in terms of where you are taking your research AND pedagogical practice in light of this analysis.

    I didn’t think the figures were all necessary, particularly 2, 4, 5 and maybe 6. The text did a good job of explaining these ideas.

    I enjoyed this and it provoked me into thinking differently and seriously about intentions. With some modest changes I think this could be a great paper.

    ———- So, as can happen, we now have to decide (with minimal direcion from the Editor) what to do these reviews which do respnd substantially diferntly to the same submission. There are points of similarity (as Juup notes above) but the challenge is to rework the text so that it addresses (in some way even if that is to say, ‘we have thought about x and decided agaisnt it or the following reasons’) the issues raised and yet remains a work coherent in itself and coheremt with OUR views about how it workd best.

    More anon 🙂

  • Richard Fay

    We were intending to present the following paper which would have been a mixture of some of the work in the recently submitted article and the agenda for where we are heading next but, for a variety of reasons, we are not now doing this BERA paper:

    Juup Stelma and Richard Fay —– “Reflective construction of (conflicting) intentionalities: an ecological perspective on Masters-level research education“. Paper which was to have been presented at BERA 2011 Annual Conference, 6th – 8th September, 2011, hosted by the Institute of Education, London. Abstract

    These concerns will form part of an upcoming RAW session I guess.

  • Richard Fay

    Juup’s the ‘main man’ on the technical aspects of this terminology (and its origins in ecological psychology etc) – so more from him when you are over maybe? – but it has an explanatory power (in a less theoretised way) for me when thinking about, for example, MA students’ various purposes during their MA studies (e.g. professional development, academic development, researcher development). In our DRC module, these various kinds of purpose are all present, and, for each participant, there is a kind of interaction between them, a jostling for priority, a negotiation been particpants and tutors about which of these purposes has priority (e.g. for assessment) etc ….

  • Achilleas Kostoulas

    That’s great 🙂 Looking forward to reading a copy. I am increasingly intrigued by the construct of intentionality.

  • Richard Fay

    We have now submitted the revised article to Studies in Higher Education:

    Intentionality and developing researcher competence on a UK Masters course: an ecological perspective on research education

    Juup Stelma and Richard Fay

    This paper presents an ecological perspective on the developing researcher competence of participants in the research education unit of a professionally-oriented Masters course. There is a particular focus on the intentionality (as in ‘purpose’) of different aspects of the participants’ research education activity. The data that is used to develop the ecological perspective, and which at the same time is interpreted from this ecological perspective, consists of written products (interactive, reflective and more product-like) generated by two MA course participants. The analysis reveals that the participants’ developing intentionality is shaped by a hybrid of professional and research-related influences. The analysis and ecological conceptualisation, with its particular focus on intentionality, constitutes a further development of the ecological perspective on developing researcher competence proposed by Stelma (2011), and is intended also as a contribution to the emerging literature on ‘research education’ (Boud and Lee 2005). (143 words)

    Keywords: developing researcher competence; ecological psychology; intentionality; reflection; reflexivity; research education

  • Richard Fay

    A couple of additions from me.

    First, about collaboration in research. Some researchers are very much lone spirits, working away in their metaphorical garrets, ploughing away at a particular interest (obsession?!) , endeavours often unnoticed until the work is published (as a solo-authored piece) through which they begin to make their name.

    I have to be honest and say this is not something I have any success in (and this may explain my tone above 🙂 — but this way of researching works very well indeed for some researchers.

    My researcher experience lies in being collaborative. Thus, the article Juup reports on above and also the RAW session where this article was discussed are both examples of research collaboration. The article, as Juup indicates, is mainly written by him but is infomed by our ongoing discussions as we have jointly developed the DRC course unit. In that sense, the paper is not joint-authored because we have each written approx 50% of the text, but rather because the origins of the ideas lie in our shared work. That body of shared work acts as an informing/ shaping influence on the article (just as the developing article feeds back into our shared DRC thinking).

    On this occasion, Juup is leading (and the piece takes on his frame of thinking (in ecological thinking) but next time in might be me (in which case it might be explored using a Holliday-ean small culture approach for example, or a narrative approach). In this way, both of us (and our RAW colleagues also) get to engage meaningfully in approaches outside our normal zone of thinking.

    So, I see many benefits in working collaboratively and I have been fortunate in those I have worked with – and rarely (if ever) have I encountered other researchers whose researching preferences, e.g. territoriality and sense of individually-rewarded achievement, have rendered collaboration impossible. But, its a case of knowing what works best for you and embracing that I guess …

    My second addition concerns the eight points that developed for us out of the RAW session. As the draft we presented there is not available for you here, mostly these points would mean little to you I fear. However, I think a couple of them may work:

    We have agreed that we need to change the title to reflect more equally the four key words defining the paper contribution: i.e. research education; developing researcher competence; ecological psychology; intentionality. Thus, a new title might be:

    Intentionality and developing researcher competence in postgraduate research education: an ecological perspective

    We have agreed that we need to make clear(er) to the reader the dialectic (in the paper) between data and theory; i.e. the ecological perspective is developed through making sense of the participants’ DRC experiences, and, we make sense of the participants’ experiences through developing the ecological perspective.

  • Juup Stelma

    Hi All,

    Some comments from me on the RAW session last week, where Richard and I got feedback from the rest of the tutor group on a draft we are working on. First, I know all/ most of you won’t have read the draft I am commenting on here. However, the present posting is not about making anyone engage with a draft paper. Rather, it is about giving an insight into the process of working on a paper in a supportive collegial group 🙂

    To start, it is useful to mention that this is a paper which text I am working on, but which Richard is involved in through our ongoing joint interest in research education and developing researcher competence. As I am the one mainly doing the writing, the paper is developing the ecological thinking I have been working on for a while now. A final point of background is that an earlier version of the paper was read by the same RAW group in the autumn of last year. This earlier version tried to be a TESOL paper. That didn’t work as well. This paper is more a general education paper. We are now aiming for a journal called ‘Studies in Higher Education’. Okay, enough background.

    The particular RAW session included Susan, Julian, Zeynep, Richard and myself. It is hard to minute the discussion … I won’t try. I should say that we usually follow the following sequence:

    1. Clarification: people ask the author to clarify any points that were confusing to them. We try hard to avoid any evaluation/critique at this point. Yes, Julian had a hand in devising these steps 🙂

    2. Critique: Usually people are relieved to reach this stage because it allows them to say what they think… however, by first going through the clarification stage people tend to be a bit more measured as compared to launching straight into critique – well, that is my impression.

    3. Collaboration: This is where the group offers constructive suggestions together for how the paper can move forward.

    In this particular session, no one had clarifications !!! Very unusual. That threw me a bit. It may be that the paper was reasonably successful in communicating clearly. There was a great deal of critique, however, and this was the main value of this particular RAW session. The critique revolved around the ecological conceptualisation that was developed, and because this is indeed something that is ‘developing’!!! there was a great deal of useful discussion. From this, Richard and I have broadly agreed a set of about eight points which we will address in the next stage of writing.

    I will now let the new ideas gained from the experience incubate for 2-4 weeks before starting work on this paper again. I think I like writing in spurts, when I can concentrate very fully, but then when the details of the paper begin to dominate my thinking I take a break to let things incubate for a while. When I then return to the paper after a break I am more able to see the big picture rather than getting bogged down in detail. To me, a good paper is a main argument supported by detail.