A brief panel reflection

I have tried to write this post several times already and am still unsure of what to try and convey about my panel experience.

Perhaps the first thing is to say how glad I am it is behind me. It seemed to consume far too much of my life and my thoughts for several weeks before. Maybe that is normal, although it all seemed far more rushed and last minute than I was hoping it would be. Perhaps the fact that there were several of us going through panel on the same day also added to the sense of ‘panel phobia’. All the hype was actually far worse than the real thing, which went by much more smoothly than I was expecting. In fact, I came out wondering what all the stress had been about. I do think we were blessed with an exceptionally nice panel though, which helped enormously.

Perhaps just a couple of thoughts then for those who will face this in the future. Firstly, I found the ‘practice’ opportunities organised by Pauline and the PGRSN very helpful. On both occasions, my proposal was not complete and I did not give the presentation I used in the actual panel, but the opportunity to get feedback and also see how others were tackling panel was extremely helpful and productive, so I do recommend taking any opportunity that comes your way to have a go at articulating your ideas, even if they are not fully formed. Richard also organised a mock panel, which gave an even better taste of what to expect on the day. In fact, the mock was scarier than the real thing!

Secondly, do make the most of that 15 minute presentation time to cover areas in your proposal that might appear weaker or perhaps not be quite as clear. For example, I am collecting data through everyday classroom activities rather than interviews, focus groups etc., so I spent quite a lot of time trying to clarify what that might actually look like in the classroom and the sort of data it would produce. The presentation really gives you an opportunity to ‘add value’ to the proposal, so try and make the most of it.

So now it’s time to move on – the ethics forms await 🙂



  • Bona Maandera

    Hi Susan,
    Quite an interesting capture of the panel experience, which indeed was less scary than I’d pictured it. As Richard put’s it, the fact that it is a Rite of Passage does underscore the energy, preparation, and anxiety that was associated with it. And, as you rightly note, “the opportunity to get feedback and also see how others were tackling panel was extremely helpful and productive”. In fact, I found the fact that there were several of us going for the panel rather comforting, like “we are in this together” — even though one knew in the end that one would face the panel on one’s own.

    For me the scariest thing about the panel had to do with the 4 outcomes Debbie outlined in her letter to us. Specifically, the possibility of receiving an outcome other than what every student (and supervisor) would wish for from the word go, did scare the life out of me on several occasions. If anyone ever thought of taking anxiety tests around that time, I would no doubt have scored highly on the “anxitometer” 🙂

    That this Rite of Passage is part of history now is certainly a big relief. Millions of “Thank You’s” to everyone who contributed bits and pieces that made this possible for us 🙂

  • Richard Fay

    Thanks Susan. Most Panels are kindly curious and probing in my experience. They want you to do well, to be in control, to be in a good place in your thinking and to give you a green light. They start with an optimistic intent (as do Viva Examiners), and so, although the Panel (and even moreso the Viva) is a Rite of Passage, it is one where everyone expects/hopes for a good outcome.