I recently remembered, between starting my new job, going on holiday, and all the other things that bring summer to a close, that I signed myself up to complete my MA in Learning and Teaching by June 2016. After a failed attempt at “starting early” back in July when Christmas seemed nowhere in sight, I’ve finally started getting myself back together and, more importantly, thinking about just what my dissertation will be about. A few people have enquired about it on the odd chance that it comes up in conversation and try as I might to make my ideas seem glamorous or worthwhile, I must say that I’ve very much struggled to really ACTUALLY pin down a title. I know the title is not the important thing- it’s conception and proposal and execution…but I feel like I’m driving myself mad attempting to finalise my topic- because otherwise, I don’t even know where to start.
I’ve known since my second term in the programme that I wanted to explore military children- namely military teenage females- in DODEA schools. And before you ask, yes, of course I’m being biased because I’m a military wife with a daughter who will – eventually- be a teenager in one of these said schools, but I’m not attempting to Back to the Future Part II her learning experience or “save” her from making any mistakes – I’m genuinely interested in studying military-specific learners because it is part of my world and, quite honestly, they are underrepresented in educational research. The difficult part of my study plans come in because I’m also very interested in identity formation and performance. To go even further, I am immensely interested in studying the way teenage females talk about their learning experiences- and how such talk interweaves concepts of power and meaning, as well as their identities as children of military personnel. That’s right- I’m into Foucauldian discourse analysis. Of course I only learned about this concept a few months ago so I guess you could say I’m an FDA poser, but we‘ve all got to start somewhere!
Needless to say, I’ve got a long road ahead of me. In fact, I’m already quite behind, as I’ve still got to piece together a research proposal, including developing my research methods and measurements, make it through an ethics board and actually go into the field and start talking to people- which I really should be aiming to finish in early EARLY 2016, but who’s counting, right? Of course, after that, there’s the 12k (I think) actual dissertation to write whilst trying to survive my first Lent and Easter term in Cambridge- where I’ve heard the students turn more animal than man when it comes to study space and resource availability, but what is a grad student, if not always pressed with deadlines and timetables?
In my preliminary readings, I’ve looked at a lot of data on military families and how deployment affects school performance, as well as some philosophical pieces dissecting the ontological meaning of Foucauldian discourse analysis and the role of hermeneutics and phenomenology. I’ve dabbled a bit in the work of Deborah Youdell and Judith Butler to build my understanding of gender identity and the politics of schools, mostly because I find the work fascinating and have made notes upon notes of pieces to further explore in order to really hit the ground running. But that’s all just reading- there’s still all the doing that must be done.
I’m slightly concerned that I’ll spend too much time trying to understand the work and research that is already out there and feel stuck trying to carve out my own space in order to present my dissertation as a valid argument with practical applications in education- but I also know I have a deadline, so it’s time to pull my mind map canvas out, dust off my bucket of markers and get started!