Saturday, 9 September 2017

Challenges of PhD

My first week with Future Learn's course from the University of Leicester "Discovering your PhD Potential" is complete except for writing this blog.

The first steps to writing my PhD proposal are to find a university and supervisor that can best assist in honing my research question for future study and research. Having already initiated a research project with SFU and TWU in developing pragmatic competence in non-native English speakers, my role as principal investigator has required me to formulate research questions and design methods for data collection and analysis, which culminated in a successful REB proposal.  This will make applying to the SFU, UBC, McGill, McMaster or U of T linguistics departments much smoother. Some other options are the University of Glasgow and the School and Language and Communication at Cardiff.   Serendipitously, I found some professors in the SFU linguistics department who are researching my interests, namely in SLA, language cognition and discourse analysis and pragmatics. They also have some specialists in psycholinguistics.  Oddly enough, it doesn't appear that SFU or UBC approach a PhD with finding a supervisor first, but rather you enroll in the university first, and then are assigned a supervisor.  What the dingle!!  I have forgotten about Zoltan Dörnyei at the University of Nottingham.  Their prospectus is here.  He is one of the only active psycholinguists who also seriously studies Scripture. He states, "Regarding biblical interpretation, I am interested in a canonical narrative analysis of the biblical corpus, focusing on optimal human conduct in the face of various corporeal, societal and spiritual challenges."

However, this won't be easy.   Challenges to doing a PhD are the time and money required, as well as the motivation.  Teaching English is part of my life, but music is another big part, and I don't want to shove it to the margins.  I really need to consider my career path and explore that right now.  Doing this free online course is helping me with that, and it is really a God-send in giving me the information needed to make a reasonable decision.  Reconstructing my voice is taking time, and the best years of singing lay ahead of me - do I want to sacrifice that? What will contribute most to the Kingdom of God and society around me?  This will take much consideration, research and prayer.   Whatever I decide, I will not let myself off the hook, and will continue with due diligence.

So what do I think my research will contribute to society?  Without having started a PhD, it already has much potential in helping second English speakers, providing research fodder for TWU MA TESOL candidates, adding to professional knowledge, and raising the profile of ELC at SFU, which will help everyone across the board.  Do I need to augment this by making a big thing of it and do a PhD?  Other than providing a road to advance my career and open future doors, I cannot say how my research will directly impact society, but it will impact the second language teaching community and the language learners themselves.  The research spin-offs would be "bread from heaven" sustaining my career path.  It is probably best not to foresee into the future ocular, as when I did that with my MA, I almost gave up.  Doing the next step towards completing a large goal is always wisest.

How do I think my singing would contribute to society?  It already has, is and will keep blessing others.  The question is, in what capacity?  If I give full reign to it, it may lead me to do things that are out of character for me, like singing Verdi's Abigaille or Lady Macbeth.  If I need to do this for a living, that is where it may lead, to being constrained by the market and a loss of freedom. Right now it is a passion and an avocation.  However, with no real need or time allocated to singing other than teaching voice, am I really using this gift?  Singing in a choir is passé, as other singers tell me, and they are mostly right.  As a social activity it isn't even fun, since it is too big and anonymous. However, the freedom to give yourself to doing a brave and brilliant performance of something like Bach's B minor Mass is never to be passed up.

This has been a revealing blog.  I am writing down what I really think, have been given and have discovered so far. Ultimately, the course of my life is offered up to God for reference to what is on His priority list.  My gifts and abilities are His, and I offer them up for His use.

#FLcoursetag, #PhD

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Why Do a PhD?

I am enrolled in a free online course with Future Learn through the University of Leicester to find out if doing a PhD would be a good thing for me.  Currently I am enrolled in a research project at my workplace in the exciting field of applied linguistics in developing oral skills pragmatics in English second language speakers.  The proposal is accepted and I am excited.  It should lead to a published paper, and with that further research possibilities and open doors.

Here are some reasons I may want to consider this challenge:
  • to contribute to academic and social scientific discovery and knowledge;
  • as a first major step towards a career as an academic or a researcher;
  • to build substantially on knowledge already gained from previous study and experience
  • to develop and enhance my independent and team-based research skills;
  • to make an impact upon social or economic policy and practice;
  • to provide a launchpad for entering a related profession;
  • to lead innovation in the language teaching field

This is the first entry of my reflective journal on the subject. My project title is: Pedagogic Interventions for Developing Pragmatic Competence in EAL.  You can follow updates on my Research Gate account. 

  •          Study Purpose: One way to help learners of English as an additional language (EAL) develop pragmatic competence is to maximally encourage internal talk by putting learners in stories they know, or giving them roles to play a given context. Pragmatic competence is the ability to communicate an intended message with all its nuances in any socio-cultural context, and to interpret the message of an interlocutor as it was intended. Cooperative attending skills is inter-topic interaction among acquaintances, whereas role plays prescribe scripted contexts in which to interact.

  •          Hypothesis and Research Questions: Given the instruction students will receive throughout the course, it is assumed that they will be able to speak more meta-cognitively about pragmatic choices and options, propose alternate conversational moves, and produce more nuanced and strategic discourse.  The research question focuses on the student-teacher dance in the classroom, specifically on what the role of the instructor is in developing pragmatics. What sorts of pedagogic interventions and classroom discourse are made possible as EAL learners progress in pragmatic competence? How is this progress manifested? 

Thank you for reading and for your interest.