Into the Labyrinth : A PhD Comprehensive Portfolio

Doctoral Seminar 1

"... constructing an academic self occurs in and through writing. When researchers make writing choices they conform, adapt, reframe or resist dominant academic textual genres" (Mewburn & Thomson, 2018, p. 20).

     Doctoral Seminar One (DS1) was a place and time for becoming. While the focus of the course may have been on becoming an academic by examining research, theories and issues in qualitative research methodologies, it was a space of four weeks where I became a critical synthesizer, research analyzer, and reflective academic writer. The course started with writing personal stories (Richardson, 2001) and developing an epistemic genealogy resulting in  'My Snake Story'. The course ended with examining 'big tent' measures for qualitative research (Tracy, 2010). This course was an immersion, and re-immersion in some cases, into educational theory, issues in educational research, examining academic writing, engaging in discourse, and developing my scholarship practices. Being away from home during this course provided me with dedicated time to read prodigiously, write thoughtfully, and reflect deeply. 

     DS1 revealed paradox and binaries in academia that continue to provoke my thinking. As a result of this course, I became more comfortable as an academic while living and learning in paradox - self vs other, conforming vs resisting, iteration vs completion. During DS1 I became familiar with, but couldn't yet claim ownership of, terms like ontology, epistemology, axiology, ideology, methodology, academic genealogy, heuristics, and intersectionality, as seen in this blog post [Understanding Terminology]. Examining terminology and critically constructing word choices became part of my ethos and praxis as academic reader and writer, while the caution about zombification (Sword, 2012) in academia still resounds. 

     During DS1 I took to blogging as a "technology of the self, a generative form of habituated 'self-writing' (Mewburn & Tomson, 2018, p. 22) as a form of my hupomnemata (Weisgerber & Butler, 2016), as evidenced in my calendar of blogs. This notion of a solitary, ego-centric, self construction became diametrically polar to my belief of embodiment of self in/within community, as exemplified by the conception of ubuntu (Eze, 2010).  

“Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance.” (Eze, 2010, p. 190-191)

     It is this self constitution in relationship, notwithstanding the impact of geographic distance and technological mediations, that echoes into my research inquiry. I didn't know it at the time, but have come to realize it since, that it was here in DS1 that I began to frame my ontological and epistemological foundations for my research. Some of these positionalities may have been within me all along, but it was here that I began to understand the pivotal impact of social constructivist theory (Dewey, 1916; Freire, 1998, ), critical theory (Ladson Billings, 1998), and critical ethnography (Fine, 1994). DS1 provided an opportunity to discern my research interests. I discovered the philosophies of digital technology (Ihde, 1979), rediscovered Piaget's theory of constructivism, Papert's theory of constructionism (Papert & Harel, 1991) and the theory of connectivism (Siemens, 2012). I continued to ponder the definitions for 'open educational practices' (Cronin & MacLaren, 2018) in order to describe my research inquiry.

     While the academic and scholarly tasks within DS1 - journal writing, workshopping a paper, qualitative research methodology multimodal presentation, and research paper - honed my reading, writing, thinking, and discourse as an academic and scholar, this was only the beginning of further steps to be taken into the labyrinth. It was here in DS1 that I explored the worthy topic, rich data, rigor, sincerity, credibility, resonance, significant contribution, ethics, and meaningful coherence (Tracy, 2010) that I could apply to my future research.

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