Into the Labyrinth : A PhD Comprehensive Portfolio

Research Colloquium

“There is no such thing as ‘getting it right’ — only ‘getting it’ differently contoured and nuanced”
(Richardson, 2000 p. 930-931 as quoted by Guiney Yollop, 2008, p. 67)

     Since I know there is no 'getting it right', this is my effort to define the nuance and contours of my learning in the Research Colloquium course. There are three layers to my research and scholarly experiences that I'll present as evidence of understanding of concepts, theories and issues in the Cognition and Learning field of study. These layers will influence and impact the next steps in my scholarly writing, reading, and conceptual frameworks. I gained an understanding of the variety and variations between and within dissertation documents as a representation of expertise in a field of study.

     First, the reader is as important as the writing. After reading over fifteen doctoral dissertations and scouring research proposals, I've determined that reading, writing, and representation can be what I want it to be, as long as I provide justification and relate an effective story. This does not mean, as a writer, that I don't have a responsibility to my audience as I create a text that "refuses to be read in simplistic, linear, incontrovertible terms" (Korteweg, 2014, p. 659). This comprehensive portfolio, while written specifically for an audience that includes my research committee, may reach beyond academic readers since it is openly shared in this web format. The reader is a primary concern as I make word choices, explore concepts, define terminology, and structure the pages, paths, tags, annotations, notes, and media that are afforded by the Scalar software. While this labyrinthian portfolio may appear to have a linear path that may feel familiar to a reader, there are rhizomes underlying the unicursal pathway, with diversions to "enliven the content, and in turn waken the techno-circuits of information to the play of reading across, down, into, and backwards" (Dixon, 2014). I incorporate, as suggested by Graff and Birkenstein (2018), a familiar structure, a suggested direction through the document, a bilingual vocabulary that is both academic and vernacular, and a meta-text woven throughout.  

     Connected to this layer focusing on the reader, is the notion of an alternative representation for my academic writing. While the intention and vision of an alternative representation for my dissertation has been present in my thinking since the beginning of the PhD journey, it was during the Research Colloquium course that I made a firm and conscious decision. I intend to "be a force of change in transforming the representations and dissemination of educational knowledge" (Korteweg, 2014, p. 655) as I create this comprehensive portfolio in an alternative representation (Alt-Diss) of my scholarly and academic work, using an openly accessible, digital file format, as seen here in this Scalar production. During the Research Colloquium course, I diligently researched how the Alt-Diss format fits into my ontological, epistemological, ideological, and research frameworks. Rereading Guba and Lincoln (2005) crystallized the need to "experiment with narratives that expand the range of understanding, voice, and storied variations in human experience" while reflexively interrogating and deconstructing "forms of tyranny embedded in representational practices" (p. 211), since this rings true to my beliefs and practices. I continue to explore crystallization as a research methodology since it:

"combines multiple forms of analysis and multiple genres of representation into a coherent text or series of related texts, building a rich and openly partial account of a phenomenon that problematizes its own construction, highlights researchers’ vulnerabilities and positionality, makes claims about socially constructed meanings, and reveals the indeterminacy of knowledge claims even as it makes them" (Ellingson, 2009, p. 4).

While this work began in earnest during the Research Colloquium course (DeWaard, 2019, Nov 14), I continue to research and write about this #AltDiss format in the Non Linear Pathway section of this comprehensive portfolio, as this writing is a precursor to justifications, and discussions about validity and reliability.

     Secondly, I needed to rethink my conceptual framework for the research proposal that was a required assignment for this course. Grant and Osanloo (2014) helped clarify how my theoretical frameworks inform and shape the conceptual frameworks for my research. In DS1, I focused my efforts on phenomenology, and used this framework in my scholarly writing for grant applications, as seen in the Academic Growth Through Scholarly Tasks section of this document. When writing the draft and a skeleton of my research proposal, I continued to read and research in an effort to fully understand the unique difference between ethnography, digital ethnography, phenomenology, and phenomenography research methodologies. This work will continue as I prepare for the upcoming comprehensive portfolio, and the subsequent research proposal, and for the defence of this comprehensive portfolio.

     The third contour in the Research Colloquium course explores the notion of feedback. The course had a sequence of feedback cycles built into the structure and development of the research proposal. While the course requirement was contained within the learning management system, available to only my classmates and instructor, I made a conscious choice to slip into the open, web ecosphere to seek feedback from classmates, trusted collaborators and critical friends. Using as a feedback tool, I was able to get and give comments to feedback posted by others, something I continue to do with this comprehensive portfolio. I reflected on this feedback not only in terms of my PhD research work, but also in my light of my teaching practice In this way, I stepped further into visible web spaces as a researcher and scholar, re-positioning myself from periphery to active-member (Brockmann, 2011) in open educational ecospheres where scholars and researchers in the field of open education write, research, and reflect in both formal and informal discourses. This openly visible presence as an academic is further explored in the Scholarly Tasks section of this portfolio. 

     As a result of the Research Colloquium course, I have a draft of a research proposal that I can further revise and refine in preparation for PhD research. I have gained a greater understanding of the interwoven nature of reading and writing, particularly in an Alt-Diss format. I will further explore issues of self / identity, perspective, issues of attention, sequence, time / timeline, and context (Keats, 2009). The complexity and diversity of text formats will impact interpretation, meaning making, and understanding (Keats, 2009) within this comprehensive portfolio. In future dissertation documents, the representation of visual (alpha-numeric text, image, icon, video), auditory (voice, music), and media elements (word clouds, data visualizations, memes, sketch-notes, graphic maps), will impact the reading, writing, and feedback processes. In this Alt-Diss format, I am responding to the call to push into new ways of “challenging hegemonic conceptions regarding legitimate modes of scholarly inquiry, analysis and representation” (Literat et al., 2018, p. 566). 

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