Sunday, 5 September 2010

Early PhD steps: living with 'messyness'.

One of the reasons why I guess it's tricky creating an easy 'flow' of early blog posts about my PhD journey is that things have not yet crystalised for me. That is fine, and important in it's own way - but for many of us at the start of a long(ish) journey, there is also a need for certaintly and milestones. As I look back, I will no doubt see such milestones in the reading, conversations, mind maps, thoughts on the bike commute to work and more.

I'm reminded of Jerome Bruners' idea of the 'spiral curriculum' in which (usually, we think of children) revisit our experiences and refine our approaches, deepening our 'learning' each time. The spiral curriculum recognises that learning happens not in our artificial 'blocks' of educational learning, but in smaller, bite sized elements that match our readiness to learn. That's my excuse for grabbing bits of time here and there, anyway!

I love Bruners' thinking about intuition and the conditions for productive thinking. I could do with a bit of that sometimes in these early days, I think. I remind myself that some of the (sometimes seemingly unconnected) elements of what I think about, make notes on, read, think and talk about do actually have connections. That is the nature of looking into a complex issue - I am exploring these relationships. I am careful not to 'make my mind up' - the research data needs to do that - but I am developing an initial familiarity with ideas, elements and so on. 

The nature of this journey means that I have not 'returned' to these ideas enough yet to even fluently talk about all of them, but I trust the process and get immersed without getting freaked out or overwhelmed by the desire to pin it all down.