Journey or quest, a simple option or ongoing challenge? 

I was warned in the initial weeks of my doctoral programme, during induction, that my research title would inevitably change over time. Especially in the first few months. This was reassuring as moving from a research proposal into the serious business of being a postgraduate research (PGR) student is a whole new territory. My original title, and therefore my focus changed massively once I began the literature review process. It followed new directions, took on wider views before returning close to my original plan. I now had fewer travel bags, but each was much heavier. 

The role of PGR students is to create their own ‘new certainties’ and make a sound contribution to an existing body of knowledge. But choices need to be made. To seek out new pathways through a familiar landscape, striking out in a new direction? But familiar landscapes may turn out to be well-travelled lanes with few opportunities for new explorations apart from rutted and stony tracks. Or to venture into unknown, unmapped territory where progress may be exacting, even overwhelming.  

Choice, problems and implications: 

  • Could the route we take affect how we benefit ourselves as researchers? 
  • Could choosing between familiar or unexplored territory shift the benefit focus from our ‘research’ to ‘ourselves as researchers’? 
  • Developing ourselves as researchers enhances our research abilities. 
  • Developing our research skills improves our standing as researchers. 
  • Is choice dependent on our career path or our research specialism? On our own image of ourselves as researchers? Or our research stakeholders? 

Setting out and views from established researchers  

Postgraduate research is about action rather than attitude. Its nature is to review current belief or knowledge and to uncover the gaps that will determine our position for new study. But is this realistic? Brunet argues that the journey “has important consequences on a student’s current and future professional life”, (Brunet, 2022, p. 1032), and active journeying towards a professional goal is sufficient. For Leshem the journey is a “transition phase of developing new roles” (Cast, 2003, cited in Lesham, 2020, p. 170), and underscores a fundamental characteristic as “identity construction, rites of passage, tensions and resolutions” (Wisker et al., 2010, quoted in Lesham, 2020, p. 170). It is much more about attitude, building a research identity as the ‘student’ transitions into ‘research student’ and emerges as ‘researcher’. 

PGR students have charge of their research because ultimately the prize at journey’s end is theirs. To be accepted into the PhD programme there is an expectation that your title and research questions are decided prior to your ‘upgrade’ assessment. You’ve scoured the literature, submitted your report, and perhaps presented your research to fellow academics before the upgrade viva.  My understanding is of a finality, a shutting of the gate to further exploration just as your doctoral journey is confirmed. An expectation to keep to a focus that is largely uninformed at this stage, is a big ask. 

Owens, et al. (2019) found that many doctoral students remain unclear about the outcomes from these deciding way-markers and recommend “providing opportunities for the development of a number of personal qualities as well as the professional profile of the students” (Owens, et al., 2019, p. 109). 

Where next? 

Continuing literature reviews is a doctoral research requirement and over the following two to six years there may be new avenues of exploration and new knowledge in our field. We may have new questions, a new focus.   

Perhaps your doctoral journey is towards becoming a professional academic, treating the process as a project in your career development (Brunet, 2022). You’ve maintained your focus, followed the guidebooks, and avoiding unmapped paths. You arrive satisfied, having achieved your quest. You might explore or relax by the pool? Is this enough? 

Perhaps your drive for research and to develop yourself personally and professionally is powered by a passion for learning (Mantai, 2019). Taking detours made your journey more challenging yet rewarding. Reaching your destination only leaves much more to explore. Will you be satisfied? 

Quest or journey? Answers on a postcard. 

As novice researchers is there intrinsic value in a quest that benefits a professional goal? Can a doctoral journey conceived from a desire for new knowledge, sharing insights, and challenging established perceptions succeed? 

Should the choice be polarised when, ultimately, the doctoral research goal is to avoid stepping into others’ footprints, to face the challenge of discovery head-on, and to offer inspiration to those who follow?  

(Words, 745) 


Brunet, M. (2022) ‘Conducting a PhD as a project: sharing insights from my doctoral journey’, International journal of managing projects in business, 15(7), pp. 1032–1047. Available at: 

Leshem, S. (2020) ‘Identity formations of doctoral students on the route to achieving their doctorate’, Issues in educational research, 30(1), p. 169-182. Available at:  

Mantai, L. (2019) ‘“Feeling more academic now”: Doctoral stories of becoming an academic’, The Australian Educational Researcher (2019) 46:137–153. Available at:  

Owens, A. et al. (2020) ‘Student reflections on doctoral learning: challenges and breakthroughs’, Studies in graduate and postdoctoral education, 11(1), pp. 107–122. Available at:  

Marilyn Long

I am a first year, full-time PGR student in the IET school. I am an autistic researcher, and my focus is to investigate inclusive provision and support for autistic students in higher education. I first studied with the OU in 1980 and since then gained my B.Ed degree and worked as a Primary school teacher, Early years co-ordinator, and staff development manager. After a gap of almost 20 years I enrolled for PG study with the OU in online and distance education before applying for a place as a PGR student.

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EdD Thesis – another success: Investigating the Efficacy of Online Text Reconstruction Exercises

Congratulations to PostGraduate Researcher,  David Gann (2023) for the successful completion of his EdD thesis.

Investigating the Efficacy of Online Text Reconstruction Exercises for Facilitating the Use of Metadiscourse Markers in First-Year Japanese University Students’ Argumentative Writing. EdD thesis The Open University.


Photo by <a href="">Max Chen</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
  This thesis examines pedagogical merits of online text reconstruction exercises (OTREs) and examines their efficacy in teaching argumentative writing (AW) and students’ experience of learning through them. It looks at a specific type of OTRE called WebSequiturs and that application’s unique pedagogical affordances. Key research questions ask to what extent OTREs can influence EFL university students to use select metadiscourse markers (MDMs)
in written argument; and to what extent those exercises can guide students to use those MDMs appropriately. A third research question asks about students’ perceptions of their experiences completing OTREs. This study was conducted at Tokyo University of Science and involved nine students in a first-year undergraduate compulsory English course. This study strives for an interpretive understanding of participants’ experiences. Hence, I pursue this topic through action research. I also take a mixed-methods approach, using both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data shows that following OTRE sessions, frequency of the use of selected MDMs in participants’ writing increased. The variety of MDMs having similar meanings likewise increased. There was also an increase in the range of communicative functions across which MDMs were used. Moreover, the unique uses of select MDMs also increased. Finally, there was an increase in appropriacy of use. Qualitative data showed that during the OTREs participants sometimes reached metalinguistic levels of awareness, as evidenced by their utterances. These utterances were frequently followed by increased levels of appropriacy of MDM use in participants’ writing. During semi-structured interviews, participants responded, evincing the view that OTREs had played an important role in their developing use of MDMs in their AW. The findings of this study suggest that OTREs are helpful in influencing English learners to become autonomous users of selected MDMs and that they can also guide learners to use MDMs appropriately. The findings also show that participants understood the purpose of the OTREs and valued the exercises for their linguistic instruction and for their collaborative qualities. In my conclusion, I recommend that universities implement programs using similar OTREs and train their teachers in how to maximise their efficacy in teaching.

You can read David’s abstract here: THESIS(GANN)C8846053.pdf (



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Hot off the Press: EdD Thesis

Relationships, Assets and Social Capital: A Case Study Review of Youth Mentoring

by Dr Catherine Comfort


Youth mentoring, where young people (mentees) work with adult mentors to achieve change, is a popular government and third sector intervention. Past research, concentrating on quantitative analysis of US programmes, concludes that mentoring achieves significant but modest change. Such research assumes that changes from mentoring can be externally identified and measured, often without hearing the views of those involved.

This study investigates the experiences and expectations of mentoring from the perspective of mentees, mentors, referring agencies and programme coordinators. Using social capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 2000), the study explores how mentoring relationships are built and their role in bringing about change.

A local authority youth mentoring programme in the UK formed the case study for investigating experiences of mentoring and perceptions of change. To allow nuanced exploration of views, an interpretive, qualitative approach was taken. Data were collected from mentors, mentees, referring agencies and coordinators via semi-structured interviews, survey, diaries, focus groups and programme feedback. Data collection and thematic analysis were informed by social capital theory.

Findings indicated that mentees actively participating in the mentoring process benefitted most. Mentees experienced unusual levels of equality in the purposeful and trusting mentoring relationship. Drawing on the relationship’s social capital, mentees enhanced their assets and enjoyed emotional support, learning and challenge. Collaborating with mentors, mentees achieved previously inaccessible outcomes. Assets developed could be used in other relationships.

The study also concludes that social capital and asset acquisition provide a theoretical basis for understanding the mentoring process. By encouraging asset and social capital exchange, mentoring develops mentees’ self-awareness, agency, and confidence, increasing the likelihood of resilience. This knowledge may be transferable to other programmes and relationships. Supporting young people’s knowledge of their needs and strengths through mentoring may contribute to their wellbeing post 2019 Covid pandemic.

You may read the full thesis here: 

Catherine Comfort | OU people profiles (

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What are the challenges of practitioner-researchers in your field of practice?

The Second-Order Researcher

A practitioner-researcher or second-order researcher is an ‘insider’ academic who studies a phenomenon in their workplace or profession and outside the university. The first-hand researcher, or ‘outsider’, is the academic whose career lies within the university and who does not practice the profession or workplace they study (Losito, Pozzo & Somekh, 1998).

The appreciation of practitioner research in the field of education is a relatively new one, and research methodologies for professionals, such as Action Research (AR), were unheard of until Kurt Lewin coined the term in the 1940s (Baumfield, Hall & Wall, 2017). Later on, in 1996, Hargreaves (1996) suggested that the teaching profession could become a research-based profession similar to the medical one, which is established normality (Murray & Aymer, 2008). This blog post will present one issue, two possible solutions, and a question regarding research in professional practices, notably teaching, compared to the medical profession.


Murray and Aymer’s (2008) research points out a considerable difference between second-order medical research and the teaching profession. It explains that research and practice are easily combined and encouraged in the former, leading to promotion in medical practices. They note that the same is not valid for teachers whose lesson plans, activities and textbooks are not taken seriously by the Research Assessment Exercise (REF, 2021). This disparity is a shame because practitioners can often better recognise areas needing action (Costly, Elliot & Gibbs, 2010). In summary, this blog would like to raise the issue that the teaching profession is not respected academically. Therefore, teachers do not share their expertise as practitioners do in medicine.


As far as solutions are concerned, the following two possibilities are proposed:

  • If teachers were given similar encouragement as medical doctors, both financially and regarding career development, they might be more motivated to share their expertise through publication;
  • Understanding the theories feeding educational enquiry and the craft of academic writing would help teachers to navigate their way through academia and probably contribute towards improving their practices. These skills can be achieved by working towards a professional doctorate such as the EdD. Universities such as the Open University and others in Australia, North America, and the EU offer professional doctorates to teachers and other professionals (Barnacle, 2017). Another option could include education enquiry in teacher-training courses (Burnaford, Fischer & Hobson (2001).

Nevertheless, these solutions highlight two of the many challenges professionals face if they want to share their expertise with an academic audience. Practitioner research in all fields is often undervalued and compared adversely to university research (Thomson & Gunter, 2010). Furthermore, publishing in any area is competitive, and teachers, in particular, have difficulty publishing their work without adequate training in enquiry (Davis, 2019).


In conclusion, the question posed by this blog post regards your experience as a practitioner-researcher. What is the situation in your workplace? Are your colleagues interested in publishing? What are the challenges of second-order researchers in your field of practice?

By Lesley Fearn @lesleyfearn

I achieved my EdD in 2021 regarding learning and teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) using online community projects in secondary schools. This interest stems from more than thirty years of experience teaching English (as a Foreign Language) and English literature in state schools in the south of Italy. During this time, I have continually experimented with new approaches and techniques, especially with technology, to motivate students in their schooling. Other areas of interest include Fine Art and English literature that I studied as a BA and MA. As far as research is concerned, I am particularly interested in Action Research and sociocultural paradigms.
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Imposter syndrome, be gone!

baby dino

As I reflect on the end of EdD Year 2 and embark on Year 3, I am reminded by those who know me to consider and celebrate how far I have come. That is not a place I feel comfortable visiting, much less sharing. I’m not sure why that is, but I have been advised it may be the familiar imposter syndrome sitting on my shoulder. That little voice that eats away at your confidence. That says, “You are not quite good enough…yet.”  I have become more mindful of the need as a fledgling researcher to quieten that voice if I am to step into the world of education research with my voice to be heard. So, here goes…my first blog about my research area.

I came into teaching after having children and a career outside of education. Previous life experience and through twenty years in education, I have become cognizant of the significant role trust plays in the success of teams. As a teacher, I  experienced the positives and negatives of leadership. As a leader, I have created the positives and negatives of leadership and dealt with the consequences. On reflection, through it all trust has been a prevailing dynamic, both given and received.

Research into trust as a factor in effective team building, leading to successful organisations, is very well documented in numerous domains. The role of trust in schools is represented in a wealth of research from numerous viewpoints including principals, teachers, parents, students and administrators. But in amongst all this knowledge, I have yet to find a way in which I, as a leader, could take stock of the trust relationships in my schools in a meaningful way. Yes, I could create a questionnaire and take some blunt data from it, but I actually wanted something more meaningful, context specific and useful. I began exploring the possibilities in my M.Ed. and have continued this journey of discovery into my EdD.

So, what am I doing? Exploring the role of trust in school improvement, as heard through the voices of teachers. Using a phenomenological study of a group of schools, I am exploring the nuances of teachers’ experiences of trust relationships with principals, and their views of its impact on school improvement. From their knowledge, I want to explore if it is possible to create a framework to support senior leadership in ascertaining the strength and weaknesses of trust relationships with teachers in their school. Thereby providing them with an informed benchmark to aid in strategically strengthening the trust relationships which are an essential contribution to successful school improvement.

It has not been an easy endeavour so far, but then what EdD is. Studying for a professional doctorate while working full-time alongside studying, is an epic test of endurance and tenacity! The wealth of material available to consider has seen me visit many interesting rabbit holes, several of which I hope to revisit in the future! The intangible nature of trust, and its personal experience by individuals (Van Maele et al.,2014; Walker et. al., 2011)  has been a challenge to conceptualise into a phenomenological study within education. But I’m getting there, sifting through the myriad of new knowledge I have and continue to acquire. Finding data collection tools which are reliable with a strong validity, either from within in education research or the wider world, has been an unexpectedly demanding exploration. Consequently I am evolving a distinct approach using repertory grids (Emerald Publishing, 2022) to gather subjective data. Thematic exploration of the data will begin my analysis and I am establishing how this might look in a phenomenological study.

The study is very much an evolving one, with many questions still unanswered. This is something I have had to learn to be patient with, as I have grappled to want to have ‘finished’ sections of my thesis. That need to tick chapters off as I go through the stages, when in reality, over a number of months, the skill lies in working with the whole developing document as new material is assimilated to support the study. It has finally dawned on me that there is a great deal of editing and re-editing of material, but in order to do that you have to have written something first. Sounds obvious I know! Therefore my resolution for year 3 is to write every day, no matter the size of the paragraph. I know this will be a challenge because I am much more an avid reader than a writer, but I need to find a greater balance between the two if I am to make sufficient progress towards constructing a complete thesis by the end of year 4. Perhaps then, finally that little voice will whisper, “Lynne, it is good enough, submit.” I’ll let you know.



Emerald Publishing, 2022, website address,

Van Maele, D. van, Forsyth, P.B., Van Houtte, M. (2014) Trust and school life: the role of trust for learning, teaching. Leading and bridging. Dordrecht: Springer Verlag

Walker, K., Kutsyuruba, B., Noonan, B. (2011) ‘The fragility of trust in the world of school principals’, Journal of Educational Administration, 49(5), pp.471-494.



Lynne is a 3rd year part-time EdD Researcher, working around the day job as Executive Principal of a Primary standalone academy trust with 420 pupils. Having completed her Primary PGCE with the OU, she went on 18 years later to complete her M.Ed in Leadership & Management also with the OU. Her research area of interest is around the trust relationship between teachers and leaders and its role in school improvement

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Closing the gap!

Photo by Miki Czetti:

Racial inequality is becoming widely recognised in H.E. as a significant factor that affects attainment, employability and the earning potential of students who are from diverse backgrounds. The gaps in the awarding of ‘good’ degrees (a First or Higher Second) between White students and Black, some Asian and minoritized groups is a specific example of racial inequality in the Academy. This gap persists even when all other variables such as age, gender and prior attainment are controlled. In 2019, The Office for Students (OfS), the regulatory body for H.E, reported a 22pp gap between White and Black students and 10.5pp between White and Asian students. The causes are complex, exacerbated by how language and terminology is used, acronyms which homogenise diverse groups of people, and issues relating to participation and representation all underpinned by structural and institutional racism. The solutions require dismantling the Academy. 

Language and terminology impact how gaps are perceived and the way people are described. Initially the awarding gap was referred to as an ‘attainment gap’ with the blame focused on the individual for academic weakness, making the wrong course choices or having a lack of ability known as a deficit model. Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) or Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME, used by the sector) are broad terms which classify a range of marginalised groups. These terms have become politicised and are reductionist. ‘Minority’ suggests they are ‘marginal’ or less important. More Black and Asian students participate in H.E, in 2018-2019, 17.7% of university students were from Black, Asian, or mixed backgrounds. Although Black and Asian students are more likely to attend H.E they are awarded fewer ‘good’ degrees. Black and Asian people are underrepresented in senior and managerial positions in academic (the number of Black Professors in the UK for example, is only 1%) and professional services.  

The causes of the awarding gaps are a combination of complicated factors:  

  • Curricula and learning (including teaching and assessment practices) 

H.E curricula is mostly Eurocentric and one which Black, Asian and minoritized groups can’t see themselves reflected. Discriminatory assessment practices (e.g., writing in English, assumptions of previous educational experiences) favour some groups of students over others. 

  • Relationships between staff and students and among students 

Subtle, exclusionary attitudes and behaviours (unconscious and conscious biases) by teachers and students impact on teacher and student expectations and thus outcomes. Students may also have low expectations of themselves because of poor educational experiences.  

  • Psychosocial, identity factors and sense of belonging 

This is how academic confidence, motivation, the way students see themselves, student well-being, sense of belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualisation contribute to the gaps. Feeling isolated can impact on attainment. 

  • Social, cultural, and economic capital 

These students are less likely to use help-seeking strategies and may avoid formal teaching because they lack social capital; they are less aware of the advantages of networks and relationships. They don’t know how to navigate the hidden curriculum and because they’re more likely to be working, they have less economic capital and consequently time and energy for study.  

Solutions are still to be found as closing the awarding gap has only recently become a focus in H.E.

There are some things the Academy can do:  

  • Using the term awarding gap removes the onus from the individual and places responsibility with the awarding bodies. Alternative models to the deficit one can also be adopted, for example a framework of ‘Possible selves’ which explores students’ ‘hoped for’ or ‘ought to be self. This framework can help students create a positive identity, one where they see themselves as a student which gives them agency to seek support because they see themselves succeeding as a learner.  
  • Using more thoughtful, confident, specific and relevant terms to describe race and ethnicity instead of BAME/BME. 
  • Support students with transitioning to university with an induction model which is a process rather than an event to enable students integrate and feel as though they belong.  
  • Teach students how to tackle assessment to reduce anxiety and over-efforting (working twice as hard as other students).  
  • Develop a global, internationalised curriculum which recognizes different experiences and diversity and allows students to see themselves reflected.  
  • Increase representation in academic and professional services to create role models, increase aspirations and a greater sense of belonging.  
  • Educate students about the gaps and the how to access support. 

Some institutions have started to reduce their gaps and there is hope on the horizon.  

How aware were you of the awarding gaps before reading? 

by Rehana Awan

Rehana has worked at the OU in a variety of academic related and academic roles since joining in 2008. In June 2022, Rehana was appointed as a Lecturer in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Implementation in the School of Computing and Communications, part of the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Rehana is co-chair of the Black and Minority Ethnic staff network, a role she’s held for two years. She is also a committed Associate Lecturer, supporting students on DD102 Introducing the Social Sciences and she has also tutored on Access. Rehana has demonstrated her commitment to leading and managing teaching and learning as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association (FSEDA). As a professional doctoral student, Rehana is researching student narratives and degree awarding gaps at the OU, and she has set up a Community of Practice for other PGRs also investigating awarding gaps.

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What’s in a name? The influence of pseudonyms on research activities

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR from Pexels:

As researchers, we are ethically commanded to assure anonymity for participants engaging in research activities (BERA, 2018). Anonymisation often results in selection of participant pseudonyms by researchers to assist in preventing identification. An alias, or code name is assumed, often chosen by the research author without consultation with participants. The origin of the meaning alias resides in Latin as ‘at another time, elsewhere’ (Wordsense, 2021) which suggests an alternative identity is assumed, particularly because it should be distinct from participants’ real names. This can be particularly challenging within the field of social science when positive, professional relationships with participants brings potential for gathering valuable, rich data, to say nothing of perpetuating power imbalances between researcher and participant. Pseudonyms can therefore be a barrier to establishing participant relationships. It seems the idea of pseudonyms warrants careful consideration, though, because a name can be more important than first conceived.

Participants’ heritage and culture are often embodied in their name. Names can be inter-generationally adopted to demonstrate family attachments and respect for predecessors. Participants may not want to lose this sense of belonging with their family, particularly when researching sensitive subjects. Emotional connections with family can support and affirm the value of participants’ contributions to the research study which could help retention.  Conversely, pseudonyms which are representative of family members who have brought disrepute on the family could risk alienating participants from the study. The negative association with these names would not necessarily be known to the researcher. Worse still are pseudonyms which are codes, such as numbers or letters. This depersonalises participants and removes their identity as well as extracting their name from fieldwork. Whilst this is arguably more influential in qualitative studies than quantitative research, the scientific study of human society and social relationships is quite possibly hampered when participant identities are altered.

Shakespeare (1597) disregarded the significance of names in Romeo and Juliet, arguing the person inside is more important than their name. But our social constructionism attaches importance to names which demonstrate who we are inside. Names are often aligned to religion, class, age, socio-economic circumstances, geographical locations and so on, and as a result influence our positionality and how we view the world. Within research, participants’ names might impact upon the research experience. In a recent study I tried to avoid these complexities by asking participants to select their own pseudonyms. Rather than avert these issues, it presented different problems. Several participants chose to use their initials, which had potential to identify them in a small, narrative study. In addressing this, one participant asked to be called by the first initial of their surname, preceded by ‘Mr’. As the only male in the study this insufficiently managed the risk of identification. The participant subsequently suggested the pseudonym Churchill, explaining this was patriotic. This names conjures various understandings, although perhaps not a general sense of awareness to social injustice. Seeking clarification, I enquired ‘Asking for a friend……. the politician or the dog?’. And the response?


by Sarah Mander

Sarah Mander is a Staff Tutor in ECYS, and Associate Lecturer for E102. Sarah is currently studying for a Doctorate in Education, researching the characteristics of child-centred practice within Early Help workforces. Her research interests emanate from a career in early intervention and preventative work in children’s services. Sarah also authors student wellbeing bulletins and leads the ECYS Student Voice and Wellbeing group.


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Ethical Challenges of Research in Secondary Schools: All is well that ends well

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The topic of my thesis developed from thirty years of teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in secondary schools in the south of Italy. Over the years, I have seen and experimented with many teaching approaches, but one that I found to be particularly intriguing was what I have named Online Community Projects (OCPs).

My experience of working with minors meant that ethical thinking came effortlessly. For example, teachers cannot do anything outside their everyday teaching without obtaining signed permission from parents or informing the headteacher and colleagues in writing. In addition, the experience helped me to foresee complications, such as taking students out of other teachers’ lessons or missing their buses home if I asked them to stay after school. In addition, as an insider, I knew that if I offered rewards, my intentions might be misinterpreted, so care was needed for every decision.

The biggest problem was finding the right time to do interviews, and I waited for an elusive moment that only came once during the whole initial study. I learnt from my mistakes and interviewed during my lessons with the classes in question for the primary research. I put the students into groups to work on their OCP activities, and the group that finished first was the one I would interview. Another helpful solution was to use open-question questionnaires with tick-boxes that gave the participants information about the research and the opportunity to refuse or give consent for their answers to be used for publication purposes. However, analysing these decisions was complicated and messy. Therefore I drew up a table following the BERA and Stutchbury and Fox (2009).

One of the most critical issues arising from my initial study was that my data did not teach me anything that I didn’t already know, and I wanted to learn something new. After substantial reading of literature such as Hammersley (2012), Scotland (2012) and Cresswell (2003), I realised that my paradigm was not aligned with my ontological and epistemological viewpoints. Once I had understood this, everything fell into place, and I realised that I had to change my methodology. I decided to use Action Research and Burns’ (1999) iterative framework. This process led me to rethink my research framework and data analysis. The discovery of Stake’s (2006) Multiple Case Study Analysis was a significant breakthrough for me. It led me to introduce three contrasting voices and define five multiple cases connected through the use of OCPs but with different perspectives.

These changes revolutionised my research and understanding of myself and my worldviews. It also led me to make an important discovery that I had no idea about beforehand, transforming my teaching practice and research. All is well that ends well, as they say. Has anyone else been disappointed with the results of their initial study? Please let us know about your experiences and how you overcame them.

Dr. Lesley June Fearn @lesleyfearn

I achieved my EdD in 2021 regarding learning and teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) using online community projects in secondary schools. This interest stems from more than thirty years of experience teaching English (as a Foreign Language) and English literature in state schools in the south of Italy. During this time, I have continually experimented with new approaches and techniques, especially with technology, to motivate students in their schooling. Other areas of interest include Fine Art and English literature that I studied as a BA and MA. As far as research is concerned, I am particularly interested in Action Research and sociocultural paradigms.
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experimenting, taking risks, and testing the boundaries

“Creativity doesn’t come from laughter and fun: It comes from experimenting, taking risks, and testing the boundaries.”                                                   (Resnick, 2017, p. 128)

Photo by Steve Johnson:










This is the first of several posts intended to celebrate the fun, enjoyment and creativity in research unleashed by all who participated in the recent WELS PGR conference (21st May 2022). Over the next few months the blog will host abstracts, images and bios of each willing presenter. But before we get started with that, I want to say just how fantastic our key note #creativeHE were.

#creativeHE provided an abstract for their key note: 
We will take you on a journey of exploration on how experimentation, creativity and play can add that special ingredient to your research recipe and transform your experience and outputs as a doctoral researcher. Openness of mind, practice and research helps us make novel connections and see what we have in front of us in a new light as we use our individual and collective curiosity and imagination to un- and discover hidden gems based on our own inquiry, connecting with others and their ideas and perspectives. We will share some of our work within the international and cross-boundary Creativity for Learning in HE community (#creativeHE) for educators, researchers, students and the wider public, to illustrate the power of the community for experimentation and risk taking, the connections we have made and what we have achieved together. We hope to provide food-for-thought and help (doctoral) researchers consider creative approaches in their research for deeper and more diverse inquiry and illustrate how community and networks can be fundamental in creating connected experiences, boost experimentation and risk taking and build researcher confidence and competencies.

About #creativeHE
Members of #creativeHE share a common interest in creativity and innovation in learning, teaching and research. They are members of staff and students. The #creativeHE team consists currently of 15 members in 14 different institutions and organisations in 3 countries (10 core and 5 wider team members). The community is open to anybody who is interested in exploring creativity in learning and teaching within and beyond the UK.

Website: #creativeHE (
Twitter: #creativeHE

#creativeHE are hosting their

The 4th Annual #creativeHE Jam – Quiet Creativity on

8th June 2022, 12.30-14.00 UK time

Why not join them. More info here: The 4th Annual #creativeHE Jam – Quiet Creativity – #creativeHE (

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and the winners are ….

Congratulations to the winners of the second Open University WELS Professional Doctorate (EdD and DHSC) Poster Competition, 2022. Poster are a great way to represent your research creatively using images, shape and colour.  

Mel Green, Teaching through the Screen in 3rd place

Lynne Stabler, The role of Trust in School Improvement, in 2nd place

Jon Leer, The practice of Seclusion Room Use in Secondary Schools, in 1st place

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