I am currently writing up the year 2 portfolio for my professional doctorate and today am focusing on the reflective entry for this assessment. This requires learners to explore what they are planning to research, why they are researching their chosen area and how this will impact on them as practitioners and people. Part of this involves pulling together reflective pieces written throughout the year to inform the narrative within the portfolio.
Having looked over my blogs an interesting pattern has emerged- dyslexia and research- particularly my emerging role as a researcher with dyslexia. The last few months have heightened my awareness of my dyslexia. I am currently working on a 14,000 word submission and it is proving difficult to get across in writing what is in my head. An unforeseen deadline a couple of weeks ago was difficult to manage despite being super-organised. To top it of an accepted journal article has taken forever to write up and to get to the standard required for publication. This is mostly because I have struggled with the sequencing of my ideas. All these are further complicated by trying to juggle the day job and being Mum.
Curious as ever I decided to conduct a quick literature search on this area. I was not prepared for the paucity of literature there appears to be on the topic- particularly the lived experiences of doctorate learners with dyslexia. I sent a tweet on this thought and the replies I had confirmed this. It was comforting to hear from Kerry Pace @diverselearners that she supports doctorate learners with dyslexia. Other replies indicated that individuals with dyslexia do complete doctorates (phew!). One person highlighted that the viva was the easy part- the difficult part was the volume of writing.
Of the literature I did find one indicated that a good relationship with supervisors was key (Collins, 2015). This included good communication, willingness to listen and flexibility. It also highlighted the key dilemma for supervisors and learners where the pressures for timely completions of tasks. (See note above on an unexpected deadline). Above all it acknowledged it is doable but it is a hard road ahead. During my search I also found the PREMIA report (2004) Access to Research: Institutional Issues for Disabled Postgraduate Research Students. Although personally I do not like the use of the word “issues” in the title this is now on my reading list.
So I am sat here wondering if being a researcher with dyslexia is a viable combination. Just like my decisions to avoid subjects in secondary school which involved high volumes of reading and writing and in place focus on practical subjects do individuals with dyslexia venture into research careers? I was reminded of a previous blog on how as a trainee radiographer and learning I was dyslexic there was a gap in the literature on whether dyslexia and radiography were compatible. It was another seven years before any published data was available to confirm they were. This was not a novel idea to me- but it made it more “socially acceptable”. Furthermore it helped improve other people’s appreciation of what it is like to be a radiographer with dyslexia.
This blog is not meant to be a BMW session. Alongside referencing this entry I have included parts of this record into the project planning document. The annual DSA grant application rounds are circled in the Gantt chart and managing unforeseen deadlines are in the risk register. However on a larger scale there is clearly a gap in the literature on this topic particularly the lived experiences of those who work as researchers or at least have completed, or in some cases not completed doctorates. I personally need some role-models and some reassurance that this is doable. Above all I want to learn how others have navigated this interesting combination. Surely if Albert Einstein could make it work it is possible.
- Collins, B (2015) Reflections on doctoral supervision: drawing from the experiences of students with additional learning needs at two universities. Teaching in Higher Education. 20 (6) pp587-600
*I saw these daffodils on one of my “thinking time” walks. I was struck how alike they all were- but there were a few which were slightly different in colour. A very apt picture for this blog theme.