a line up of post it notes

I am now just past the first 6 months into my postgraduate research project at the University of Leeds.

I have made it through the first formal progress report stage, I have made the first piece of my Practice-As-Research, completed various training courses, taught my first entire module, wrote more words than I ever knew I had in me, read more than I probably did over the course of my entire undergraduate degree and generally settled into what is a significant turn in my career and practice…

Doing a PhD is a bit of a strange thing. It is the kind of work that is both intensive and slow; it’s a studentship and a professional practice; it’s becoming an expert in realising how little you know… 

Up to now, I have generally been the kind of person who tries to run before they can walk… grabbing at opportunities  to try new things, rarely ever stopping to pause and reflect. This began to shift a little, not just since I started on my doctoral training journey, but in fact ever since I put my research proposal together. 

This will probably make sense to those of you who are or have been on a similar journey – as a practice, the PhD gently forces you into a reflective state. You are teaching yourself to think in different ways about each and every thing that you are doing. You look for connections you didn’t know were possible before.

I am not suggesting a PhD or academic practice are the only instances where this can happen, but rather that the PhD makes this way of working/being a new default. What used to be things I wished to make time for are now becoming the core of my work. It’s a luxury, really.

Reflection happens in many different ways. Some are more instinctive than others. Some leave formal traces by nature while others dissipate before you can properly catch them.

I want to be able to keep a record of my evolving reflections. It has become clear to me that the ability to critically look back, to take stock and to notice my own development are some of the most important tools for my learning. 

Over the next six months, I have promised myself to experiment with diverse methods for engaging in and marking the process of reflection. I hope that in that time, I will find methods which are sustainable for me and will seamlessly integrate themselves in my day to day practice. 

I would love to hear from as many people as possible about what works for you… Do you, like my PCI colleague Clare Danek, keep a stitch journal? Do you blog or vlog? Do you post it or bullet journal? Do you have a coach?

I look forward to finding out about others’ reflective practices, and if all goes well, I will follow up with a post reflecting on my findings…

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