Mapping School Processes: the Power of Relationships

Relationships matter.  This mantra guided my work as a secondary classroom teacher in the United States.  I entered my classroom each day knowing that quality teaching and learning only happens when quality relationships exist between teachers and students.

I am finding that this mantra is still very much relevant as I transition from classroom teacher to researcher. Relationships are critical when trying to secure research partner schools.  More significantly, my belief in the importance of relationships now guides my methodological approach to understanding schools.


Walking for Learning: A Supervisor’s Perspective

Walking yourself to physical and mental health has become a thing, but like the Knight in Alice in Wonderland, I claim: “It’s my own invention!” At least when it comes to walking supervisions. Some of my former students, as far back as seven-eight years, may remember moments when, after a long and frustrating session in my hot, dark office I suggested going for a walk. The response was always utter confusion: “What do you mean, let’s go for a walk?” I mean, we have been sitting here for a while, our brains are overheated, we need to move, see green grass, trees and flowers, breathe fresh air. It will restore our energy. It will make our discussion more efficient. And it did. A short walk around the beautiful Homerton gardens was refreshing and inspiring. Sometimes we would simply go on with supervision; sometimes we’d talk about unrelated matters. The outcomes were tangible.

My PhD Experience as a Single Mother

As my country, the United Arab Emirates, celebrates its second-ever Emirati Women’s Day (August 28 2018), I wanted to share some personal reflections about being a single mother navigating the PhD experience here at Cambridge. When I first told my family in the Emirates that I had been accepted to a PhD programme at the University of Cambridge, my father’s bewildered reaction was to proclaim, ‘What for? You’re divorced and you have a son. Your future is over.’

How to Get the Most Out of an Academic Conference

Whether you will stay in academia or not, attending conferences might be one of your must-do things during your graduate studies. Attending conferences is a chance for you to meet people in your field, network with academics and peers, and get different ideas which could build into something greater and enlighten your way of thinking in your field of study. However, getting the most out of any conference requires some preparation. Based on our experiences in attending conferences and in chairing the organizing team of the recently held 2018 Kaleidoscope Conference we would like to share a few tips that we hope readers will find helpful.

PhD Money Matters: Funding a Final Year

Most funding bodies fund PhD research for three years (full time) and five years for part time students, maybe four at a push for full-timers, and six for part timers. Other students successfully plan to self-fund, or partially self-fund for the initial three or five years. However, we all know (on the down-low) that many projects extend beyond the funding/planned period. Many of these circumstances are beyond the candidate’s control: delays in receiving equipment; faulty machinery; participants leaving the research prematurely; a series of failed experiments; unexpected results, or simply that you need more time to think and make sense of your data. So what do people do? Where does the elusive fourth or sixth year funding come from? Are you suddenly liable for your institution’s fees?

Writing Academic Abstracts Made Simple

It is a common occurrence in academic circles to encounter vague and ambiguous abstracts both in journal articles and conference papers. It is easy to fall in this trap but we need to resist the temptation and make the abstract as little abstract as possible. But how can we actually achieve this? In this post I will share my personal abstract rules that I developed through my extensive experience with academic writing and reviewing.

Makin’ Gainz: The Epistemology of the Gym and the Classroom

I was told that the most important thing a PhD student can do whilst finishing their thesis (aside from writing, of course) is to do some form of regular physical activity. Hours of writing can be incredibly sedentary; tea breaks can easily turn into tea and cake breaks. And how many of us work with a bowl of chocolates within an arm’s reach?

Conversely, the multifaceted benefits of working out for our physical and mental wellbeing are well documented. Aside from keeping weight, blood pressure, and waistline in check, exercise provides a jolt of endorphins. Even a brisk 10 minute walk has significant benefits.