Thursday, April 05, 2007

Conferencing in Chicago and Montreal

Following extensive planning during the past nine months, tomorrow will see me on a long flight to Chicago for the AERA Conference from 9-13 April. In addition to interacting with researchers from around the globe, it will be great to be participating in the inaugural meeting of the AREA Special Interest Group (SIG) on doctoral education; engaging with members of the SIG on narrative inquiry; and gaining external feedback on the paper I’ll be presenting.

After that, it’s off to the Challenging Research Pedagogies Conference to be held at McGill University from 15-18 April. This promises to be highly stimulating and challenging given the working nature of the exercise. I have prepared a two-page summary on behalf of the group with whom I have been participating in online dialogue since August 2006. It was startling to find last month that we had generated well over 10,000 words during our continuous emailing on issues pertaining to doctoral practices linked principally to disciplinary differences.

It will be good to meet and receive reports from the other nine groups that have been conducting on-line conversations as well, although I suspect that the level of interaction could be quite low in some groups. People are so busy with their academic practices and personal commitments that the idea of an online discussion can loom as an unwelcome distraction. Establishing a balance between structure and flexibility among groups at the conference will be critical. Too little structure and groups can flounder in terms of getting on with the writing tasks that are envisaged. Too much and participants can feel constrained.