methodology reflection

Research update #59: I’m back – what did I miss?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

I took a little time off – as it appears many of my fellow candidates are – due to the plague and the impact it is having on, well, everything. Work in the online education space has been frantic and it seemed like a good time not to try to do too much.

One thing that I’m very conscious of now is the fact that the role and value (at least hopefully perceptions of value) of edvisors has changed now. I know this will impact what I’m looking at but it’s not really clear yet how. Academics are absolutely far more aware that we exist and largely seem to be appreciative of this fact. What does this mean for my main research question?

What strategies are used in HE to promote understanding of the roles and demonstrate the value of edvisors among academic staff and more broadly within the institution?

To be honest, I’ve been thinking for a while now that this isn’t the right question anyway. It doesn’t explain why I’m doing this research (the problem) and it moves straight into looking for a narrow set of solutions for an assumed problem. This problem being that academics and management don’t know what edvisors do or what they contribute. It also assumes that edvisors and edvisor units have the time, energy, skill or political capital to develop and implement formal strategies to address this.

The heart of the issue is really, to put it plainly, why don’t people respect our skills, experience and knowledge and take our advice seriously? Which seems possibly a bit pointed or needy as a research question but that’s not hard to tweak. So this is something that I’m thinking seriously about at the moment.

Something else is the fact that I’ve never been entirely happy with my methodology. Unfortunately, as someone who hasn’t done a lot of research before – at least at this scale – I’m dealing with a lot of unknown unknowns. How much data do you need for a good thesis? People have said to me recently that the best PhD is a done one, so maybe the question is just how much data do you need for a thesis – but I feel like if I’m putting in the time, it needs to be good.

Generally my approach when faced with a big project is to gather up everything that seems to have some value and throw it at the wall to see what sticks. Then it is just a gradual process of filtering and refining. The problem is that the scope of “everything” has expanded to cover edvisors across three roles, academics and leaders in potentially 40+ universities around Australia, as well as policy documents, job ads and position descriptions, organisational structures and whatever else crops up along the way. Given my ties to the TELedvisors community, I’d hope that this group will also play a substantial part of what I’m doing.

But maybe this can be done more cleverly.

Could there be enough material just in the edvisor community? Even in the TELedvisor community? (486 members and counting). I’d long felt that case studies were an interesting way to tell a story but lack something authoritative. But I’ve been reading Five misunderstandings about case study research by Flyvbjerg (2006) and I’m starting to see the possibilities. (I think I’ll do a separate post about this)

If the world’s going to change, I might as well join in.

Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2), 219–245.