Written by Jane Nebe
Jane is a 2nd Year PhD student at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. Her research is investigating the consequences that poor academic performance in Nigeria’s high-stakes examinations, have on post-secondary school educational aspirations.
One is made aware at the onset of the PhD programme that there would be a progression review panel for full-time PhD students at University of Bristol’s Graduate School of Education, within the first 18 months of commencing the programme. This would involve the submission of a research proposal with 15,000 words (hereafter referred to as the progression report), and a panel session with two internal examiners. Having resumed in September 2015, my progression review panel held on 15th December, 2016. Prior to this, my primary supervisor moved to another University in October, 2016 while my second supervisor became the lead and only supervisor. I remain indebted to them for their insightful discussions and critical feedback on my research proposal.
The months leading up to the progression review panel provided huge learning opportunities for me as a researcher. Having concluded the core coursework requirements by April 2016, I focused thereafter on working on the progression report and obtaining ethical approval to do the research. This meant that I was very busy throughout the summer break of the 2015/2016 academic session and the autumn term of the 2016/2017 academic session. The part of this task that I found most challenging was working on the Literature Review chapter. It was therefore rewarding to receive commendation for the coherence of my Literature review from the examiners, during the Progression review panel session. I however enjoyed working on the methodology section since I am passionate about the methodology I chose.
A major mistake I made was not re-working my Introduction chapter when I finished with the Literature review and the Methodology sections. The inadequacies of my introduction chapter were pointed out during the Mock progression review that CAERe organized for me as well as by the progression review examiners. I realized at the beginning of the PhD programme that I think by writing. This means that I do not begin writing with clear ideas and structures in mind. I start writing and begin to think through my ideas while writing. The implication of this is that I do a lot of revisions whilst writing. It will interest you to know that I have twelve drafts of the progression report, which also encompasses the revisions made as a result of the feedbacks from examiners, supervisors and colleagues. Therefore, by the time I finished the progression report, my thoughts had evolved in some ways. Strangely, I always glossed over the introduction chapter while concentrating so much on the Literature Review and the Methodology chapters. I should have given my Introduction chapter equal attention. Perhaps, I wouldn’t have been asked to revise some of its sections by the progression review examiners.
I’d like to use this medium to appreciate CAERe for organizing the mock progression review for me. It helped me improve the ways I express my ideas verbally and prepared me for some of the questions I was asked during the progression review panel session. One lesson I took away from the mock progression review was that there is enormous advantage in letting your colleagues critique your work. It is very likely that I would not have volunteered to take part in the mock progression review, if my supervisor, Professor Sally Thomas, was not the one who brought up the suggestion. This is because I was scared of the uncertain outcomes of participating in a ‘simulated examination scenario’. Looking back now, I dare say that I am glad it happened. My only regret is that it did not happen much earlier before I submitted the final progression report. I imagine that I would have been able to effect changes on the Introduction chapter and some other corrections, which were noted during the Mock Review. That said, I plan to take advantage of the enormous expertise and experience of my PhD colleagues in the future.
I passed my Progression Review with minor corrections to my Introduction Chapter. I understand that a letter to that effect has been sent to my UK address, as I am presently in my home country, Nigeria doing fieldwork. I am grateful to my examiners – Dr. Jo Rose and Dr. Angeline Barrett (who is now my second Supervisor), for an insightful discussion on my Progression Report. They gave me great advice on how to improve on the research process and the kind of literature I should explore further for my Thesis. May I also use this medium to appreciate all those who attended the Mock Review and gave me useful Feedback – Kwon, Tony, Artemio, Ollie, Jahari and Dini.