So much more to learn!

Today I gave a 20 minute paper on social inclusion at the RSA postgrad conference. Even though I felt like I had pretty much memorised the paper when I was practising it on my way home last night (turns out council planning meetings can go WAY past my bed time), today I stumbled through. I could not even read the words off the page correctly. Still, I did not want to present to look good, I wanted to see if I could make my ideas float.

I am not sure if my ideas completely survived the delivery, and I suspect the fact that nobody asked me anything in question time goes some way to indicating that they did not survive delivery enough for anybody to pronounce them good or bad. However, I did have people ask me questions and offer observations from their own professional experience at lunch time. Getting some sort of response was one of the best things that has ever happened to me at uni.

The experience was certainly worthwhile. I have learnt that I can no longer read size 12 font off a lectern. If I ever get to give another spoken paper I will be printing things off in a more accessible font, and perhaps colour coding parts to ensure that I can find my way back to the written text. My next university related event is confirmation next week. As I will just be presenting my project, I need to decide if I think it is going to be better to give it as a written paper or if I should speak off talking notes. The feedback I got from my supervisor on my written work for confirmation suggested that it really was not strong, so I feel like I really need to prove that I can do this PhD thing next week. The content is not going to be that exciting, so I feel talking off notes with lots of photos could be more engaging. Maybe I need a communication skills workshop? Maybe doing confirmation as early as possible was not such a great idea?

The mini-conference experience as a whole was worthwhile too. While I did miss much of the day because I had a meeting with someone that I had booked in a month ahead, what I was there for was really inspiring and has proven me wrong on many assumptions. Research in applied fields seems impossibly tricky to me, but here were people with the whole package of practice, research and theoretical skills really trying to understand human life. The keynote address by Prof. Sandy Gifford has even left me wanting to go back to take another look at the ‘capabilities approach’. I heard calls for something that sounded to me like almost moving towards a ‘recovery approach’ in settlement services, however the way it was articulated did not leave me cringing at all. If my experience today is representative of the entire sector, I think we should give them the entire welfare system to work on.

In summary, I am very lucky to have had this experience. I now have some concrete experience to help me in thinking about applied research and, perhaps even more importantly at this stage, in working out how I can give a half way decent confirmation seminar.

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