July 2019

Oh, what a month! I look at my journal and find that I have made very few entries- disappointing as it reflects that I was too busy to even “stop to think”… …though was constantly immersed at the same time (supervisors- I reassure you that was the case!); and also disappointing in that it is now difficult to write a monthly review for July.

I was fortunate enough to be able to block out a chunk of leave. What started out as 4 weeks of July to do PhD (sounds great, right…)- I spent the first week and a half in work attending to leadership role duties; to then flick the switch to be able to focus on writing up some of the sections of my proposal. It was good to be able to tune out the email, the children, the sports (i.e. life) and concentrate on getting ideas to “paper”, and to chunk together ideas that had been brewing- seeing the connections more clearing; and being able to filter out irrelevant themes as was more consciously in tune with the material to make these decisions.

While an honour to be considered, it was also in the month of July that I was nominated for Teacher’s Excellence Award for the Faculty. This meant, in a relatively short timeframe (i.e. two weeks before the deadline and during “leave”), I needed to prepare a portfolio to support the application. Fortunately I did have my recent CMALT certification portfolio to draw on which provided some reflective pieces and in a team that are supportive of this and readily provided some additional supportive evidence. “Why did you agree to doing this when you were suppose to be working on your PhD?” I hear you say. Well, I have quickly learnt that the research question I have chosen puts me in limbo between being a health professional and being an educator, and while if the research was more polarised towards either of these there would be associated research funding; being “somewhere in between” does not provide a strong case for funding. So, applying for these sorts of awards are a way to bring in some funding that could assist with transcription, developer consultation, etc. I will hear in the next month the outcome of “Stage 1” of the Awards process.

When I do look at the few entries for July, I realise my naivety in timeframes. Yes- I could have pieced together a section on social constructivism in one day, though as it is interlinked with the other pieces of theoretical framework, it continued to evolve (and switch between “social constructivism” to “constructivism” and back…). I know that I was in a dark place with my study, pretty much a week after a combined supervision meeting. I see statements such as “hit a wall”, “a mess”, “feel like I’m swimming”, “overwhelmed”, “feels dark, cold and isolated”. I am pleased to say that I am not in that mindset at the moment. I have managed to finish the Teacher Nomination and focus on the big teaching week ahead in August (which includes a virtual environment that sparked the idea of doing a PhD in this area).

So, here’s to a better month in August. I am slightly off track in terms of timeframe, though do not feel like I am swimming in the plethora of work that is PhD.


June 2019

It has been a bit of “letting go” of who I am as a professional (physiotherapist/ lecturer) as I progress my PhD. I had already made a career change- while still in the healthcare industry- I gave up my professional knowledge of seven years as a nurse to then train as a physiotherapist in 2000, then to teach physiotherapy in 2007. Now, 15 years after finishing the degree, I am again looking to new professional knowledge. Don’t get me wrong- I am enjoying the challenge and the change. It is just with those 15 years goes “expertise”; “networks”; “comforts”… …as well as life changes with three children (the oldest about to turn 15- you do the math) and a mother who has moved in with us (which we are grateful for).

So, I shift from being a student, to a health professional (x 2), to a health educator, back to being a student, to then [hopefully] apply that new knowledge as an educator or advisor again. This month I stumbled across an except from Barrows & Tamblyn (1980)- gurus on problem based learning- who make a challenging point: “…if medical faculty would apply to the education of students the same skill or inquiry, reasoning, and treatment design they use in patient care and research, their amateur status in education would soon disappear and students would profit” (p2-3). This is the challenge that I had when I began to consider if I should take on a PhD- “Are we truly considering the students and how they best learn? Do we need to do things differently to enable this?” The latter question was a resounding “YES!” German-American psychologist Kurt Lewin once said that “If you want to truly understand something, try to change it”. I genuinely do want to understand the pedagogies and curriculum design principles that best provide meaningful, healthcare higher education, and am starting the venture to make appropriate changes to enable this.

This month was somewhat stop-start with the end of semester examinations (three weeks). I have managed to get my head around a few key concepts that I believe will be central to my PhD. This includes:

(1) more consistency in using Anderson’s new domains of critical thinking skills (rather than Bloom’s old domains of higher order thinking);

(2) more consistency in using the term “situated learning” rather than “authentic learning”- as feel is more realistic to the clinical scenarios that may be used to develop the critical thinking skills;

(3) more clarity of theoretical framework. Leaning towards ontological realism with epistemological [social] constructivism. (Let’s see how this develops over the next couple of months, eh…);

(4) the possibility of utilising problem-based learning in the scenarios that enable situated learning.

(5) consideration of Whakawhānaungatanga (relationship through shared experiences) which may need to be embedding into the [social] constructionist approach and/ or practice theory as key concepts

I presented twice this month on topics related to my PhD. The first was at CfLAT’s “Mixed Reality Workshop” (http://bit.ly/mMRHealthcareEd) which was a summary of how the School is currently utilising mixed reality, the results of our systematic review, and where to from here (i.e. PhD). The second was at the CfLAT’s “Immersive Reality Bootcamp“. While presenting along a similar theme as other presentations, it did make me stop to thing about how I have gone about “identifying the gap” in knowledge which has now formed the basis of my PhD.

I also attended the AUT Doctoral Induction Programme. While the majority of the sessions were more reassuring that I was familiar with the processes involved, did manage to pick up a few pointers in the day.

There are (again) some concerns- which I anticipate is normal. I.e. “Am I biting off more than I can chew?”. As I look over the month, while there is some clarity of which terms to focus on, there are still many “key” concepts that I have identified. More filtering I suspect…

Things that I want to establish a better foundation on in the upcoming month include:

  • Organising a central Endnote library
  • Developing a Gantt chart as a timeframe
  • Completing my first draft of PGR9


Barrows, H. S. & Tamblyn, R. M. (1980). Problem-based Learning: An Approach to Medical Education. Springer Publishing Company, Inc: New York, NY.

May 2019

After having a quick look at last month’s post, it is pleasing to say that I have managed to keep to “saying no” to added jobs… …for the most part. I have been mindful that sometimes saying “yes” means the job gets done quicker, and therefore more PhD time.
This month has been one of reflecting on the big picture, as well as the detail; with moments of clarity, and one where I feel it’s all a bit of a mess!

Having a journal which I highlight some key moments for most mornings, it has been easier to “park” or filter out the concepts that are not currently supporting my thinking. I say “park”, because, like a literature search, the article or concept has presented itself based on what I was looking for at the time- it may be something that is revisited in the future. This includes reconsidering my initial focus on higher order thinking skills (HOTS). Further reading has lead me to consider “critical thinking skills (CTS)” as going beyond, yet incorporating HOTS, along with self-regulation (i.e. student-directed; self-determination) as well as an action (usually incorporating reflectition).

I have also parked an investigation of practical skills within a virtual environment. Practical skills would include a different focus of learning, and as my research question is centred more on the high order thinking skills/ critical thinking- this does not seem to “fit” at the moment.

This month, I have also continued to find more support for incorporating constructivism into the theoretical framework; along with practice theory; situated learning; and self-determination theory. While I can identify some key concepts that are isolated to each of the theories, there are some characteristics that overlap (may be my being naive here…). This brought back the sense of being messy again (argh!), though I stumbled across a paper by Schott and Marshall (2018) which helped to validate my thinking. The authors integrate situational learning, experiential learning and virtual reality (VR) into one model. This seemed to mimic what I had jotted down last year, an integration of the WHAT (content- critical thinking), the WHO (students and stakeholders), HOW (delivery- problem based learning via virtual environments), and the WHY (pedagogical structures- theoretical framework).

There has also been some connections made with my notes (taken in isolation of one another initially) with constructivism, instructional design and problem-based learning (PBL). Overall, these “connections” seem to be shaping my theoretical framework. What is a little scary is that at times, it seems to have a mind of its own- shifting, clouding , clearing, shifting, then clouding again.

While I understand there are changes in the “weather” of preparing a PhD, I am glad that there are not too many “cloudy days”…!

April 2019

The first blog of my PhD journey, or is it to be likened more to a rollercoaster ride- out of my control with spontaneous screaming and stomach curdling… When I submitted my PGR2 (expression of enrolment) on 22nd February, I was really at the point of “I just want to get over the starting line”. It now seems that I have a new starting line, as I prepare for my PGR9 (confirmation of candidature research proposal).

I know that I am not alone as I feel like I am constantly balancing full-time work (lecturer), family (supportive wife and three kids), extra-curricular (which seem to focus on the kids activities), and full-time PhD preparation. Leading up to the time of submission, I acknowledged the value of routine. I am now regularly getting up at 5am to start writing/ researching (not sure what to call it just yet) and get a couple of hours in before the kids get up and the “real day” starts. A month now since my PGR2 was accepted, I have added getting up at 5am on Saturdays and block off eight hours dedicated to PhD time. The family are accommodating of this (so far)- as they know that after 1pm, we can do “family time” (fortunately for now, their sports and extracurricular are during the week, with no weekend sport).

My project will be looking at a few key concepts- the use of extended reality for higher order thinking in healthcare higher education. I wont go into these now, as am sure will expand on as the blogs continue.

As I look over my first month, it is nice to see some shift in my thinking, though also the realisation that I “don’t know, what I don’t know, therefore I want to know it all, though feel am only able to do this on a superficial level” . My primary supervisor (TC) is reassuring that is normal to feel messy at this point- and to acknowledge that is going to be messy for a while yet- hopefully the seemingly thick cloud of doubt will thin out by the time of my PGR9. To try to clarify thought and document my thinking I (1) bullet point key ideas in an Evernote note; (2) use a Mind-map to make links between key concepts; and (3) PowerPoint Slides to draw out some detail of the concepts as they develop. Also helps when looking back over the week (as sometimes go back and find my self asking “What on Earth was I thinking then?”).

I see that at the beginning of the month, I was caught up in thinking about “what’s the end result going to look like?” This question created “noise”- and as my kids know- I don’t do well with noise… I found myself looking at the new, shiny pieces of technology (extended reality) that I might need to consider for this project, which spiralled me away from readings on the other concepts outlined above.

While looks like a productive month of April (developing search strategies with Librarian, outlining PGR9 framework, and attending “Introduction to Qualitative Research” Workshop), it is appreciated how quickly the month has gone.

The aim for May is to be better in saying “No” and protecting my “PhD time”, and to be clearer about the key concepts and theoretical framework for the project ahead. Let’s see how I go in the next blog…


This blog follows my journey as I embark on my PhD. Officially enrolled on 1st March 2019 (have learnt from Grand Designs not to put an expected finish date…), I will blog highlights (and low-lights) monthly as I progress with the doctorate.

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