Intense thinking and generous advice – Kate Thomson reflects on her stay at CRADLE

In October, Dr Kate Thomson (University of Sydney) arrived at CRADLE for a four-week stay. Her visit included her CRADLE Seminar Series presentation exploring informal interaction and professional learning, attending a number of CRADLE events, and many research conversations with the CRADLE team. Following her return to Sydney, Kate reflected on her stay at CRADLE – from thought-provoking conversations around research practice, to riding Melbourne’s trams for fun!

What did you hope to achieve from your visit to CRADLE?

I hoped to focus on my research thinking and writing, not embarrass myself during my seminar, and spend a little time getting to know the CRADLE researchers. Success!

What did you most enjoy about your time at CRADLE?

My top three – the level of research activity, the intensity of thinking, and the generous advice. When Margaret Bearman asked what she thought was a nice opening question, “What’s your favourite theory?”, it was all I could do not to panic. She talked about her work on performativity and standards, and how a rubric can be an invitation and productive. Quote: my visit to CRADLE has made me think more deeply about my research aims and how I communicate my researchAlthough initially intimidating, I enjoyed thinking about my research after talking with her because it made me reconsider possibilities for how a researcher can choose a lens or theory and use this to critique or extend existing research.

Have you come across any ideas or had any discussions which have challenged your thinking?

Dave Boud and I were talking about conferences as the marketplace of ideas, when he suggested a conference paper (even when published online) is not enough because it’s an ephemeral and transitional transaction. He acknowledged that it serves a developmental purpose for students and very early career academics, and said it should become a permanent, public record that is accessible. I think it’s a bit ambitious, controversial even (maybe because I’m still early career), and because I’m starting to take more of a lead role in developing others’ research, I’ve been mulling over his comments.

How will your visit to CRADLE impact your future research directions?

My time on study leave has helped me to clarify my research focus (i.e., informal professional learning), and my visit to CRADLE has made think more deeply about my research aims, the purpose of each publication and how I communicate my research. Two changes: I will consider conceptual papers, and be more active in creating spaces for my research. Joanna Tai is a role model: she is super speedy at livetweeting, but more importantly, her tweets complement her publications as part of intentionally making a meaningful contribution to the research discussion.

What is one thing you will take away with you from your visit?

My biggest takeaway is not a new idea but one that has been strongly reinforced – try to listen to and learn from successful, established researchers. One of the events that happened during my visit was a higher education research impact panel session hosted by Rola Ajjwai.  Here is one gem from each panel member:

  • Collaborate so you can play to your strengths – Peter Goodyear
  • Pursue worthwhile ideas that have enduring value – Dave Boud
  • Communicate with integrity – Ly Tran
  • Put everything in your CV as you go – Jill Blackmore

Best coffee spot and best dining spot you discovered in Melbourne?

Coffee – Meistro wins for convenience, it’s right at the bottom of the escalators. Dining – Rice Paper Scissors is quirky and the menu is set up so you can try five things at once, perfect  for those who can’t commit. I am a fan of Pure South’s local and Tasmanian produce. Their ‘Kitchen’ at river level is casual, and so fresh and delicious. It’s worth finding Chick-in hiding in an alleyway for Korean Fried Chicken and Kimchi Fries. One rainy afternoon was spent at Tea House on Spencer – loved the traditional and Turkish high tea.

Visiting the acquarium. Photo courtesy of Kate Thomson

Highlight of your visit to Melbourne?

Other than hanging out with the CRADLE team, including the best #HigherEd researcher in the world? It would have to be spending time with my family as tourists in Melbourne. We rode on trams (for fun!), visited St Kilda, and explored the Aquarium.

To follow Kate’s research, visit her on Twitter: @DrKateThomson.

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