To PhD or Not To PhD

Balancing on the Invisible
I have shared a fair few of my crazy thoughts with all and sundry on Human. Here is one that has been bugging me for some time now and burst out this week.

This morning I had a meeting with Dr Jan Herrington, Professor of Education at Murdoch University here in Perth, Western Australia. It was a very friendly, honest, open, productive and, as tweeted straight afterwards, a “frightfully successful” meeting about the potential of me starting to work towards a PhD degree, supervised by Dr Herrington. Her research interests read much like an awesomely researched, thoughtful academic version of my passionate scribbles here (on my blog). In conversation, we have traversed so much of edu(tech) territory with an amazing ease and understanding of two people ‘in the field’. Within an hour, we have mapped out a rough outline of the project, theoretical framework and possible methodology (freakish! – more on that another time). Dr Herrington’s methodical approach to completing a thesis project and her philosophy on writing were music to my ears after the six years (or seven, forgot it myself) part-time effort of an arduous Masters research thesis. Over Twitter, I even got high recommendations about Dr Herrington by one of her former PhD students. Not to mention I would probably be working closely with my best friend Dr Greg Thompson, who actually introduced me to Dr Herrington. And more. It all looks so seductively ready to go…

My modus operandi has long been “why not?” in many things. But this one is a big chunk, big enough to ask: “Why do it?” (My wife asked me the same question, rightly so.). Here are my top reasons, all with their positive spin and endless question marks not stated but assumed:

  • I am curious and love learning, thinking and doing what I believe in.
  • I love pushing the boundaries.
  • I am passionate about technology being the catalyst for not just how we learn but what we (never cease to) become as a result of using it.
  • I am uncomfortable with the prevalent mainstream, myopic schooling system mired in technicalities that change nothing that really matters.
  • I like creative yet disciplined, logical, thoughtful effort that makes sense to people and ends up being significant.
  • I am slightly mad (a necessary pre-condition many PhD/EdD candidates tell me… 🙂  )
  • I know I can do it.
  • I would have an excellent supervisor and mentor.

Yes, the title and job prospects and all that are nothing to be sneezed at and I don’t pretend I would not like them but I recognise the foolishness of it. Because there will always be more …

And while I ask myself ‘can I endure the endless hours of research, painstaking editing, drafting, re-shaping and processing things, can our bank balance cope with such a project, can I sacrifice hundreds of hours I would otherwise spend with my family, are there alternatives etc etc …’, please feel free to either advise me with a reasonable encouragement or a sobering kick in the butt, or generally share your views on the question: To PhD or Not To PhD?

Thank you. Sincerely.

PS. Our “Why is everyone an expert in education?” series will continue very soon. Last two weeks have been crazy for the three of us writing. Coming up!

7 thoughts on “To PhD or Not To PhD”

  1. Tomaz,

    How exciting! Tell us more, when you can.

    I love the image with your post.

    I’m sure you’ll bridge this PhD…and in one leap please… ;O)

  2. You will probably have your own lists of pros and cons but from what you’ve said above I think there is one big reson to give it a go:

    Because you’ll regret it if you don’t!

  3. Hi Tomaz,

    It’s frustratingly ironic isn’t it? I’d also like to do a PhD, and for many of the reasons you mention above… the intellectual challenge, adding a bit of focus and discipline to my often random thinking, getting some credentials to add credibility to my thoughts, etc, and as you say, it’d be kinda cool to have the title of Dr in front of your name. If you get to work directly with people you respect, that’s even more of a bonus.

    The flip side of that is the fact that it would be a shed-load of work, cost a small fortune and take precious time away from your family, all of which might add up to be a bigger price than you’re willing to pay.

    The negatives are real and measurable in terms of hours and dollars, while the positives are sort of vague and hard to quantify, and I think this is part of what makes it a hard decision. You can actually count the cost against doing it, but the benefits for it are harder to justify.

    At the end of the day, learning is more than just measurable data, as your other post points out. You could make a case that doing a PhD is simply conforming to an educational expectation that will categorise you into a box and make you think more like the establishment. Or you could see it as an opportunity to gain credibility, to build on the thinking you already have and to develop a stronger voice to be able to change the system from within.

    Nobody can tell you what to decide, and I know you’ll end up making the right decision. Good luck my friend, whatever you decide.


  4. Thank you for sharing such an insightful look into the decision making process about the PhD. I am similarly contemplating furthering my education with either a PhD or EdD and I am back and forth as to what value it would bring to my life. I love teaching young kids, will most likely never leave the classroom, yet I have burning ideas that I want to research and apply in the classroom. I would imagine that if you have come this far in the process where you are just about ready to jump in with both feet, then that is precisely what you should do! It sounds like you have a wonderful opportunity and a realistic perspective. Why not give it a go?!

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