Thursday, May 4, 2023

A Graphic Approach to Re-Imagining the Doctoral Dissertation

In the past five years, I have posted several blogs to track the conversation about emerging forms of the doctoral dissertation that go beyond the long-form monograph [Manuscript Based, Mar 2023], [Examples MBD, May 2022], [Future of Dissertation, May 2020], and [Innovative Dissertations, Mar 2017].

Canadian Association for Graduate Studies has a great site on Rethinking PhD Profiles [CAGS, URL] that tracks across disciplines from 2016 - 2019. In the 2022 CAGS Task Force Report on Excellence in Graduate Programs [URL], a key recommendation is that Graduate Schools/Programs "allow and promote flexibility in the nature of the dissertation". CAGS (2022) highlights that "interdisciplinary research pushes hard on the norms of what constitutes a traditional dissertation and defence, and highlights flexibility as key to an excellent program" (p. 5), especially in light of the diverse careers that increasingly diverse doctoral students aim to pursue. 

The latest contribution to this discussion comes from Cailynn Klingbeil in University Affairs, "Research re-imagined: As academics experiment with the graphic novel form, their research is reaching – and influencing – new audiences" (May 3, 2023).  In this essay, Klingbeil graphically illustrates the many innovative examples of knowledge engagement emerging from doctoral research in the English department at the University of Calgary, from interdisciplinary research on human biology at the University of Alberta, and from stories of Holocaust survivors at the University of Victoria, to name a few.

A current resource at my own university focuses on the Non-traditional thesis, Faculty of Graduate Studies. This site describes a non-traditional thesis as one that encompasses a wide variety of research endeavours, from Applied, to Creative, Digital, Entrepreneurial, Experiential, Innovative, Integrated, to Practical. Non-traditional theses can include diverse outcomes / outputs.

As we move forward, I invite colleagues to interrogate the use of "alternate" and "non-traditional" as if these diverse forms of expression from doctoral research are somehow "other". 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Expanding the Dissertation - Acknowledging Multiple Research Endeavours, Forms, Representations and Outputs

In earlier blog posts, I have shared examples of the Manuscript-based dissertation and shared examples from the Exploring the future of the doctoral dissertation session - from a noir detective novel to a graphic dissertation. A new resource at my own university focuses on the Non-traditional thesis, Faculty of Graduate Studies. This site describes a non-traditional thesis as one that encompasses a wide variety of research endeavours, from Applied, to Creative, Digital, Entrepreneurial, Experiential, Innovative, Integrated, to Practical. Non-traditional theses can include diverse outcomes / outputs.

In this blog post, which I am interested in expanding as I encounter new expressions, I share multiple forms and diverse representations of the doctoral dissertation.

The first, Dance Your PhD, is by Senarath Yapa, in which his dissertation is a mini-musical about superconductivity, told through the medium and performance of swing dance.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Online Learning Communities as Subversive Activity

Online Learning Communities as Subversive Activity: 
Countering Isolation & Silos in Graduate Supervision [YouTube]

It was fun to prepare this webinar about quality graduate supervision and an online course that colleagues and I have been collaborating on for years. 

Key to student thriving in graduate school is mentorship from an effective graduate supervisor. Graduate supervision is a complex and demanding mentoring, advising, and teaching role and responsibility. Effective supervisors can be the difference between masters and doctoral students completing their degrees or leaving the program. Unfortunately, too many professors are on their own when developing supervision skills on the job. Timely and flexible access to online faculty development on graduate supervision helps faculty to navigate the many complex issues and situations that can arise while mentoring diverse graduate students and increase their agility in responding to changes, such as the pandemic pivot to online supervision. Michele is leading a research team that designed and offered the Quality Graduate Supervision MOOC to academic researchers from across faculties and departments at six Canadian universities. The MOOC offers an online community of practice for graduate supervision that enables faculty to transcend isolated disciplinary silos to interact and learn with diverse colleagues across faculties and institutions via tailored learning conversations, peer engagements and goal setting activities. Michele will describe how supervision pedagogy can be enhanced and transformed when faculty have opportunities to engage with diverse peers and rich resources in transdisciplinary online communities of practice focused on effective graduate supervision.

The CIHE Speaker Series supports the dissemination of higher education research and scholarship, and brings together a community of higher education experts, practitioners, and graduate students throughout the academic year. 

 CIHE Speaker Series events are free and open to the public [URL]. 

Friday, September 9, 2022

Complex Conversations: Exploring Indigenous Identity Policy Development in Post-Secondary Institutions

This blog will be regularly updated with the growing collection of essays, commentary and reports exploring Indigineity and Indigenous identity-verification in Post-Secondary, along with a growing concept of pretendians. I am interested in this line of inquiry and plan to follow the ongoing conversations and policy making underway to further the important and vital work of expanding Indigenous engagement, representation and influence in the academy given the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada. It is interesting to see the critical genealogical work, led by Indigenous Women, and by groups such as NoMoreRedFace, who shared information on social media in late 2020 to provide "detailed and deeply researched threads investigating the claims of individuals who had leveraged their Indigenous identities for prestige and profit (Cyca, 2022 - see article below). It is also of interest given the involvement of a dear colleagues, Dr. Jackie Ottman, president of First Nations University. Finally, I was drawn to this issue given the commitment to such critical and complication conversations at my own campus in response to committee work.

  • May 2023: Josh Dawson, Thompson Rivers University "...working with Secwepemc leaders to implement Indigenous verification rules". [URL]


  • Jun 2023: Ozten Shebahkaget, Promising to release a policy in Fall, University of Manitoba aims to clamp down on Indigenous identity fraud - conflicting views are captured. [URL]
  • April 2023: Instead of addressing questions about her ancestry, Turpel-Lafond relinquishes honorary degree from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, says Hannah Rudderham at CBC. [URL]
  • Mar-Apr 2023: Turpel-Lafond returns two Honorary Degrees: SFU [URL], Brock [URL]
  • February 2023: Two more: McGill, Carleton universities vote to rescind Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's honorary doctorates. Turpel-Lafond has been granted honorary degrees from 11 Canadian universities. All of them have said they are weighing calls from the Indigenous Women's Collective to revoke those honours. [URL]
  • February 2023: Geoff Leo: University of Regina has rescinded Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's honorary doctorate. "The U of R's decision marks the first time a university has rescinded a degree. The university says it notified Turpel-Lafond of its decision last week". [URL]
  • January 2023: Geoff Leo: Turpel-Lafond voluntarily returns honorary doctorate to Vancouver Island University. "More broadly, VIU condemns Indigenous identity fraud and will continue the consultation process that is currently underway to develop and implement an Indigenous Identity Policy," the statement says. "VIU will also be reviewing its policy and procedure for nominating, awarding and rescinding honorary doctorates." [URL].
  • January 2023: Geoff Leo: Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond no longer employed by UBC [URL]
  • December 2022. Geoff Leo: Rescind Turpel-Lafond's honorary degrees or we'll return ours, say high-profile Indigenous women. Michelle Good, honorary degree recipient at SFU. Indigenous Women's Collective has called on Universities to revoke honorary degrees awarded to pretendians. Senator Mary Jane McCallum speaks in solidarity with IWC.   [URL]
  • October 2022. Geoff Leo, Disputed History. This CBC Investigation found that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's claims to be Indigenous did not match publicly available records. [URL]
  • October 2022: Geoff Leo, CBC News. Disputed History: [URL]. An interesting, multi-faceted inquiry into claims by prominent scholar and former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to be Indigenous. Questions arise about claims to Indigenous identity and status, and also Turpel-Lafond's claims and references to various academic credentials. 
Global News
  • March 2023: Haley Lewis, What are ‘pretendians’ and how are they causing ‘severe harm’ to Indigenous communities? [URL]
  • The movement towards greater accountability in calling out Indigenous Identify Fraud is gaining momentum. 
  • January 2023: Brenda Owen: More universities review honorary degrees awarded to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, "...after being asked by a group of Indigenous women to revoke them following a CBC investigation into her claims of Indigenous heritage". [URL]
Kamloops News
  • December 2022: Thompson Rivers University (TRU) working on preventing Indigenous identity fraud. President raises issue at Board of Governors meeting and indicates review of 2009 honorary degree recipient, Turpel-Lafond. [URL]

The Conversation

  • Dec 2022: Cheryl Simon, Dalhousie University. Disenfranchising Indigenous women: The legacy of coverture in Canada. "Discussions about the source of Indigenous identity must take place with the full involvement of Indigenous women (para 21)". [URL]
Turtle Island News
  • Mar 2023: Patrick Quinn. Pretentians, Blackstock condems Indigenous identity fraud in light of Turpel-Lafond's downfall. Murky claims to Indigenous ancestry, distant ancestors, identity shifting.  [URL]
National Post
  • Jan 2023: Brenna Owen, Revelations about 'Pretendians' is the ultimate step in colonialism, says Metis legal expert and Vancouver lawyer Jean Teillet. [URL]
University Affairs
  • Feb 2022: Matthew Halliday. New national Indigenous leadership association looks to support systemic change Sense of isolation during the pandemic spurred effort to unite senior Indigenous administrators across Canada’s universities. An immediate priority was to prepare for a National Dialogue on Indigenous Identity - held in March 2022 at FNUC. [URL]
  • Feb 2022: Ian Coutts: Universities look to combat ‘Indigenous identity fraud’ after string of recent cases. Further, One challenge is how to avoid postsecondary institutions themselves determining the validity of an individual’s claim of Indigeneity. [URL]
  • Apr 2020: Catherine Couturiere: Researchers examine the growing phenomenon of “self-Indigenization” - The trend seems to be particularly prevalent in Eastern Canada and among those claiming Métis ancestry. Explores Darryl Leroux's book, In Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity, published September 2019, in which the Saint Mary’s University associate professor explores multiple genealogy forums and describes the process of self-Indigenization, i.e., the decision to suddenly identify as Indigenous without official recognition. Self-indigenization is defined as suddenly claiming an Indigenous identity by invoking tenuous links. [URL]

Emily Carr University

  • September 2022, Michelle Cyca: The Curious Case of Gina Adams: A “Pretendian” investigation. A scholar who was hired by Emily Carr University in an effort to expand their Indigenous faculty  [URL]. The author documents the questions that arose about her identity.

Memorial University

  • April 2023: Kelland, A. Board of regents chair, Glenn Barnes announces Vianne Timmons removed as president of Memorial University [URL].
  • March 2023: Gazette, Memorial president, Vianne Timmons, takes a voluntary 6-week leave of absence following CBC Investigative reporting. Statement from Dr. Timmons [URL]
  • March 13, 2023: Kelland, A., & Breen, K. CBC. Mi'kmaw lawyer, academic calls on MUN to investigate president over statements on Indigenous heritage [URL]
  • March 13, 2023: Kelland, A. CBC. MUN president Vianne Timmons apologizes, takes temporary leave, as Mi'kmaw claims scrutinized [URL]
  • March 11, 2023: Kelland, A. CBC. Memorial University silent over Timmons, as Miawpukek chief and others wait for next step. Chief Mi'sel Joe, "we need to be more vocal in asking the questions that nobody else is asking" [URL]
  • March 8, 2023: Kelland, A., & Breen, K. CBC. Walking the line For years, Vianne Timmons claimed on her CV and professional bios that she was a member of an unrecognized Mi’kmaw band. She says it didn’t open any doors for her. [URL]
Royal Roads University
  • February 2023: Turpel-Lafond Returns Honorary Doctorate [URL]
Queens University
  • July 2022: Queen’s releases report following dialogues on Indigeneity [URL]. This is a report by external consultant, the First Peoples Group, which follows a comprehensive dialogue process on Indigeneity in the academy. 
  • July 2022: Queen's University should apologize, create process to validate Indigenous identity: report [URL]. This report is in response to allegations that some university staff falsified identities
University of Saskatchewan
  • Nov 2022, announcement: Report offers guidance for post-secondary efforts on Indigenous citizenship/membership verification [URL]. A report by Jean Teillet that was commissioned and released by the University of Saskatchewan; Addresses the broader problem of Indigenous identity fraud in academia. Publication date: October 17, 2022. 
  • July 2022: University of Saskatchewan unveils new Indigenous identity-verification policy [URL]. 
  • May 2022: U of S will have Indigenous verification policy in place this fall [URL]. The policy is meant to ensure Indigenous programming, funding, and opportunities go to Indigenous people.
  • May 2023, announcement by the university: Return of honorary doctorate bestowed to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond / Retour du doctorat honorifique décerné à Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond [URL]

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Reflections and Questions Emerging from Esmonde's 2017 Presentation and Book

While preparing for Summer teaching, I have been immersed in Learning Sciences texts. Given the way I often read, which is to start with a resource (paper, chapter, website, blog, etc.) and take multiple detours and left turns as I read, while writing a few notes, highlighting sections, quoting or rephrasing them for my own writing, and digging into my past writings and readings along the way, I stumbled across Esmonde's work. Again. It was a welcome opportunity to reflect and relearn from this line of inquiry.

A few years ago, it was a privilege to attend a talk by Indigo Esmonde in our School. They are to be congratulated on the conceptualization, writing and publication of their book, Power and Privilege in the Learning Sciences: Critical and Sociocultural Theories of Learning (2017), referenced in Sawyer's (2022) Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences. Early in the talk, Esmonde shared a narrative about editing for 10 hours on their couch with a beloved pet beside them. This narrative resonated with me, as did the tension of productivity in a neoliberal academy.  In 2005, I finished writing my own book, often while nursing my second son in my lap, taking breaks to prep dinner, and while trying to keep one eye on my toddler who was free range doing who the hell knows what elsewhere in the house. Esmonde's (2016) work is a significant and important contribution to the Learning Sciences and the reader can uncover and discover a great deal about sociocultural learning and identity from each chapter. For example, as a scholar who aims to disrupt notions of normal in the classroom, I often wondered why we continue to call certain topics of inquiry “critical disability studies” instead of “critical normativity studies” or something else. Perhaps this question is naïve; however, it is a genuine question about how we interrogate notions of ability/disability over time; for example, I tend to align with those who regard and study ADHD and autism as super powers rather than those who consider these to be individual deficiencies. These orthogonal turns and shifts in perspectives on learning and what and who counts in learning is invited and honoured in Esmonde's book.

I found Esmonde's presentation in our School to be both insightful, because of the depth of inquiry and breadth of ideas in their book, and also provocative because of their courage in bringing forward personal stories and compelling drawings, and their use of an ethnographic / auto-ethnographic approach to examining and sharing their own experiences through illustrated narrative. Esmonde's vulnerability and trust was on display while sharing their stories with the audience; I was inspired by their visual and auto-ethnographic examples. As an extension to my research in the Learning Sciences, I am interested in exploring some of my own narratives as a female scholar who balances many roles – from mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend - who is also a female academic and female leader in teacher education. This impulse to narrate led to a 2018 blog post I wrote about being a mom on the tenure track for CSSE on my lived experience. I continue to interrogate moments and events in my personal and academic lifeline that mark my journey within and beyond the academy as well as those that both disrupt and define my identity. When I find or make the time -- the pandemic has required me to press pause on too many great ideas for writing and reflection - I continue to jot notes and make lists of moments or events or decisions that warrant some writing and thinking about. The list keeps getting longer, and I sometimes worry that all I will achieve is that list. Still, I am grateful to Esmonde for their presentation and forms of story sharing as encouragement to keep writing, reflecting and drawing as ways to explore and re-consider my lived experiences, key events and decisions, big and small, past and present, inside and outside of the academy. 

I would have enjoyed the opportunity to engage further with Esmonde and learn more about their perspective and experience with the many tensions that academics experience and grapple with in the academy. For example, I observe that academics who are innovative and push the boundaries of a discipline or field of study tend to experience having to / or perceive the need to live with a foot in (at least) two worlds – the existing merit and promotion structures that emphasize research that is often defined, valued, controlled and supported by existing inequities in power, funding and privilege in particular ways, and the contemporary academic's commitment to research, teaching, service and community engagement that pushes against and critiques both the foundations and the edges of a discipline, and may offer a broader and yet also a more nuanced contribution to scholarship. 

I made a brief comment at the end of Esmonde's talk about the tensions that can come from bridging two worlds. There is the joy to be found in pushing the edges, generating new ideas and designs, and demanding change, and also the reality that these choices can be exhausting and discouraging for faculty across ranks, and especially for those who are untenured and/or part of an underrepresented community.  The need for ongoing interrogation, new ways of framing, and activism is clear – and individual and collective reflection and action to best support each other in bridging the existing structures in academia while remaining committed and sustaining commitment to disrupting and dismantling these oppressive structures while we designing new ones.  

At the end of Esmonde's talk I shared my concerns about the many tensions and barriers that continue to be experienced by Indigenous colleagues who navigate (at least) two worlds / worldviews and resistant organizational contexts / cultures / communities as an academic – Indigenous and non-indigenous / colonialist. Indigenous colleagues have expressed mixed feelings to me - both their deep commitment  and hope for change and progress, along with their well earned skepticism (we have been here before, and look how that turned out) - about their experience in the academy. Indigenous colleagues are being called upon, increasingly, to assist the students, the faculty, the university and the community to decolonize the academy, to think forward in restructuring and redesigning the academy - Indigenizing higher education - and tasked with reframing the valuing / devaluing structures in higher education, to design and teach new courses that engage students in challenging conversations (while remaining on campus versus teaching on the land, with restricted or no budgets for Elders or cultural resources and materials or travel), to engage in herculean amounts of service on committees and task forces, to bring greetings, prayers and ceremonies at events (tokenism, performative) and to invest deeply in community engagement to cultivate relationships and partnerships, all the while and at the same time, tasked with meeting existing "productivity and output" expectations for research and teaching that look like and can be “counted” and "weighed" in a pre-determined ways that perpetuate and support existing power and class structures that reproduce inequity. I purposely wrote this last run-on sentence to convey the relentless effort and resulting exhaustion that this work as a cog in the machine can entail if and when current inequitable social and academic structures are not questioned and disrupted. More on this later. 

Overall, I appreciate (again, five years later) Esmonde's design challenge to rethink the academy, and wholeheartedly recommend their book for the insightful provocations about sociocultural learning and identity. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Examples of Manuscript-Based Dissertations

A few years ago, I was part of a team of academic that developed guidelines on preparing manuscript-based dissertations and theses that were approved by our School. The student and supervisors' consideration and planning for the manuscript-based dissertation or thesis should be reflected in the research proposal and plan for reporting. 

Here are a few recent examples that are available in PRISM, our institution's digital repository:

Sandra Becker: (Supervisor, Michele Jacobsen)

Brit Paris: (Supervisor, Kim Koh)

Wendy Simms: (Supervisor, Marie Claire Shanahan)

Andrew West: (Supervisor, Gale Parchoma)

Michele Tkachuk: (Supervisor, Shelly Russell-Mayhew)


William Gatti: [embargoed until Feb 2023].

Happy to engage and discuss this approach to preparing the doctoral dissertation with those who are interested. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

A Decades Long Dance With Open Educational Practices

A reflection to capture a few brief thoughts & snapshots of lived experiences dancing with open educational practices as a researcher and teacher educator. 

From the time I started my own doctoral journey in 1995, a great deal of my research and teaching has taken place in the open, for anybody with an internet connection to see. Sharing my own work openly and my open education pedagogy with students reflects a deeply held commitment to knowledge building in community and democratizing knowledge. Researching, teaching and academic publishing in the open has also reflected my commitment to the horizon and disrupting the status quo, interrogating practices that are past their best by date, and ensuring that the underrepresented in the academy - in this case, a female, then mother in EdTech, were more visible and their voices heard. 

As a doctoral student, a professor in computer science invited us to publish all of our coursework on a website. One course based task was to go to 12 public events during the term, and write a short review of that event and what we learned from the speaker or the workshop. My supervisor engaged me in his internet research project, which, among other methods involved an online survey. I carried that method forward into my doctoral research, and used an online survey with faculty on how they were adopting technology for teaching, research and administrative tasks. Engaging in online research methodology requires that one become aware of the ever evolving process and procedures with Internet Research Ethics; this line of inquiry led to a co-authored article in CJHE (open access of course!) with a doctoral student (Warrell & Jacobsen, 2014) on the policy gap for ethical practice in online research settings

Connected to my open educational practices and experiences as doctoral student, I chose to publish my doctoral dissertation on my personal website (archived PhD) so it would be more discoverable and accessible than the lovely hardcover blue book sitting on a shelf. Openly sharing my dissertation online, while not very exotic today, given the plethora of digital repositories full of theses & dissertations, was a bit unusual in 1998 when few dissertations were OA. According to Google Scholar, Jacobsen (1998) has been cited every year since going online, so my goal of making this research more discoverable and accessible has been met (159 citations and counting). An added benefit of an open access dissertation have been the connections with a global community of researchers who shared an interest in this line of inquiry. The PRISM version indicates 795 downloads and 137 page views, so the benefits of dropping your dissertation into a digital repository includes painless tracking of statistical information, country views and item views by month. 

Research and Thinking in the Open

I started this GirlProf blog in 2008, well after many EdTech bloggers took flight. That summer, I was teaching an EdTech Doctoral Seminar, and I figured I better extend upon my use of wikis and websites by modelling blogging as a way to share ideas in the open. My initial goal for the blog was to increase transparency and engage in myth-busting about a female professor trying to balance life in and beyond the academy. In my first post in July 2008, I aim to disrupt the myth that teaching only a few hours per week gives professors plenty of "free" time. As I had time, I added to the blog and branched off into other forms of academic mom stories and myth-busting, like republishing a 7-year old letter to a columnist  in which I argue that technology increases versus decreases interest in literacy and reading: An EdTech View on Literacy and Harry Potter. Or the one about how academic moms never stop, even when nursing a new baby. There are a few dozen posts on powerful learning using technology (kids and tech 2009, texting in class 2010, and new cultures for learning 2011). 

Teaching in the Open

Along with teaching on-campus, I have taught online throughout my career. The first course I taught online was in 1995, and it was an EdTech seminar. In my teaching with both undergraduate and graduate students, I have always tended to include an assignment or two that involves online sharing, from student created blogs, podcasts, wikis, VR spaces, microblogging and twitter chats, and various types of co-created or individually created websites. For many years, I was privileged to teach an Inquiry and Technology seminar in which student teachers posted all of their work in the open, and engaged in peer review of each other's work. I co-created the EdD in Educational Technology, and we welcomed our first cohort in 2008. An assignment with a great deal of impact was the Doctoral Pathfinder, in which I invited students to curate an open access collection of experts, journals, conferences & resources related to their research problem and questions. Students valued their own pathfinders as a way to keep track and grow their academic and professional networks and open educational practices, and gained much from the access to each other's pathfinders. While many of my open educational practices have evolved & matured over the years, I have also continued to innovate and expand my open educational practices. In the past few years, I have been working with a team of scholars who have supported masters students in publishing their Ethics and Educational Technology research in the open using Pressbooks (2020, 2021). 

Academic Publishing in the Open

As a doctoral student, I was involved in creating and launching an open access leadership journal (IEJLL). As a new assistant professor, I worked with two undergraduate students to launch an open access journal for student scholarship (EGallery). Later, as an Associate professor I worked as an Advisory Editor with a talented group of graduate students who launched a peer reviewed journal for new scholars in education (CJNSE). As the Editor of CJLT from 2005-2010, I led the transition from dual-medium to fully open access. In my V35(1) Editorial, I capture a brief history of the journal from newsletter in 1972, to journal and then open access.  

To be continued