Thinking of starting a PhD in Education (aged 49)

posted
10-Dec-17, 13:21
edited about 3 seconds later
by johngti
Avatar for johngti
posted about 2 years ago
First time posting.

I've been a maths teacher for 26 years, worked in a wide range of schools and colleges and have been as "high up" as vice principal for a time. I'm now a head of maths.

I graduated with a maths degree in 1990 and went straight into teaching. I've recently completed a research based MA looking at developing resilience in learners among other things. Having got a high distinction I've been encouraged to think about doctoral research and I'm tempted. Currently planning my research proposal but my question really is this - is it worth it? I have no desire to be a headteacher or work on senior leadership again; I guess I quite fancy a future working at a different level, perhaps teacher training/ HE, maybe consulting or similar. I know I have to work until my late 60s at least so there's lots of working life left in me. Will having a PhD be a useful addition?

Doing the MA was frustrating at times but I absolutely loved doing the research part. According to one of the academics I cited at length, I did justice to the topic and she "absolutely thinks its a good idea". I'm taking that as encouragement!!

I'd be grateful for the thoughts of this forum on the issue. It'd be part time and self funded (probably through the PhD loans due to start next year) but very closely linked to my day job so field work shouldn't be much of a problem (my school is part of a cluster so lots of potential case studies). I have three universities in mind for the application but that's a different topic for discussion!
posted
11-Dec-17, 14:11
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 2 years ago
Can you cope with working 15 - 20 a week every week for 6-8 years on top of your day job? That seems a lot of pressure to me.

As for job prospects afterwards, the academic job market is dire, but with your experience I don't think it would be a problem, especially if it's not academia you're aiming for. I'm not sure what help a PhD would be though.

Anyone on here with a research background in Education know any more?
posted
11-Dec-17, 14:33
by johngti
Avatar for johngti
posted about 2 years ago
Could I cope? Yes, probably, given that there would necessarily be times where I did fewer or more hours due to workload. I’m also bearing in mind that anything I do would partly be achievable during the day job. I’m wondering if it’s worth it myself though. I don’t want to regret not grabbing the chance now but don’t really want the qualification just for the sake of it. There needs to be a purpose to it beyond that. At this early stage I’m excited by the idea of adding something to the knowledge base as I don’t always think teachers get much chance to do that but there needs to be a degree of being taken seriously.

I’m rambling now. Thanks for the reply - it’ll be interesting to see what comes up.
posted
11-Dec-17, 14:37
edited about 13 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 2 years ago
Quote From johngti:
I’m also bearing in mind that anything I do would partly be achievable during the day job.


I'm not sure it would. You would have a cohort of ready made participants for study for sure, but a PhD is a lot more than that. It's about becoming an expert in your subject, which requires endless reading and critical analysis. You will have annual reports to write, plus be expected to attend training programs run by the university and conferences. Just make sure you know fully what you are letting yourself in for if you do decide to go for it.
posted
11-Dec-17, 14:46
Avatar for chaotic1328
posted about 2 years ago
Why self-funded? Given your grades and the topic, there ought to be plenty of funding opportunities.
posted
11-Dec-17, 14:55
edited about 17 seconds later
by johngti
Avatar for johngti
posted about 2 years ago
Quote From TreeofLife:
Quote From johngti:
I’m also bearing in mind that anything I do would partly be achievable during the day job.


I'm not sure it would. You would have a cohort of ready made participants for study for sure, but a PhD is a lot more than that. It's about becoming an expert in your subject, which requires endless reading and critical analysis. You will have annual reports to write, plus be expected to attend training programs run by the university and conferences. Just make sure you know fully what you are letting yourself in for if you do decide to go for it.


Thinking about the MA, the reading part of it was actually quite enjoyable (once we’d got past the first few months of being told what to read anyway!). The termly deadlines were a pain as there were always three things to hand in at once, average length was 3500 words for each. So the workload is something to keep in mind for sure. Thanks for the advice. It is very useful.
posted
11-Dec-17, 14:57
edited about 25 seconds later
by johngti
Avatar for johngti
posted about 2 years ago
Quote From chaotic1328:
Why self-funded? Given your grades and the topic, there ought to be plenty of funding opportunities.


I think I’d need to find a place before I could start dealing with the funding question. My BSc was “only” a 2:2 but the masters came in at a high distinction. Which was nice.
posted
11-Dec-17, 15:32
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 2 years ago
Might an EdD programme be a good fit with what you want to do - it seems to be manageable alongside a day job and more connected to praxis (or so a friend with one says).
posted
11-Dec-17, 15:37
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for fallenonion
posted about 2 years ago
Hi Johngti

Why not look for a job as a lecturer in a university education department? My background is / was similar to yours. I did twelve years as a teacher including course leadership and finishing up - albeit briefly - in a senior role in a college (got promoted, then jumped ship two months later). Like you, along the way I did a masters (and got a distinction canceling out a less than perfect record at undergrad). I started thinking about a doctorate around the day job but felt it would be very hard so just started applying for university jobs and got one. Some ask for phds, but quite a few will take a Masters plus experience. The key is demonstrating a commitment to research, and talking about it in interviews (my ideas were probably ropey but enthusiasm goes a long way). Now that I’m ‘in’ I’m making headway with research. Being in and around the uni environment, I’ve managed to carve out time between teaching and observing my trainees to do a free course which will culminate in a (hopefully) publishable paper, been to several networking events about things I’m interested in and am now revisiting my previous doctoral proposal with a lot more sense of what I can do. Hopefully if I ya good enough they’ll pay for me to do it. I’m still busy, but finding more time to think away from the daily grind of teaching. Quite a few of my colleagues are only just finishing doctorates after several years as lecturers. Onion.
posted
11-Dec-17, 15:45
by helebon
Avatar for helebon
posted about 2 years ago
Yes, an EdD could be a good option for you and are part-time. It involves a research plan and a 50,000-word thesis.
posted
11-Dec-17, 20:17
edited about 19 minutes later
by Pjlu
Avatar for Pjlu
posted about 2 years ago
This post is related to Tree of Life's comments. I hope it presents a realistic but not unsupportive perspective on the process from someone who is just completing it.

I have completed a PhD part time in Education while working full time in senior teaching/leadership roles in secondary schools. It is hard and it has taken me just under 6 years to write, but the final parts of faffing around before submission and now the wait for my results will make this whole process to be around 6 and a half years in length That is if my results are fairly positive and do not include a R & R result. (My examiners reports are just in-the late one arrived late yesterday- but currently are doing the rounds of the admin and panel chair before they are disseminated to my supervisors and me. I am hoping to hear any day now what the results are-fingers crossed they do not include an R & R as while I will cope with this, an R & R result will be at least another year before completion).

My topic was initially in an area that I was actively working in professionally but the thing is as you get new roles or promotions your focus changes and as the PhD has taken so many years, what I am in working in now is quite different than my study topic, although the skills and much of the knowledge have been useful-even if now they are not directly related.

There was no way that I could spend time at work on my study. I work long hours and need to be totally focused on my professional work during the working day-which often involve very long working days working on admin and professional responsibilities, a small of amount of class room teaching and a much more substantial portion supporting students and families and working/leading staff.

I tended to use my weekends, holidays and two or three stints of leave to complete major writing tasks. So there were times when I could tag some weeks of long service leave onto a term break and have a couple of months to focus completely on the thesis. These breaks and the holiday and long weekend days helped in the first 4 years or so. This last final year I have worked hours on the PhD after work 2 or 3 nights of every week and every weekend and holiday to complete and submit.

Has it been worth it? Well yes, I think so, but ask me after I receive my results. Has it provided what I thought it would? No, not really but I don't regret it. Will it lead to further work, employment or promotion? Possibly but it isn't strictly necessary for the professional work that I do. Masters are often far more useful -I have one of these as well though. Do people understand what it is and entails-mostly they have no idea. But that's okay.

PS: I would also add that if I did use my time during paid employment to work on my study and this time was taken from my daily job, this would not have been regarded well by my employers and my colleagues, and direct reports would have been absolutely scathing about it.
posted
12-Dec-17, 05:27
edited about 12 seconds later
by johngti
Avatar for johngti
posted about 2 years ago
Thanks for the input folks. I’d thought about an EdD initially but moved away from it because of the structure. I’ll do a bit more poking around with that idea again though.

Pjlu -your post is particularly useful and I thank you for it. Just one specific follow up to it though. I certainly wouldn’t be using all of my school time to do something that purely benefits me; the MA is my starting point here as it was directly relevant to what I was doing in my role at school. This meant that there were things I could justify doing during the day as there was a tangible benefit to the school. I certainly didn’t do any writing or any of the “grunt” work there, that was weekends, holidays and evenings. The only concessions from the job were being allowed to leave slightly early on a few Thursday afternoons to go to group meetings. In terms of the future, I’d imagine at the moment that it’d be similar this time around. We’re part of a teaching schools alliance so I’d be planning a project that would first of all have an impact in the partner schools as well as my own. Which brings us around to the EdD again I guess!! All too complicated.

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