06 July 2010

Note To Self: Qualifying Exams

Our department allows us to write our own questions for our qualifying exams. While I thought I had prepared adequately for them, I wanted to quickly jot down a few thoughts about the process so that, should I ever find myself working through the same process (hopefully from another perspective), I have some insights into how to make it a better process for all. 

Throughout the thirty days, organization was key. The above? It's what somewhat worked for me: piles of books based on what conceptual material they were dealing with, a file jacket with articles organized in file folders along the same lines, and a Mendeley database. Toward the end, it did get a little dicey, but I'm unsure any organization system can survive me caught within the violent thrust of a deadline. 

When composing these questions, I was primarily concerned with the material to be covered within them. I should have paid attention to the products that were expected as well - I was constantly struggling a workshop question that I really had no clue what was actually expected of me. I did too much and fear I did none of it very well at all. (This fear has since been disbanded. It was fine - just not as complete as I would have perhaps liked.) 

Set realistic guidelines for how you will spend your time with your questions. I thought I would work through one question a week but spent the first week reading. That killed my week of revising, really, but I had the opportunity to cover a lot of material I hadn't covered in my coursework. It forced me to shift my plans, though. Also: make sure you know how and in what format your committee wants your materials. 

I keep thinking of these exams, this body of writing as a beginning point for the work that will begin in August, a space to begin thinking about the ways in which the kiddos and I will engage in making meaning through technology. It doesn't have to be perfect but I need to know what those spaces are where I have no covered something. For me, this is an undertheorization of power, a generalized sense of identity, and an awkward wielding of standpoint theory. All things I will read up on and form opinions of before my defense. It doesn't need to be perfect. Just workable. 

Above all: if you're in the middle of your exams: breathe. What you have learned will come together in surprising ways. It's do-able despite seeming totally ridiculous while you're within them. 

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