Can you do too much learning?

No. Don’t be ridiculous. But I think you can go on too many courses.

At the IOE we have a whole book full of courses we can choose to go on. These range from core courses that all PhD students have to do, to optional ones on a specific research method for example, or reading groups started by staff or students. There are also the personal development ones like to do with presenting, or reviewing journal articles. Then there are tons of external ones.

However, although I am very grateful to have all these courses as I know other places where they have none, I think that you can spend too much time going on courses and not enough time doing your work. This happened to me in my first year and I look back and wish that I have more to show in terms of pages written than I have.

I have been thinking about why I went on so many… especially today as I was looking through my diary and realised that once again I am signing up for courses that, although are relevant, are not actually essential. For example, I seemed to have signed up for a Narrative Analysis course that is held 5 hours away in Bangor, Wales (to be fair, when I booked I thought it was in Cardiff). When I looked at the description of the course, I thought to myself, why did I sign up for that? It’s exactly the same as one I am doing right now and only a short commute away!

I also signed up for a 10 week Saturday morning statistics class. I thought this would be a good idea even though I have done around 20 weeks worth of statistics last year and have all the notes etc from these classes as well as all the statistics classes I have been on since 1998. Although the teacher is good, we are learning the impossible software package R and I need to get to grips with SPSS syntax, so I think it is best I quit this course (It has nothing to do with it starting at 9am OK?)

So I did some self analysis. My problem is, until today when I had an epiphany, I don’t believe that I am capable of reading a book  on the topic and understanding it myself. I don’t believe that if I read something, that my interpretation of it is correct. I feel like I need to hear it from the professionals. Therefore I have to go on courses to learn rather than self study. This is a common theme throughout this blog and I am fed up with it. This has to stop! Right now!

You are so boring Annika... Yes, I know!

You are so boring Annika… Yes, I know! (picture by id-iom on Flickr )

So I have quit the statistics class and I have un-enroled myself from others before they start. I have got some books out and I am going to trust in my abilities. Now I aim to select only courses and conferences that are directly relevant (please note, it is good to broaden out too, but for me at this stage, I need to focus!).

So my tip if you are worried about how many courses is enough or too much perhaps ask yourself why you are going on them. Perhaps you are excited and want to learn everything. Perhaps you have been out of education for a few years and want to get back into study mode, perhaps you want to know what all the key texts and debates are and discuss with others in a group. These sound like healthy reasons – but be aware and keep your focus!

If on the other hand your main motivation is lack of belief that you are intelligent enough to understand by yourself, then think about this and see why you have this feeling and sort it out!

How? Well I think this comes naturally over time as you realise that you are good enough and as your supervisors guide you and you pass your upgrade and you realise you understand the stuff you read.

But if you want to hurry this process along and stop wasting time, perhaps a training course in self reflection and self esteem raising would be a good idea. I’ll see if there are any running………… ARGH!!! STOP!!!!
  1. First of all, you cannot deny that you HAVE wimped out of the Saturday stats class because of the the early start ! lol! Though having said that, an early start, on a Saturday, to learn R? I’m surprised anyone turns up!

    Being serious; there is this emphasis on R that makes a lot of people anxious to master it. As a bolshie undergraduate , I’m just getting into SPSS, but all the post grads laugh and say that the ‘serious’ work is done in R. So I’ve been tempted to teach myself R ( I taught my self LaTeX last summer, so I think I could do it.) but this blog post makes me think again, especially about trying to do too much.

    The last three paragraphs in particular give me much to think about sat in a freezing Costa Coffee waiting for the library to open!

    Your blogs are always timely and encouraging. You are in a completely different league to me academically, but even as a mere undergrad I find your blogs very useful. Thank you.

    PS. Back in the ’90’s, Patisserie Valeries in Soho was great;especially the cakes. I spent a lot of time – and money – watching the cool, famous people! It’s a shame they sold out to a chain. It’s a pale imitation of what it was. I also wasted time, err, read serious books, in Maison Bertaux in Greek Street. That’s probably changed as well!

    I need to move back to London!


    • If your course requires you to learn SPSS, then stick with that. My supervisor who is a data expert uses SPSS and my one before said if I want to work in STATA then I’ll have to find someone else as she doesn’t use it.

      I think that these other packages might be viewed as superior partly because people like to distance themselves from the popular SPSS. I am sure they have good points and are probably better, but I’d rather learn how to be an expert in spss and syntax rather than crap at all of the packages!

      By the way, I didn’t know that the statistics class would use R when I signed up!

      Oh, and I am not in a different league academically. It’s all stepping stones. So what is hard for you now was also hard for me when I was an undergraduate. I spent many hours crying! What is hard for me now will probably be seen as quite simple when I finish it. It’s all relative!

      I think all your anxieties are to do with being a mature student. That is nothing to be worried about. But do speak to your tutors if you have specific concerns.

      Remember: focus! and prioritize!

      p.s. seems that a lot of people have strong opinions about Patisserie Valerie! I’ll check out Maison Bertaux and get back to you.


  2. wigmoreallotments said:

    Yes you have wanted to be a researcher since a tiny tot. I still remember the poo tally. A fine longitudinal survey.


  3. yes mummy. You are correct. That was a unique research project with interesting results.


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