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Education a university for the real world

PhD students take their research to Canada

First published 7 November 2019

Jonathan Purdy was one of four QUT Faculty of Education PhD students who attended the International HDR Doctoral Forum in Calgary, Canada in September. We asked Jonathan about his experience at the forum and the unique opportunity to develop his research skills and networks.

Why did you choose to participate in the International Doctoral forum?

The Doctoral forum seemed like an alternative place to learn and a chance to broaden my research and writing skills. PhD study has been mostly solo. My only collaborative writing has been with my supervisors, so the Doctoral forum looked like an opportunity to do more with others… and what’s not to like about a trip to Canada at the beginning of their winter – snow, YAY! 

What was the highlight of the forum for you and why?

There were three highlights amongst the many experiences in the forum activities. The best research learning was gained when I wrote with two other PhD students and an academic staff mentor. I learnt new methodologies and new collaborative writing approaches. Second, I practiced speaking the Chinese language phrases my 12-year-old son had taught me leading up to the trip. Third, I was reminded by Canadians (all of them) that holding doors open for strangers is a really nice thing to do. Why? Because it connects us to each other. Oh, and the snow and mountains. Minus 9 degrees on the night we arrived and 20 centimetres of snow the next day, then 5 days of sunshine. 

How did attending the forum support your research?

Collaborative writing was the focus of the trip, but we also ventured ‘out and about’. We explored land-based pedagogy on a hill overlooking Calgary, visited a high school offering differentiated learning, and learnt Indigenous Canadian perspectives on learning and teaching. It was these experiences that helped me reflect on my research and will enable me to dig a bit deeper into my current case studies. 

How did collaborating and meeting with international colleagues help your research?

I collaborated on writing an article with students and staff from Beijing and Calgary, and shared experiences with QUT students of diverse cultural backgrounds. It was a privilege to listen to the insights of students and staff from China, Canada, Sri Lanka, and Costa Rica, and to hear Indigenous knowledge and perspectives from Australian and Canadian colleagues. The shared experiences will impact my current and future research. I now have access to diverse cultural perspectives on learning and teaching and the ability to conduct trans-cultural collaborations.

Tell us about your research.

My research is an investigation of higher education students' learning creativity in alternative learning places, such as community settings. My student participants are studying Law, Justice or Occupational Therapy. They've been learning in Aboriginal communities, city parks or in orphanages inVietnam.

What impact do you hope your research will make?

I hope my research will inform higher education institutions, course designers and other researchers, of how student learning of creativity can be fostered. Ultimately, I’d like to see my research impact graduates in diverse occupations, increasing their capacity to generate and implement ideas of value to society and our precious world. 

Image: PhD students Ruijin, Ayomi, Bridget with Professor Suzanne Carrington (Associate Dean, Research) and Jonathan in Calgary, Canada for the International Doctoral forum. 

Learn more about higher degree research at QUT.