Wrestling mental elephants

Northumbria University, my place of research, has a meticulous process for its PhD students to follow. For better or worse, there are monthly meetings to be held, all to be logged and documented online. Actually, to me it is very useful. My recent monthly progress review was ‘in session’ last week, and it was a particularly good one too. I mean good in the sense of useful, helpful – it almost had a little bit of milestone feeling to it. A(nother) hurdle jumped, and taken.

The discussion I had with my supervisors at the meeting, made me think as well as provided some stepping stones to me. The regular reader of this blog might have noticed my hesitation to put pen to paper for the literature review (the elephant). I have started scribbling, but I know (much to the distress of my Principal Supervisor) I am nowhere near a presentable output. I am wrestling. And there is a reason for my hesitation… everything still feels so interconnected. I do want to unpick my brain a bit first, as many different things strand together: literature review (and the bigger subject areas within), finding your knowledge gap, as well as understanding concepts and methodologies, seeking the ‘right’ (big) question or your elevator pitch or title… nothing can really be done in isolation without affecting the overall researching process.

Well, I had to say, again, to my supervisors, that I am not there yet. I am aware of the elephant.

I am inching closer, and I am happy with my progression and happy with where I am on personal level and organisational scale – it generally is a good place, but I am not there yet. As a consequence we started talking more conceptually! Now, that’s the right plain (not plane) to be on. Suddenly, I felt more at ease, and even a little bit inspired (which is a great output from a monthly meeting). And as a result to prove it, here’s my most recent conceptualisation of what I am trying to do:

Cycling and the school run in two cities: investigating the effect of policy on transport space and its resultant use


Thanks to Oskar, Mikkel and Andreas, who I met at the Cycling and Society Symposium in Manchester this year, for making me aware of Ole B Jensen’s framework (all presentations now available here, thanks to Gabi and Graham). With a bit of imagination my latest ramblings comfortably sit with Ole B Jensen’s Staging Mobilities (you can see him talking about the concepts and thoughts behind Staging Mobilities, on vimeo, here):


And perhaps fairly nicely, if you squint your eyes a little, it fits in with Social Practice Theory too:


As for the elephant and my Struggle with it – I am attempting to break it down into mangeable steps… and have committed my poor brain to come up with a contents structure if nothing else. By Friday. And as it’s Saturday today – yes, I did it. Kind of. Wrestling the elephant continues.


One thought on “Wrestling mental elephants

  1. Hi,

    for some background on “school run (I translate that as how children get to school) …. and its resultant use” or rather the outcome I’ll translate some positions of my post https://radverkehrhamburg.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/hello-world/ .

    Children’s mobility radius melts faster than the ice floe in times of climate change.
    Mens sana in corpore sana. (Roman saying)

    By no means only, but only for example, to math skills the motor development and motor training are of constituent and promoting significance.
    Moving for example trains laterality (left / right awareness and right / left-integration), space situational awareness (where my body and its limbs are positioned in relation to each other and in relation to the environment), sense of balance (constitutional law of math), eye-hand coordination, speed assessment and praxis/apraxie (meaningful and organized action plan / coordinated action sequences). Of particular importance for the exploitation of childhood mental and physical development potential is the promotion of motor integration (motorized interaction), sensory integration (interplay of the senses) and the promotion of sensorimotor integration by sophisticated motor-training.
    Motor deficits frequently draw health problems such as obesity, ADHS (Attention Deficit Syndrome, Fifgety-Philipp-Syndrom) and serious cognitive learning difficulties.

    Motor disorder is seen by many teachers as concurrently causative to unsatisfactory school careers. Cycling to school is a natural and cheap way to fight motor disorder. It requires nothing more but fault-tolerant cyling infrastructure on the main-used roads to school.

    But cycling to school has much more benefits.

    State of mind.

    A large study from Copenhagen shows that children who manage their way to school on theit own, even up to 11 clock made better in concentration tests. From the test results could be predicted with a hit rate of 75% wether the child had completed his way to school independently. http://sciencenordic.com/children-who-walk-school-concentrate-better

    Teachers know that problem very well.
    The children who were taken out of their bed, fed up, driven to school and, still half asleep, handed over to the teaching staff all by mum are a big big problem.
    The first they have to do is to work on their tone. Strong stimuli are needed, such as seemingly unmotivated quarrel with classmates / teachers and fooling around. They are in need of that behaviour to build up their tone. This is inevitable and it is to the detriment not only of their own but particularly to the detriment of their class-mates and of the teaching atmosphere of the entire class.

    The contrast is the child who has mastered his way to school on it’s own responsibility. (Prerequisite: Fault-tolerant infrastructure).
    Especially by the physical activity of cycling the pupil has already worked on its tone. Body and brain are well supplied with blood and oxygene and thus optimally adapted to the provision of intellectual services. They had been free to fidget around and this is important espiacally to children who have to sit for a long time.

    Perhaps most important:
    The child has set itself in a particularly valuable mode from a view of educational and learning psychology : The mode of directly personal responsibility for itself. No mum, no teacher but the child itself is responsible.
    The mode of responsibiliy-ownership for the way to school is often transferred quite naturally to an equity or co-responsibility for the education in school, for the own learning process and even for the learning process of the entire class.
    For these children it is easier to take responsibility for themselves and their lessons. They do not learn for school or for teachers, but for themselves.

    Hope you understand my stumbling English.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s