Reflections on a Conversation with an ABD

(Please forgive the male pronouns in this post… the individuals featured in it all identify as male and prefer make pronouns, so I used that convention.)


A school leader who is working on his dissertation asked me to give him some feedback on his project. He was defining his research question which focused on the effectiveness of an intervention designed to address one of the “hot button topics” in education today.

As he described his thinking, I posed questions to him. My questions were those that I typically pose to presenters at research conferences when their assumptions are not clear or when their research seems to be biased towards a particular view. Invariably, the researchers at conferences respond with, “thanks for bringing that up, we do address it in the full paper.” I thank them, and make a note to read the paper completely.

The school leader with whom I was discussing research questions answered each of my questions with a version of “that’s interesting, I never thought about it like that.”

For educators, truly understanding any practice or tool or intervention means one is able to identify and respond to criticisms, challenges, and alternatives. It is an unfortunate reality that many who are the strongest advocates for practices are the least able to react to it in a critical manner.

I wanted to tell my dissertation planning companion that he should ask for his tuition for all of his doctoral and research courses back. He deserves a refund as his program has not prepared his to think and write deeply enough about his area of “expertise” if he cannot describe it from multiple points of view.