Presentation at the Centre for Learning and Teaching symposium, June 2011,

University of Brighton,


Dr. Joan Williams

Joan is a senior lecturer in the school of Education. She is currently working with students from across all of the Masters in Education programmes and contributing to the teaching of research methods in the BA Education programme. She received her PhD in July 2010. The title of her thesis was ‘The nature of the mentor/trainee relationship in Physical Education initial teacher training’.  Exploration of the nature of the mentor / trainee learning relationship along with the experience of her personal PhD learning journey provide a foundation for the presentation today entitled ‘Face to face with my demons: The final hurdle in an ultra-distance PhD journey’.


 My story will take an ‘up close and personal’ look at the feelings of relief and ecstasy as a result of a very cogent and successful VIVA, followed by the shock and deep agony felt only minutes later as a result of the major written alterations required by the external examiners. I will go on to consider the learning that occurred as a result of making the alterations and the tremendous relief and elation felt when the senior examiner reported ‘… she has done a fine job … and should feel confident publishing’. In particular I will examine the way in which I experienced the impact; how I responded to the situation in which I found myself; the importance of preparing always for the unexpected; and how I came to adopt an alternative perspective to the process of referral. I will use examples of challenging supervisory situations to support the argument that greater consideration may need to be given to the nature of support provided for supervisors, ‘external’ students and ‘staff as students’ throughout these intense episodes of learning journeys. Additionally, I will make links with my study of the learning relationship between school-based mentors and trainee teachers to support a case for examining further the components of an inter-personal relationship between supervisors and PhD students that facilitates transformation.