Spring School provides our postgraduate research students at the Innovation School with research training in key areas equip them to hit the ground running with the fieldwork. Over one week, this involves a packed programme of lectures, workshops, discussions, and group and individual reflective activities; unpacking key components of research such as epistemology, theory methodology and methods, and research ethics. This year following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, Spring School was delivered in a hybrid format with a combination of in-person and distributed participation through the use of Zoom and Padlet.  

Kicking off last Monday, Spring School began with work-in-progress presentations from the students, where we were joined by supervisors to provide feedback as ‘critical friends’. These work-in-process presentations, iterated throughout the year, provide a valuable opportunity for the students to reflect and take stock on work to date as well as to feedforward on their plans to completion.

 On the Tuesday session, Dr Michael Pierre Johnson introducedGSA’s broader research themes and workshopped with the students ways to connect their inquiries to local-level as well as global challenges pertaining to the sustainability agenda and SDGs. Following this, we were joined by Dr BruceTharp, Fulbright Fellow from the University of Michigan and Prof Steve Love fromSimVis, along with Dr Marianne McAra, to discuss different methodological lenses and approaches, including ethnography, action research and co-design.

On the Wednesday, we were joined by Dr Brian Dixon from theUniversity of Ulster. Brian took the students through a series of discussion-based activities to unpack their underpinning world views and to understand how these inform the nature and intension underpinning each of their individual research inquires.

Thursday’s session centred on research methods and modes of data collection before taking a deep dive into research ethics – explored more philosophically with Dr the Angela McClanahan-Simmons from Western Illinois University, and then more procedurally with Colin Kirkpatrick from GSA’s Research andEnterprise Office.

Spring School concluded on the Friday with an ‘in conversation with’ session with Prof Janet McDonnell – our former programme external examiner. This was a valuable opportunity for the cohort to gain insights and advice from an examiner’s perspective. This included Janet reflecting on the key ingredients she looks for in an effective M.Res project in terms of rigor, research design, ways of telling a compelling story, and the role of the portfolio.  

Now equipped with the nuts and bolts of designing a robust piece of fieldwork, following Spring School the full-time M.Res students will now be planning their fieldwork and engaging in the institutional ethical approval process at GSA.

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