Jump to content


Help for Post Graduate Students


  • Please log in to reply
6 replies to this topic

#1 ~ JTB1966 ~

~ JTB1966 ~
  • Guests

Posted 25 March 2012 - 03:05 PM

Hello, mature student studying for my Mphil/phd at university in Northwest UK. I have been diagnosed with dyslexia about 3 years since by enrolment viva for my MPhil. Resulted in a years intercalation so I could get support and my head round it all. Not to mention the crushing lack of confidence that came with the revelation. Pretty hard when your a lecturer at university and managed through masters and post grad teaching courses. Still I understand my brain does not do too good up here in doctoral land!

My problem currently and the one which I am now in a dilemma about is this. For 18 months I have been working away getting to grips with my studies, reading etc, discussing ideas, the odd seminar presentation and finally my first piece of written work is submitted purely for feedback on whether of not I have got my methodology correct and the application of the theory to the applied field I work in. Purely ideas, nothing more.
The supervisors are aware of dyslexia and verbally have supported me.

However, from the feedback or rather the forensic assassination of my work, it is very clear that one of my supervisors has approached it from a very insensitive perspective, with very negative and very damaging comments to myself. It is clear from the feedback they have in no way had any awareness or training on how to feedback to a dyslexic student and with comments like " bad grammar" "the grammar is wrong here" "this sentence is not quite right. Take a look at the grammar" to someone that cannot see literally what the problem is, is completely demoralising.

They stopped at page 17 of 57 with their "detailed feedback" as they called it refusing to go further stating " we have not commented on all the work because we felt that no useful purpose would be served doing this".

The other 40 pages contained all my application of theory to my specialised field. there is no overall comments on my ideas. This I have found the most soul destroying as for the past 4 months I have worked solidly on trying to achieve and refine my ideas. As guidelines from another university put forward tutors should
Be aware of how "Technical mistakes in written English and poor presentation may mask the ideas and knowledge the student wishes to convey, which can be frustrating for the student and difficult for the marker.
When marking, look beyond the poor language skills for knowledge and ideas".

There are many other issues within the feedback as you can imagine, but it would take to long, but hopefully you get the feel of what i am going on about.

I am struggling to day as tomorrow I meet with these supervisors to discuss this further. Part of me wants to scream and shout at them, but the other part knows I will get upset. My gut and head instinct are saying withdraw, start again some where else with a better support network and a more experienced supervision team. My heart is saying just don't do it any more anywhere as I am so tired of having to work twice as hard as every other post grad student I know and then to have this, life is just too short to keep putting myself through it.

If there is any one who could make a useful suggestion regarding maybe specific support I can get from an independent area or maybe there are better universities within the North west England that are more capable of offering post grad support than mine, please let me know.
Many thanks

#2 BubblewrapPrincess

BubblewrapPrincess

    Long Standing Forum Member

  • Moderators(moderator)
  • 2,210 posts
  • Gender:Female

Posted 25 March 2012 - 05:57 PM

Hi,

I had something similar happen to me at my university.

I took a degree in English and Creative Writing. You see, even though I'm dyslexic the one thing I have always wanted to do is write books, especially books and stories with a fantasy element. I had worked and worked on my writing and grammar for years with this dream in mind, that one day I would be able to put into writing the stories I had to keep in my head. I over came all sorts of difficulties, and problems, and prejudices, to finally go to university...I got told when I was small I'd never learn read or write, and I wouldn't cope with secondary school, but now I was studying English. It was terrifying and amazing all at once.

Then I handed in one of my short stories for marking, and I got back several pages ranting about how terrible my ideas were, and attacking many of the writers I liked. I'd worked so hard to get to that level, only to be told by a published novelist they hated everything I wanted to create or become, and instead I should write about topical world issues. Topical world issues had not kept me going when I got zeros on every single spelling test at primary school, and I had to read out my score in front of the class. To really rub things in, I got a little note at the end about my grammar and spelling, saying that it was perfect...Of course it was perfect, I'd been working on that story for months trying to get it just right, and I'd gone over it line by line, word by word, tweaking ever comer until it was exactly how I wanted it. I had been so excited to see what the feedback would be, and when I read it, well, it was just soul destroying.

At first I was just shocked someone who was supposed to teach would be that aggressive and condescending to a student. Once it sunk in I cried, and then I had a sort of ego trip, were I flounced around my student house ranting like a mad scientist or some sort of Bond villain "They looked down on my work, but they'll see!" that kind of thing. Then I calmed down a bit and just thought about chucking the whole thing in, and that maybe I'd been wrong all these years and this dyslexic author idea was maybe a bit silly...and then, then I got angry, because I hadn't gone through all those battles throughout my school life to let some stuck up old bat put me and my dreams down. Not only was I going to prove her wrong by publishing lots of wonderful stories, I was going to make a complaint to the university, because I knew I was right...I knew in my bones what she had written to me was totally unfair and unprofessional.

I complained, expecting a big battle, and my academic tutor looked at what she wrote to me. I told him why I had perfect spelling and grammar. I told him the only reason I was at the university at all was my burning desire to write the sort of thing she was rubbishing. He decided to call my seminar leader in to talk about how to deliver feedback to students, especially dyslexic ones...and that was it, sorted. Nothing like that on any other pieces of work I did for her, if anything she went out of her way to be polite to me (the grade I got was fine).

I know you are cross, and you are upset, and you've got the weight on you of all your past struggles pushing down on you, but that is exactly why you mustn't give up. You own it to yourself to keep going and to fight for yourself. When you finally finish your studies imagine how amazing it will feel, not despite the hard times, but because of them. It would be an achievement for anyone, but for someone with dyslexia it means even more.

The way you were treated was wrong, please don't just accept that. If you think you will get upset maybe contact your student union's disabled students rep, your university should have one and it's their job to help out in these sorts of situations. They can mediate between staff and students to help resolve this sort of difficulty. If you give up now because of one persons insensitivity and ignorance you will regret it for the rest of your life. Have a really good rant about it (my friend kindly made me tea and listened to me tell him how amazing I was, and then how maybe god was just working against me, and then how everything I wrote was awful...but sort of mixed together. All without telling me to try to look at things objectively, or suggesting I was a bit mad. It's what good friends are for.) then try to distract yourself from all this and de-stress, then think it over with a clear head. You can still win this!

If you want more support contact your university's disability support services, are you getting DSA (Disabled Students Allowance)? There is help out there if you know where to look.

Bubblewrap

#3 ~ JTB1966 ~

~ JTB1966 ~
  • Guests

Posted 26 March 2012 - 08:48 AM

hello BubblewrapPrincess,I read the post last night and I wanted to say a huge thank you, you have no idea on what a difference it has made to my thinking. It made me cry and laugh at the same time as I recognise my self in some many ways, particularly the "mad scientist" image.

You are right about I owe it to myself to carry on, especially after all the problems I have had just to get to submit that one piece of work. The years of frustration, hoops you jump through, the negativity and downright discrimination and nasty people you meet along the way.

I need to take this forward, even if at the end I choose not to stay where I am, I need to make sure this does not happen some one else.

Trying to stay calm this morning and distract myself with work, not achieving too much.
Thank you again for your thoughtful and inspiring post.

J


Hi,

I had something similar happen to me at my university.

I took a degree in English and Creative Writing. You see, even though I'm dyslexic the one thing I have always wanted to do is write books, especially books and stories with a fantasy element. I had worked and worked on my writing and grammar for years with this dream in mind, that one day I would be able to put into writing the stories I had to keep in my head. I over came all sorts of difficulties, and problems, and prejudices, to finally go to university...I got told when I was small I'd never learn read or write, and I wouldn't cope with secondary school, but now I was studying English. It was terrifying and amazing all at once.

Then I handed in one of my short stories for marking, and I got back several pages ranting about how terrible my ideas were, and attacking many of the writers I liked. I'd worked so hard to get to that level, only to be told by a published novelist they hated everything I wanted to create or become, and instead I should write about topical world issues. Topical world issues had not kept me going when I got zeros on every single spelling test at primary school, and I had to read out my score in front of the class. To really rub things in, I got a little note at the end about my grammar and spelling, saying that it was perfect...Of course it was perfect, I'd been working on that story for months trying to get it just right, and I'd gone over it line by line, word by word, tweaking ever comer until it was exactly how I wanted it. I had been so excited to see what the feedback would be, and when I read it, well, it was just soul destroying.

At first I was just shocked someone who was supposed to teach would be that aggressive and condescending to a student. Once it sunk in I cried, and then I had a sort of ego trip, were I flounced around my student house ranting like a mad scientist or some sort of Bond villain "They looked down on my work, but they'll see!" that kind of thing. Then I calmed down a bit and just thought about chucking the whole thing in, and that maybe I'd been wrong all these years and this dyslexic author idea was maybe a bit silly...and then, then I got angry, because I hadn't gone through all those battles throughout my school life to let some stuck up old bat put me and my dreams down. Not only was I going to prove her wrong by publishing lots of wonderful stories, I was going to make a complaint to the university, because I knew I was right...I knew in my bones what she had written to me was totally unfair and unprofessional.

I complained, expecting a big battle, and my academic tutor looked at what she wrote to me. I told him why I had perfect spelling and grammar. I told him the only reason I was at the university at all was my burning desire to write the sort of thing she was rubbishing. He decided to call my seminar leader in to talk about how to deliver feedback to students, especially dyslexic ones...and that was it, sorted. Nothing like that on any other pieces of work I did for her, if anything she went out of her way to be polite to me (the grade I got was fine).

I know you are cross, and you are upset, and you've got the weight on you of all your past struggles pushing down on you, but that is exactly why you mustn't give up. You own it to yourself to keep going and to fight for yourself. When you finally finish your studies imagine how amazing it will feel, not despite the hard times, but because of them. It would be an achievement for anyone, but for someone with dyslexia it means even more.

The way you were treated was wrong, please don't just accept that. If you think you will get upset maybe contact your student union's disabled students rep, your university should have one and it's their job to help out in these sorts of situations. They can mediate between staff and students to help resolve this sort of difficulty. If you give up now because of one persons insensitivity and ignorance you will regret it for the rest of your life. Have a really good rant about it (my friend kindly made me tea and listened to me tell him how amazing I was, and then how maybe god was just working against me, and then how everything I wrote was awful...but sort of mixed together. All without telling me to try to look at things objectively, or suggesting I was a bit mad. It's what good friends are for.) then try to distract yourself from all this and de-stress, then think it over with a clear head. You can still win this!

If you want more support contact your university's disability support services, are you getting DSA (Disabled Students Allowance)? There is help out there if you know where to look.

Bubblewrap



#4 JohnQ

JohnQ

    Forum Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 22 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London

Posted 26 March 2012 - 12:45 PM

Hi JTB,

I too am a mature PhD student now writing up my dissertation. When my supervisor raised various issues last year regarding the way I was structuring my thesis I found I couldn't get my head around it.

After months of writing in circles I went for a dyslexia screening at student services (I'd had my suspicions for some time). They recommended a full assessment which I had last January. This confirmed a diagnosis of dyslexia.

My supervisor has been very understanding, but I'm still finding it hard (if not impossible) to implement the suggested changes to the thesis. I know what I want to say, but I'm struggling to formulate it all into a well-structured argument.

Student services has been excellent thus far. I agree with Bubblewrap that you should contact them in this instance. They should be happy to set up a meeting between you and your supervisor(s). It sounds like your supervisor needs some help. Dyslexia is complicated. Simply being aware that a student is dyslexic without knowing how this can affect how they work and process things isn't going to be helpful. There is a lot of ignorance out there.

I know that I'd be worried of making a pig's ear of it if I were in your shoes and tried on my own to sort out a problem like the one you've described. Having a mediator who understands the issues (and has some authority behind them) could make a world of difference. I would advise against making any long term decisions at this stage.

I found this series of videos by someone with dyslexia who did a PhD very useful.

#5 BubblewrapPrincess

BubblewrapPrincess

    Long Standing Forum Member

  • Moderators(moderator)
  • 2,210 posts
  • Gender:Female

Posted 26 March 2012 - 08:30 PM

hello BubblewrapPrincess,I read the post last night and I wanted to say a huge thank you, you have no idea on what a difference it has made to my thinking. It made me cry and laugh at the same time as I recognise my self in some many ways, particularly the "mad scientist" image.

You are right about I owe it to myself to carry on, especially after all the problems I have had just to get to submit that one piece of work. The years of frustration, hoops you jump through, the negativity and downright discrimination and nasty people you meet along the way.

I need to take this forward, even if at the end I choose not to stay where I am, I need to make sure this does not happen some one else.

Trying to stay calm this morning and distract myself with work, not achieving too much.
Thank you again for your thoughtful and inspiring post.

J


I'm glad my post helped a bit, hang in there!

And good luck JohnQ, I hope your issues with your supervisor get resolved smoothly. It's good to hear he is listening and being receptive so far.

#6 ~ Tsaruk ~

~ Tsaruk ~
  • Guests

Posted 30 March 2012 - 03:06 PM

Hi!

I have had similar experiences whilst I was studying for my BA and then later for my MA at a different university.

During my BA, a lecturer once insinuated (in front of a group of students), that people who can't pass a mutliple choice exam, really are stupid and shouldn't be here. She meant me, as I had not passed. But she should have known better as I had spoken to the degree leader, who was incidently her husband, about my dyslexia and asked for extra time on the paper - which was denied for both me and another dyslexic student. I always did ok in my essays and in the written exams, but seeing similar answers in a multiple-choice of which in some questions we were allowed to answer more than one choice - well thats what I call stupid!
Clearly, my 1st university were not as supportive as they should have been.

But Manchester University were overall brilliant with their disability support and the funding that I got from DSA. The most vital help I was given was my own private tutor organised through the Disability support department at the university who specifically helped me with whatever help I needed.

I believe I had 2hrs a week with her throughout the year(all paid for).
She would help me plan the work. Form my ideas in note form - diagrams drawn on large sheets of paper.

But most importantly, she would sit with me and read through every word and sentance of my work and help me rephrase it, so that it made sense. She was very clear and made sure that I made and kept it my work, as she tried very hard to understand what I wanted to say and helped me put it into written sentances.

In fact, the only bit she did not read - the 'thanks' message - was where I made a mistake, and unfortunatly it was picked up on by the markers....

Anyway, my point is, my university tutor was only allowed to see my twice during my dissertation. Once to see my proposal and say go ahead. And a 2nd time to have read through one chapter of my work, before I continued.
When she read through the chapter and I went to meet her, she didn't seem interested in the academic side of my work, but just repeatively asking what sort of extra help I was getting. Perhaps she thought it was an unfair advantage, and I didn't deserve her academic time...... but most likely she had no clue on how to tutor me.

So, I do know how frustrating it is for people in teaching positions to not understand the amount of effort and work people with learning disabilities go through before they see the work.

Keep going! It will be worth it!
And try and see if you can get a tutor funded through DSA allowance. My tutor was my saviour!

(It just a shame that now in my working life, with the want and need to write academic articles I can't get the help...)

#7 ~ JTB1966 ~

~ JTB1966 ~
  • Guests

Posted 30 March 2012 - 08:43 PM

Hello JohnQ, Bubblewrap Princess and Tsaruk, thank you for all your support this week. It has been a mighty roller-coaster of emotions.

Started on Monday with my supervision team suggesting I stop my doctorate as they could not understand my work as it was " so incoherent" they could not see past the grammar issues to see the ideas.

So after a very lengthy and upsetting session I suggested to them that they had not adhered to any Spld guidelines, had not helped in any of the structuring or writing support and on their "ill advised advice" over the past 9 months this is the situation they have left me in. As a result I am intercalating for 12 months to get independent support external from my university and seek financial support through the DSA following your kind advice. I am in the middle of writing a letter to the board to describe why I am intercalating and will possibly be lodging a complaint against the supervisors for how they have not acted in my best interests nor in line with institutional guidelines for dyslexic students. Not sure about the official complaint but my line manager has suggested it.

So I left very upset, emotionally drained but so angry and determined to fight this every step of the way now.
So I contacted a few places.

As a result the Dyslexic Foundation have been in touch and they have a tutor that maybe able to help, I have had numerous offers from supportive folks internal and external to my university, to proof read and help with the grammar, and my old support tutor who I was advised not to seek out, I have been to see and we are now working through in my own time the issues. After a quick read through of a section of the work he has now an idea of where we can move forwards.

My work area has been extremely supportive, especially my line management who are supporting me decisions what ever they maybe for my future study.

I have also been in contact with another university to discuss the potential for moving somewhere else with better supervision structure and experiences.

At the end of the day if some one who understands dyslexia and can get a handle on my ideas and work, and somewhere down the line says, that maybe the PhD is a step too far - then I can accept that and will look at my options. But right now I am going to keep going for as long as I can and fight this to the end.

Like Bubblewrap princess said " I owe it to myself" no one else, just me.

I am tired of the complete lack of awareness, understanding and down right discrimination that I have faced over the years, not to mention other people I know with dyslexia. I intend to take this, with help, as far as I can where I am to make sure no one else has the misfortune to have this kind of situation happen to them in my institution.

There is a huge gap in awareness and training for supervisors. They get the training for the theory stuff but the human side leaves a lot to be desired. Being good in your "expert" field is no cause to be allowed to be a supervisor when you have no awareness or ability to understand your students needs.

Thank you again everyone, keep going and keep fighting the good fight.

All the best
J x




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users