Having received an email confirming that my exemption from a 3-day research skills workshop request has been approved by two of the three administrative levels of hell required, I feel partly satisfied that I have ticked off the training and development tasks the University has set for me this year. The University of Liverpool has a defined Post Graduate Research Development Programme with compulsory and optional training modules that must be completed in the first year. I set a target for myself that I would get through them within the first semester.
First up was an afternoon session on health and safety. A strictly sit down, shut up and listen so you don’t kill yourself in a lab (or library) approach. I will admit that is the sort of information that should be valued more highly than it is. Then a graduate teaching programme over two days with a month in-between sessions- the required course for commencing future teaching responsibilities. Having discussed teacher training with a NQT friend, apparently neither a two day workshop nor a one year course will leave you fully prepared. However, listening to the experiences of other PhD students beginning to lead their own seminars and lectures was incredibly valuable.
It surprises me to admit that I actually enjoyed the library skills workshop. Noting that most of my field publishes in journals and I feel by now I have I good understanding of how to find that information, the gentleman running the workshop was a clear lover of apps and tools that gather and organise data efficiently and provided a list of the best ones. It probably helped that I was given an afternoon session to ‘practise’ and I managed to get a good portion of my week’s reading done. A day not wasted.
Which leads me to the three day workshop. The big one. Yes, I went for the exemption route. Some would suggest that this is bordering on cowardice, but in my defence, I fitted the exemption criteria and my supervisor will happily fill my three days reprieve with academic penance. Were the other workshops/training sessions worth attending? Whilst the quality could be described as mixed, an excuse to meet up with other PhD students in the early stages of their research is always welcome. And there is a good chance I may have learned something useful for further down the line.