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James Shelton is originally from Aylesbury, United Kingdom and began his research degree with Oxford Brookes in 2012. His thesis title is 'Formality and Creativity: An examination of tuition methods within the undergraduate Film Studies degree'.
I studied for my second undergraduate degree in Film Studies at Oxford Brookes. While taking the degree, I became interested in the educational / pedagogic ideas and debates surrounding media education, especially at university level.
Part of what attracted me to conduct my research at Brookes was my Advisor / Director of Studies, who encouraged me all the way back in the closing stages of my undergraduate degree to consider continuing as a researcher. I had also found Brookes, and the Film Studies department that would go on to be the centre of my research, an interesting and dynamic environment that promised to be a fruitful subject of research.
Prior to my undergraduate Film Studies degree at Brookes, I was a Business Services Administrator for the Care Quality Commission (CQC). During my time with the CQC I had the responsibility of managing the administrative needs of a rotating caseload, which alternated between 5 and 9 Regulatory Inspectors and 90 and 120 regulated services.
Because I had prior experience of the academics I would be working with, I found settling into the research environment relatively easy. The support staff for postgraduates are also very welcoming and personable and have gone out of their way to be helpful.
My research has taken a slightly convoluted route. It has been a long-running debate with my advisory team that my project involves using a Social Sciences methodology to undertake Educational research into Film Studies. This has meant a large amount of time spent designing and defining my interdisciplinary approach. Essentially, my research is an analysis of the undergraduate Film Studies degree course, with a particular focus on tuition and assessment methods, utilising the Film Studies department and degree course at Oxford Brookes as my object of study.
In practice, this meant spending an academic year interviewing students, staff members, and graduates about their experiences in and out of the degree program, observing lectures and assessments, and working as an associate lecturer for several courses. The biggest problem with this methodology was the concern of institutional bias; I had completed the Film Studies degree course at Brookes as an undergraduate and was now working for the department. To a certain extent this was unavoidable, but what it did give me was invaluable access to the people and the institution that formed the object of my research.
While my research project began as an ethnographic / pedagogic study, there is a crossover with other areas; the politics of higher education within humanities, the interaction between the theoretical and practical aspects of the course, as well as the dialogue between the vocational and the academic areas this covers, and the discussions that all of these create.
At the heart of my research though, are the people I have been observing, interviewing and interacting with. While a quantitative approach would have been possible, based on statistics and documentation, I believe that the ethnographic approach, based on the people to whom the course means everything, personally, professionally and academically, brings a fresh perspective to the debates surrounding educational research within the humanities'.
There are a lot of challenges to overcome now that I have begun writing up my research findings. The transcriptions from all of the interviews I have conducted currently run to over 180,000 words, which I have had to consequently analyse and interpret. However I am starting to feel a lot more confident about my research project as a whole.
As my research takes an ethnographic perspective, I've most enjoyed the challenge of interacting with the people that are involved in every level of the Film Studies degree program. I have been gathering perspectives on a lot of different concepts, where some are in agreement and others are not.
I've found that Brookes offers some very interesting and informative training programmes, some of which I have been able to take and that I have found very useful. The School of Arts has also recently started scheduling Writing Retreats, which I hope to attend in future. The training events are also useful not only for their social aspect, but for the opportunity to network with other Research Students and feeling a part of the wider research community at Brookes.
Through the opportunities my department have offered, both at Brookes and other organisations such as Film Oxford, I have come to realise that I love teaching and lecturing. I hope to find some work in future that allows me to continue with this. At the same time, I believe my research has a growing relevance and number of applications within the framework of educational policy analysis, which I would like to channel into a future career.