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Dr. Dean presents on developing virtues through doctoral research at UK conference

The fourth annual conference on Value and Virtue in Practice-Based Research was held at York St John University, in the beautiful city of York (UK) from 21st – 23rd July 2014). It brought together people from around the world who are involved in practice-based forms of research including action research, appreciative inquiry, narrative inquiry and participative inquiry. The conference theme was ‘Openness and Criticality: Evaluating and Publishing Our Research’. The overall aim was to encourage practice-based researchers to think about the importance of evaluating and publishing their research, within a critical frame, when seeking to influence thinking and practice in personal, social, professional and political contexts.


Dr. Catherine Dean (School of Humanities and Social Sciences) presented a paper entitled How the process of doctoral enquiry developed my openness and criticality. She highlighted some key experiences based on her doctoral research that require one to foster openness to sharing their ideas by interacting with and learning from others. She showed that the repeated practice of values such as openness, positive critical engagement, intellectual humility, etc. enables one to develop the corresponding good habits, or virtues. These, in turn, contribute to one’s personal and intellectual development through the process of doctoral enquiry.


The conference schedule included interesting key-note speakers such as Dr. Julian Stern, an expert in educational research, who gave a presentation on Choosing to Reveal: Painful Search and Painful Research. He highlighted, amongst other ideas, the virtues that a true researcher needs to develop. Professor Jon Nixon spoke on The “questionableness” of things: beyond method. The British philosopher spoke about various aspects of research. He pointed out that genuine critique should be formative, in which one has understood a piece of research on its own terms, and then offers ideas and suggestions that contribute to enhancing the work. The virtue of magnanimity was discussed and described as “openness in acknowledging that no-one – least of all oneself- ever has the last word” in the research dialogue. The aim of critique is not to “have the last word” but to sustain and move the conversation forward.


Dr. Dean’s presentation was appreciated and participants contributed to an interesting dialogue on openness and criticality in the doctoral research process. Selected papers, including Dr. Dean’s, will be published in a book based on the conference presentations in 2015.