Full transcription of the interview
Jordan: [00:00:00] Hello, curious minds and a very warm welcome to The Research Beat, with me, your host, Jordan Kruszynski. Today’s guest is Martine Ellis, writer, coach, and educator on wellbeing-driven productivity, as well as Professional Development Manager and Scholarly Activity Lead at Guernsey College of Further Education.
Martine, welcome to the show!
Martine: Jordan, it’s such a pleasure to be here. Thanks so much for inviting me on.
Jordan: Lovely to have you. So, Martin, tell us:
What kind of work do you do as a Scholarly Activity Lead?
Martine: That’s a good question. My actual job title is ludicrously long, so I’m glad you just called it ‘Scholarly Activity Lead’.
My job is professional development manager and scholarly activity lead. And as you hinted at in the introduction, I work in further education, so I’m based in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands and we have one further education college to accommodate the whole of the island. So my role as professional development manager is [00:01:00] supporting the professional development needs of my colleagues.
So as you can imagine, that’s majority, uh, academic staff, so lecturers, but also some non-academic staff too. And I do, I do a lot. It’s a big job. It deserves a long job title, clearly. Um, so I promote professional development, a culture of professional development, and within that, there is a research angle, which we’ll, um, dig into shortly, I’m sure. I run professional de development sessions every week in response to need. I identify where we need to develop our staff. Um, I look after professional development funding, so where people wanna go on courses and maybe look at higher education, for example. Um, I mentor new teachers, I teach new teachers. My teaching role is as a teacher educator. I share an email newsletter once a week with, um, loads of PD stuff on there. I also facilitate activities like inset days and an initiative called and ‘Further Education on Industry’, which we might touch on also something called [00:02:00] the ‘One Thing’, which is our main professional development cycle for academic staff.
Jordan: So in many different senses, you are making sure that the academics in your institution are really being the best they can be.
Martine: Yeah, absolutely. That’s very much what I try to do and, and take a kind of, um, an approach that acknowledges everybody’s different and everyone has different needs and, you know, the needs, the professional development needs of a plumbing lecturer might be different to the professional development needs of our management lecturer, for example.
But yeah, that’s very much what I do and it’s a great job. I love it.
Jordan: And a big part of this is this initiative, the ‘One Thing’ program:
What is the One Thing program?
Martine: Yeah, sure. Um, I’m really proud of the One Thing Program. It’s something quite innovative. Um, it’s very much based on the research around developing teaching staff.
We introduced it about five years ago. Before that, we were developing staff by doing, uh, graded lesson observations back in the day. And all of the research suggests that [00:03:00] graded lesson observations aren’t a very good tool for either, you know, gauging the quality of teaching and learning what’s going on in classrooms or indeed developing people.
Because actually, you know, it’s a judgmental act. So if you , if you walk into someone’s classroom to grade them, you are not gonna get a true picture of what their teaching practice is like. Therefore, you’re not gonna get the right grade and you’re not gonna be able to develop them because you don’t know what their areas for development are.
So, you know, it’s recognized that wasn’t a helpful tool in professional development. So we ditched those completely and we replaced them with a cycle of professional development called the the ‘One Thing’. and basically what it involves is. Each lecturer at the start of the academic year chooses an aspect of their professional practice that they want develop.
And so that’s acknowledging that indeed they are professionals and they’re reflective and they know what they need to work on and what they want to work on. So right at the beginning you’ve got this aspect of ownership. The lecturer owns their development, so they [00:04:00] pick the thing they wanna develop.
It’s very much rooted in their professional practice, their teaching practice, and they’re paired with an advanced practitioner. So the a advanced practitioners, the APs are my team. And so I allocate APs to lecturers and the APs support the lecturer in developing that area of their practice. So it’s very individualized.
One lecturer might want to go off and read loads, you know, read up about what they’re developing, and dig into the, the literature and get, you know, super academic with it. Whereas another might wanna buddy up with a colleague and go, Oh, I’m looking in this, uh, this aspect of my practice. What do you do? Can I come and watch you? It’s totally bespoke to the individual. So in that first term, it’s the exploration phase, the research bit. And they’re looking into this thing they wanna develop supported by an advanced practitioner. Now all my aps are coaches, so we take a coaching approach to this development.
It’s not, it’s not the mentoring end of that spectrum. We, the aps aren’t going, oh, we know [00:05:00] everything about everything because you can’t, you know, um, I’ll use the example of plumbing again. I dunno to think about plumbing. My, my dad’s a plumber. That doesn’t mean I’m in a place to show someone how to be a better plumbing lecturer. So it’s very much that coaching approach. So that first term is supporting the investigation bit.
And then the second term, once they’ve really l looked into what it is they wanna develop, there’s the opportunity for, uh, a one thing activity we would call it. So that can be the lecturer trying the thing out in their classroom and the AP coming to watch and then them having a peer-to-peer discussion afterwards about it.
Or it could be a bit of kind of planning together. It could be developing a resource together. It’s whatever the lecturer really needs in order to kind of get some feedback and really kind of develop this project. And so that happens in term two.
And then in term three, it’s about evaluating the impact of the project that they undertook, again, supported by their advanced [00:06:00] practitioner, and then sharing what they learned.
Um, it’s really important for us as an organization to have that sharing aspect, that it’s not kind of everyone just doing their own little thing and nobody’s talking about it. We want to have that… how did it go? what happened? Um, the sharing element, and it’s not, the sharing isn’t about going, oh, I had a really successful one thing.
Actually, some of the best one things. Sort of technically unsuccessful because of the learning that comes off the back of it. Um, so yeah, that’s, that’s what we do. That’s the One Thing. And we’ve been doing it five years and it’s kind of, it’s keeps iterating, you know, as all of these things do. And now I’m very excited to say that other people are starting to adopt it.
Little on Guernsey and we are little, very tiny island is influencing Further Education in the kind of broader field.
Jordan: We’re gonna go to that little bit in a moment. But this whole program certainly does sound more engaging, more interesting, and perhaps more valuable to the academics and lecturers, than somebody [00:07:00] with a grim face and a gray suit coming, into the classroom, sitting down and watching silently from the back.
Martine: Exactly. Um, you know, those, those type of observations were, we’re never gonna help people kind of really get excited about their practice and develop and it was never a good idea. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I, I genuinely, part of my role also sort of goes into quality and I do understand the need for us as an organization to know the level of teaching and learning in our organization, but that, I class that as sort of quality assurance.
Whereas what I’m focusing on with this initiative is quality improvement and quality improvement is always gonna be more effective if you start with the professionals at the heart of it.
Jordan: And something that might surprise our listeners is that this program can actually involve quite a lot of research and I don’t think people always associate research with Further Education necessarily, but:
Can you tell us how you work research into the whole program?
Martine: Yeah, absolutely. I [00:08:00] mean, I mentioned that, you know, we kind of bespoke the support that we give, and those that are really interested in getting into the more academic side of things. We will support them in reading up on what it is they are doing. But more than that, the entire cycle is action research.
When you look at it, it, you know, some of our colleagues might not use that label action research because for some, you know, just the word research sort of, there’s an accessibility issue. They’re like, we’re not doing research. What’s that about? No, they’re probably not. But they’re, every single person participating in the One Thing is going right.
This is a thing I want to look into. I’ve identified this. I want to develop it as a part of my practice. I want see how I can do this in a different way. I’m gonna try this thing, I’m gonna try that thing. I’m gonna see what the impact is. I’m gonna evaluate it’s research, it’s actually research.
Jordan: It’s very true. It’s that act of working out what you’re doing well, what you’re not doing well, and taking action on it and digging into books and, and digging into activities that others [00:09:00] have carried out. It’s all research, and in this case it’s helping people to go forward in their careers and make themselves better lecturers, academics, and so on.
Martine: Absolutely that. And, um, what I want to do is start using the phrase ‘action research’ a little bit more around the one thing to kind of lower the barrier of entry to what research actually is and looks like, because I do, like you alluded to it just before about there being a bit of a misconception that people in Further Education don’t do research cuz we’re, we’re about skills rather than knowledge. Um, and that’s just not right. It’s, it’s absolutely incorrect.
Jordan: Well, I think , this phrase, ‘action research’ is nice and perhaps reframing the whole idea of what research is, is also very helpful because a lot of people make, perhaps negative associations, they think it’s something very, very slow and uninteresting and boring.
When you consider that it’s actually just working out. You’re just trying to get somewhere, answer a question, achieve something, and there is a lot of action involved in it. You’ve got to take action in order to make it work. So I really like that phrase to reframe [00:10:00] the whole thing.
Martine: Absolutely. And, and something that we have started doing over the past couple of years of the One Thing is trying to get our colleagues not to have a sentence to describe their one thing, but a question to describe their One Thing.
So by that we’re kind of going, okay, so this is, this is technically your research question. This is what you’re trying to answer. So yeah, we we’re trying to, to make people think in terms of questions, to start that cycle off in the most , I was gonna say the most researchy way possible, but you know what I mean.
Jordan: So you alluded to it before Martin, but:
Have other colleges taken up this concept?
Martine: Yes, we kind of, after the first couple of years, we knew we were onto something quite special. So to give you some examples, I mean, I’ve been podcasting for about 10 years. And I was able to get the, um, the researcher whose work on one thing was effectively based on, and there was a few, but there was one lead researcher in this [00:11:00] area. I was able to get him on my podcast to interview him. So I was so, so chuffed. I had a bit of a fan girl moment. I can’t, I can’t deny it.
Um, but actually that felt like it was the start of sharing what it was we were doing with the wider Further Education community. And so that was a good few years ago now. And then since then, I’ve spoken at a variety of conferences, um, particularly over the Covid period because a lot of big professional development type national conferences and things all went online.
So for me, being in Guernsey, that was great. I’m like, yeah, yeah, I’ll speak at your conference. No problem at all. So I spoke at a few conferences, um, about the One Thing. Um, and then had lots of people contacting me afterwards and I, I’ve kind of spoken to them about it and they’re like, Ooh, can we have that?
I’m like, yeah, sure. Help itself, you know, it’s great and invariably they’re calling it the one thing as well, which I feel sort of really quite pleased about cuz of that. It is quite a catchy name and it really does aptly describe what it does on the tin, [00:12:00] you know? Um, so yeah, I mean even this a really big college group in the UK, like massive compared to us and they’ve adopted it and rolled it out and invariably they kind of tweak it and do their own thing with it.
And for me that’s fascinating. So, uh, this year actually I, or rather last academic year, I was able to go and visit this college group and have a look at how they were doing it, and it’s just been really positive.
Jordan: It’s wonderful to hear. And I wonder, has this concept kind of leapt outta the bounds of Further Education and into higher education yet? And if not, do you think it could have some utility in higher education as well?
Martine: Yeah, I don’t see why not at the moment. My kind of professional network is o obviously more Further Education than, than higher education. But, you know, as a Further Education establishment, we deliver, we do, we’ve got degree courses at the end, you know, we, we do.
He, so, you know, in that respect, it already is [00:13:00] being effective in a slightly different environment, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t be. Ultimately teaching and learning is teaching and learning and developing a practice. The blueprint could be applied across all education sectors, in my opinion.
Jordan: So Martine, we’re going to take a look at your second role, which is writer, coach, and educator in wellbeing-driven productivity. Now, my first question is:
Why wellbeing-driven productivity? What got you interested in this field?
Martine: I love that you quote my second role. I guess, um, wellbeing-driven productivity and writing about it and speaking about it. That’s, that’s kind of something I do when I’m not in the day job, but there, there is a crossover with the day job, um, without a doubt. So wellbeing-driven productivity is all about the idea that in order to get stuff done, to be productive, you need to be well, to do well, you need to be well.
Whether that’s physically well or mentally well. [00:14:00] And I think really, I came up with this notion of wellbeing-driven productivity as a kind of opposite to hustle culture and, and a lot of the kind of unhealthy work practices that we do see in education and academia. You see people just absolutely working till they fall over.
Um, burnout is a huge problem in education and I have experienced burnout, and that was one of the reasons that I started getting interested in the idea of adopting a wellbeing first mindset. Um, I, and we might dig into this a bit later, but I made a massive, massive career move over 10 years ago from working in the finance sector to becoming an unqualified lecturer.
And that transition was really challenging for me and led to the, the burnout that I mentioned. And I quickly sussed out that actually I loved teaching. That was where I was supposed to be, but if I was gonna be success at it and survive it. I [00:15:00] needed to start changing my working practices and I needed to start prioritizing wellbeing and rest and creating boundaries around my home and my, my work.
We all know it’s not nine to five working in an education environment. Um, and that really was the thing that started using the language wellbeing, driven productivity and started, started me writing about it, speaking about it. Um, and, and yeah, that’s kinda where it came from. Um, the other thing, we may dig into it a bit as well, I diagnosed as a person with autism, so as well as the burnout stuff, being an autistic person, there’s a kind of crossover there as well, cuz being autistic in a, in a neurotypical world is exhausting.
Um, so all of those things led me to suss out, but in order to succeed in my career, my chosen career, I needed to do things a little bit differently and clearly differently to how a lot of people around me were doing [00:16:00] things.
How do you personally implement well-being strategies into your own life?
Martine: Good question. I think at the very top of the list is boundaries and boundaries are, and that encompasses a lot of different things. So it could be something as simple as not having work emails on my mobile device, because, we all know we spend way too much time on our mobile device, right? If you’ve got work emails on there, there’s always that temptation to dig in and start doing stuff at nine o’clock at night or at the weekends and things.
So that’s, that’s one example of a boundary that I have in place. I also, um, try very hard to work relatively regular hours and, you know, if I’ve done a slightly long day, I’ll have a shorter day the following day to balance things out because I know I have to have that rest. I also, and this is very controversial, so standby, I say no to things.
I say no. [00:17:00] Can I just repeat that? I say no to stuff. Um, I dunno whether that’s a product of being like, I’m a little older. I’m in my forties now. Um, I think when you’re a bit younger, sometimes you feel you have to say yes to absolutely everything professionally, like every extracurricular thing you’re asked to do.
I don’t, I say no to stuff, and I deploy my yes very, very carefully. And it has not done my career any harm at all. Um, you don’t have to say yes to everything. I think that’s really important. I rest, I have very strict boundaries around my rest. I know I have to do things in a different way to others.
I rest and I think ultimately there’s a mindset shift that I’ve done. Um, and that is wellbeing has to come first. I’ve just, I just started a book actually. Um, I’m reading a book called ‘Rest’. Forgive me I’d have to look up the author, but it’s a, just the word rest and, and he’s. Said something super interesting that we need to stop thinking about work and rest being [00:18:00] opposites.
They’re not. They’re part of the same process and in order to do work well, you have to do rest well. And for me that was like, yes, that’s what I’ve been saying for ages, thank you for articulating it so beautifully. So I was saying, saying no boundaries rest, and just shifting your mindset to understand that look, that work and rest are not opposites.
Jordan: So interesting to hear that boundaries is at the top of your list and the other things as well, saying no, and basically having control of what you’re doing. I’ve spoken with PhD researchers who have specific issues with this. They cannot say no. And they feel obliged to say yes to every little request that comes their way and it comes through their phone when they finish, you know, they finished their office hours, they finished their lab hours.
The message is coming through the phone and they feel, I, I should probably deal with this. I should say yes, but they can’t stop because they think that they will be somehow disrespectful or failing themselves or failing the department if they did.
Martine: [00:19:00] That’s where that mindset shift is really important, because actually when you respond to that email, that request, two things are happening.
Firstly, you’re not giving your best response because you’re doing it in a really rushed, hurried way, and actually you’re gonna make typos in your email and you’re gonna say things slightly wrong, and it’s just gonna be a rushed response, which does not indicate how much thought you’ve put into it, doesn’t it?
Very little. You’ve just gone straight back to them. That’s the first thing that’s happening. The person is not getting a good quality response from you. And then the second thing that’s happening is you are training those people around you that if they email you out of hours, they’re gonna get a pretty, pretty much an immediate response.
And if you keep doing that, it’s gonna become an expectation. And actually that’s on you. I hate to be harsh, but that is on you. You need to start training people that there will be a slight delay in your response, but when they get your response, it will be worth [00:20:00] waiting for because it will be considered, it’ll be top quality and it’ll ultimately prevent the need for back and forth emails. It’ll be more efficient.
Jordan: It’s a cycle that does need to be broken and it needs the individual to gain control.
Martine: Absolutely that!
How can wellbeing-driven productivity specifically help researchers and academics?
Martine: That’s a good question. I think the sort of structure and boundaries starting point is gonna be a good one. Um, but to give you kinda a practical way that, uh, somebody who’s doing research could use this approach to work.
Um, aside from not having emails on the work emails on their mobile devices, I really enjoy using the Pomodoro technique for when I’m kind of getting knee-deep in something, kinda, particularly if I’m writing or I’m reading and making notes on what I’m reading. So that kind of activity. Um, so if you have not heard of the Pomodoro technique, it is essentially working in sprints in 25 minutes [00:21:00] sprints.
Um, so I use an online timer called Pomofocus. It’s a free timer, and I hit the timer and I work for 25 minutes, absolutely focused. I move my phone into another room. I block everything, you know, I put my headphones on and I work for a 25-minute sprint, and then the timer goes off and I take a five-minute break, and then I do that four times.
And then I take a longer break. So it’s, it’s kind of, it’s still boundaries if you think about it. It’s boundaries in the actual work practice that you do. But by working in sprints, I can, I spend less time doing the work. It’s more focused, it’s higher quality, and then I’m building in breaks.
I’m actually taking those important breaks and in that longer break I’ll go outside and I’ll get some fresh air and I’ll do all the things that we know we’re supposed to do, but invariably don’t cause we haven’t put that sort of structure or those boundaries in place. So yeah, I highly recommend the Pomodoro technique and it really sort of fits with my approach to kind of quality [00:22:00] over quantity when it comes to work.
Jordan: I think that’s a really good point, and it’s kind of a microcosm of the burnout that you mentioned before. I if we’re talking, thinking of burnout as taking place over a shorter period, if you just sit and work and you’re focusing on something, your concentration starts lapsing, lapsing, lapsing, and eventually you’re just not doing anything.
You’re just sitting and, and kind of willing something to happen, but it won’t.
Martine: Exactly. And that’s no good for anyone, let’s be honest. It is. It’s good. It’s bad for you mentally, but it’s also bad for you physically. You need to get up and move around and you, you can really injure yourself by just being completely hunched over your computer all the time.
Jordan: Absolutely. And again, I think in academia, the higher you go, the more responsibility you need to take for your own work. So a technique like this is, could be critical because you’ve really got to have mastery over your own time and, and the intensity with which you use it.
Martine: Yeah, definitely. And if, if you, [00:23:00] if you’re in a, a leadership role in academia, one of the, one of the things that you can do, if you’ve already mastered this yourself and you have these boundaries and these working practices, you can support other people who are reporting to you to do exactly the same.
So the impact of you having boundaries and working in the best possible way for yourself is it grows. You can support. I mean, that’s, that’s my professional development side coming through. You know, learn it yourself, help others to do it.
I think you might have some firsthand experience of this, but what happens if we don’t take well-being seriously?
Martine: I think burnout is the next step to that. Ultimately, you know, you, you’re gonna get unwell. Um, you’re gonna be exhausted. Actually, what tends to happen is you make mistakes at work, which. Things aren’t great professionally. That affects your physical health, it affects your mental health and burnout is ultimately the thing that happens.
There’s of really interesting research on [00:24:00] burnout, actually thing research to say is the way burnout to remove yourself from the situation causing the burnout, but let’s not, it doesn’t have to get to that stage. It really doesn’t. If you adopt these practices, if you put yourself first in your needs and your wellbeing, then burnout isn’t a thing that is gonna be on the horizon.
But ultimately, to answer your question, if we don’t take well-being seriously, if we don’t prioritize ourselves and our needs, then that is gonna be the outcome.
Jordan: And I think it’s so important to get started with this as soon as possible because if you let it build, then maybe you’ll get to the point you just mentioned, where as a last resort, you might have to quit the whole thing, or at least get some distance from it.
Yeah. If you, if you build it inconsistently, probably you’re not going to get to that breaking point.
Martine: That’s very much why I talk about doing these really small steps, like putting sort of boundaries around your time at [00:25:00] work and not having emails on your phone and, and using techniques like the Pomodoro technique to do that kind of quality work over the quantity work.
All of these little things saying no to certain things they will prevent the burnout happening. And certainly that’s what I hope would happen.
Jordan: So, Martine, in this section we take the time to talk about some of the biggest issues in academia today. And our first question for you, in your view:
What are the biggest issues in Further Education at the moment?
Martine: I am really concerned about the number of brand new teachers leaving within their first couple of years of lecturing in FE. Um, the numbers are pretty scary and that you have to ask the question why. And, and I think it’s about expectations. I think it’s about workload. Um, I have concerns that there’s not sort of the support put in place that a brand new teacher needs. Um, I’m not talking about my own [00:26:00] organization here cuz I know, I know we do a good job of putting mentoring in place and things like, for example, ensuring that a brand new lecturer isn’t sort of fully timetable.
Do they have that little bit of extra time in their week that they need for planning and preparation? Cause everything takes a lot longer. Um, I mean, we know technically it’s never a nine to five job, um, but I just think. We’re not looking after our new teachers as well as we could. And if we don’t do that, then well , we’re gonna run out, we’re gonna run outta teachers.
We need that, that fresh blood coming through. Um, I, I think attracting people to the Further Education sector to teach is challenging. I don’t think it’s the, the easiest sell in the world. And this has got a lot to do with, and I’m not sure we’ll dig into this, but the, the kind of skills versus knowledge thing that exists that mm-hmm.
the, the difficult assumption that Further Education is for [00:27:00] other people’s children. There is still that kind of, that negativity around Further Education. So attracting people to teach in the sector from industry is hard enough if once we’ve attracted them, if we can’t keep them there, we are gonna find ourselves in, in a, a real problem.
Jordan: So let’s go straight into that big question…
Is there a conflict between Further Education and Higher Education?
Martine: So I’m not sure if it’s a conflict as such. Maybe it’s a bit more subtle than that. I think it’s about assumptions, and assumptions can be super dangerous as we know. Um, giving you a real life example, there is a bit of an assumption – that Further Education doesn’t produce any research and that couldn’t be more wrong.
I mean, if you take the example of the One Thing which I’ve spoken to you about, granted, we are not writing up the research in a formal way and putting it into journals and, and things like that. Let’s not say that couldn’t happen, it might, but research is happening every [00:28:00] single day. And if, if we look at, um, the latest Ofsted framework, uh, for those who are sort of not in, in the UK, Ofsted regulate education in the UK and, and do the inspections and so on, and they cover the, the whole range of education sectors.
The last framework that came out was a very much, you know, research informed. And they were very proud of that fact. And they, they produced a report like outlining all the research it was based on, um, but there was nothing from fe. So as you can imagine, the Further Education sector kicked off and said, what do you, what do you mean we don’t produce research?
Here you go. Here’s all the research. And they very quickly published an update to their research report saying, actually we’re now taking into account this, this, and this from Further Education. Um, so I think, it’s not a conflict. It’s based on incorrect assumptions around the importance of Further Education what goes on in fe, um, that there are greater crossovers between Further Education and Higher Education.
And people just need to sort of get that more and perhaps [00:29:00] raising the importance of, of skills that are taught in the Further Education sector would help that. I mean, ultimately we, we create the workforce of tomorrow. Um, we don’t just do that, we do other stuff as well.
Jordan: I think that it’s right that it’s a question of assumptions and also of perceptions of those outside.
When people are looking in, they are saying, well, there’s a difference between those two things, and I think it’s a question of prestige in many people’s minds that they associate Higher Education, pure academia, with higher status, with yes, with perhaps a better quality of life, more intellectual rigor, things like this. But it’s completely, undervaluing all of the wonderful and, and such important things that Further Education and within that vocational study does.
Martine: Completely. And you know, I’m not sure what we need to do in order to [00:30:00] change those assumptions. I think, I think work has been done on it and I think it is getting better, but I think sort of opportunities like this, that us having this discussion now to shout about the amazing stuff that goes on in Further Education, maybe that’s a good starting point.
Jordan: So Martine, we’re gonna take a look at a few articles here. And first one is from Spectrum News. And this is actually all about:
Autism in academia
What did you think of the article?
Martine: Yeah, I mentioned earlier that, um, I was diagnosed with autism last year. Um, and it was, it, the whole experience for me was incredibly positive. It answered, it answered a lot of questions, and it also kind of is one of the reasons, well, my burnout that I experienced, autism played a role in that and, and these boundaries that I put around my time, um, being autistic kind of helps with that, but it’s also a, a reason why I have to have those boundaries in place.
Um, I thought the article was [00:31:00] really interesting. Um, it made me think about a lot of things. It made me think about if you look at sort of some of the really positive aspects of being autistic, being a researcher, with autism, it’s a match made in heaven in many ways. You know, like as an autistic person, I, I have really good attention to detail. I can, I can get my head down and really zone in and focus on work. I’m, I love words. I love numbers. The truth is really important to me. I’m, can’t lie, you know, I’m just designed to be a researcher. But on the flip side, you know, you were talking about the issues of sort of burnout and things in academia, it’s ripe for that as well.
So this, there’s two sides to it without a doubt. Um, one thing that. I thought would be really essential for an autistic researcher was the role of a mentor that could support them [00:32:00] through it, um, you know, and, and help them establish, um, their boundaries and things. And sort of if there could be a scenario where you have a new autistic researcher, you know, it’d be great if they have an autistic mentor and they could work together and sort of navigate the complex world that is neurotypical research, that would be super helpful.
Something that I think researchers, autistic researchers can bring to academia is around language. Now I’ve got a bit of a b in my bonnet about, um, how dense academic language is sometimes, um, you know, I can, I can read a complex journal article and suss it out, but it will take me some time, um, to kind of decipher it.
One thing that many autistic people are particularly good at is speaking plainly, writing plainly, getting straight to the point, you know, fluffy language just doesn’t work for them. So maybe autistic researchers can help make [00:33:00] literature more accessible. I think that could be a real positive.
Jordan: So this point about academic language is a big one, because it does go beyond the bounds of the world of autism and it does potentially affect everybody… Do you think it’s a big problem that academic language is perhaps not accessible enough?
Martine: Yeah, I do. I I think I’m gonna annoyingly answer your question with another question. Why isn’t it accessible? What is the reason for it? Because, if I think about it, I’m a writer, if I write an article, a non-academic article, I want as many people as possible to read it because I think what I have to say is important, and I think others will benefit from it.
So why aren’t we doing that with research? Are we, are we saying that we want to limit the audience of research? . And if we are saying that there’s a big why question there. Are we saying that only certain sorts of people [00:34:00] should read research? Are we saying we don’t want it read? There’s just so many questions around it.
As a writer, I find it fascinating to see the type of words that are used in research papers. I’m really thinking that sentence that was a mile long. You could have said that in three words. Why wouldn’t you? So that part of that is my autistic brain going that there is no need for that fluff. Part of it is my right ahead going that is just not pleasant to read.
And then there’s another part of me who’s really questioning the reason for it. I dunno the answer, but I do feel concerned about a certain – you’re not gonna like this phras – but a certain academic snobbery. There a sort of snobbery that makes me really uncomfortable. Um, I dunno. Do you have a view?
Jordan: Well, many of our guests have talked about the same issue and they have the same feeling that a lot more could be done to make it more understandable and accessible. And this [00:35:00] is coming from the perspective that research really should be comprehensible to all of society because fundamentally it’s being done to make the world a better place. And therefore, if people generally cannot understand the research then how could they take it and implement it into their own lives or understand it as, as part of the bigger picture is certainly our perspective here at The Research Beat that research should be more accessible and, should be a more detailed conversation between all the people who live in our society.
Martine: Yeah, definitely. I’m very much in favor of this conversation becoming a far bigger one. I think it’s absolutely essential.
Jordan: So Martine, we are going to finish with quite a big question…
Does Further Education deserve more respect?
Martine: That is a big question, and I love that you think that I might have the answer. The answer is really simple, uh, in my opinion. [00:36:00] and actually it’s not so much a matter of respect, I think it’s a matter of inclusion.
Um, Further Education deserves inclusion in all of these conversations. Um, yeah, that would be the one word that I’d wanna leave you with: inclusion.
Jordan: And Martine, where can our listeners find you if they want to learn more?
Martine: Ah, I like this question. Hop over to my website. You’ll find firstname.lastname@example.org. Social media place I tend to hang out the most is Twitter. Uh, I’m @MartineGuernsey on there, but yeah, your starting point definitely is martinellis.com.
Jordan: Martine, thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you today.
Martine: Jordan, I’ve enjoyed every second. Thanks for having me! 🙂