Avoiding TMA02

I’ve only got a small part of TMA02 left to complete now, but it’s been in that state for a few days now. Last night and tonight I’ve sat down at my computer with good intentions, but somehow I still haven’t quite managed to finish it. I’ve been so desperate to avoid doing it tonight that I’ve spent my time registering for next year’s course, DD303 on cognitive psychology, instead of just getting on with the assignment. Sigh.

Still, tomorrow night I won’t have any excuse for not finishing it off as I’ll be in the luxury Software AG dormitory, otherwise known as Bracknell Central Travelodge. It says on the hotel description that nightlife is available in Bracknell a mere 1.8 miles away; I’ve yet to find any! TMA02 it is then …

ED209 – Week 12

The result for TMA01 appeared just before I set off for my Easter break. After more than a year’s absence from essay writing, I’m pleased that my mark was closer to the one I got for the final essay I wrote on DSE212 than the first essay I wrote for it! Onwards and upwards, hopefully.

Well, who would have thought it? Skegness, at the start of April, with decent weather, (compared to the other times I’ve come to Spring Harvest over the past few years) a Costa Coffee bar in Butlins and wireless internet access too. Fantastic!

The week has been fun, with lots of good teaching – particularly the studies on Acts in the big top, led by Gerard Kelly. Just as enjoyable have been the talkback sessions, with him and Pete Broadbent fielding questions from a few hundred people at once …

It’s been a good place to get away from the hassles of daily life and put some time into the course. I’ve been rewarded with a week I’ve really enjoyed, particularly when I compare it to some of the stuff I had to wade through last week. This chapter makes sense, because, I think, it has a consistent and well-structured narrative that uses the work of the researchers being cited to make its points, rather than simply to appear to name-drop them like the previous chapter did. What’s confusing is that the two chapters share an author in common. Maybe chapter 2 was written on an off day 😉

Anyway, I find myself relating to points made about both conflict and co-operation between siblings being an important part of development, certainly thinking back on my own experiences of growing up and that of my own children.

I found the acknowledgment at the end of the chapter that although psychologists have spent a lot of time studying the face to face interactions of children, the rise of disintermediated contact between children (though mobile ‘phones and the internet, for example) is likely to change not only our understanding of how children interact, but has the potential to influence their development in new ways.

It’s certainly arguable whether such changes brought about technology are ‘good’ or ‘bad’; but what is required is research in this area to understand the nature of these changes. If I ever get as far as my Masters(!), this would be one area that I’d be interested in researching myself.

By the way, thanks to everyone who’s sent me messages saying they’re enjoying the blog and the notes I’ve been producing – this week’s are here. I hope they’re helpful, though the health warning attached to them is that they’re produced for me, they are unlikely to be 100% accurate(*) or complete (as I’m just a student like everyone else) and I’m sure other people’s notes are better than mine. But, if you find them useful, that’s great.

(*) If you do spot something that isn’t right, please leave me a comment!

ED209 – Week 11 in progress

I’m still plodding through week 11 on Disturbed and Disturbing Behaviour. It’s taken several readings, plus two or three nights attempting to put some notes together, to turn it into something that makes sense to me. Judging by the activity on the FirstClass forums, I don’t think I’m the only one that’s finding the reading tough going at the moment. It’s somehow not quite as satisfying as the way in which DSE212 was presented. The chapters seem much more dense and many of them (like this one) don’t seem to have a logical structure to their narrative. They name drop academics and their research, without explaining the wider context. An example from book 2, chapter 2:

Many studies have suggested that disturbed/disturbing behaviour … can be related to difficulties in the relationship with their mothers … (Murray and Stein, 1991; Garver, 1997; Wakschlag and Hans, 1999; Halligan et al, 2004).

I’d much rather see one or two studies explained, than having four name-dropped without proper context. This isn’t the worst example on the course of this tendency – just the most recent that’s irritated me.

On balance however, it’s still an enjoyable and mind-stretching (mind-bending?) experience.

Now, if only the results of TMA01 would appear, I might finally figure out if I’m on the right track! It sounds like the OU have been having some difficulties with the eTMA system according to my tutor. If it’s anything like as poor (from the tutor’s side) as, say, the user experience provided to us humble students by the fOCUS II CD, then I understand why there are problems …

ED209 – Week 10

I’ve just about finished week 10 now, with only the media kit left to do. That’s this evening’s task, after I’ve watched the first episode of The Apprentice, recorded from last night.

There’s a bit of local interest in this series, as there’s a contestant with a connection to Derby. However, if the comments on the Evening Telegraph’s website are anything to go by, he doesn’t seem to be garnering much local support. Personally, I wish him all the best; I can’t imagine it’s an easy process to go through. We all love Surrallan’s sidekicks in our house, especially the faces that Margaret pulls.

Back to week 10 – Parenting and Attachment. Of all of the chapters on the course so far, this is the closest in style and in content to those on DSE212. Most of the concepts felt pretty familiar, especially as one of the exam questions I answered on DSE212 was on attachment.

I found myself wanting more evidence that a type D (disorganised) SST attachment style really did exist, rather than simply being a convenient peg some researchers or policy wonks have invented to hang suggestions that it might indicate abusive or neglectful parents. And as fascinating and fruitful attachment theory is, I can’t help think that an SST that takes place over a few minutes won’t really show up all the complexities and changeability of an infant’s relationship with its parents.

The SST seems to be a pretty blunt instrument, and surely a more qualitative approach to research in this area would generate richer and more interesting data. Perhaps there will be something of that ilk later on in the course.

Mothering Sunday

A relaxing day – mostly!

It started off with me taking a photograph of the elephant in the corner of the room:

The elephant in the corner of the room
The elephant in the corner of the room

He’s not mine, but he keeps me company while I’m trying to write Open University notes and TMAs. I was simply playing with a new digital camera I brought back with me off my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago and at 7am this morning he was the only willing model I could find.

It was off to church with the rest of the family next, collecting my mother on the way. Followed by a fab Sunday lunch at Zest, probably the best restaurant in Derby at the moment.

I then took Emily out driving, so she can hopefully get through her test at the third time of asking in a few weeks. That was relaxing, until we nearly hit a bus, but disaster was averted at the last moment (my apologies to the driver and his non-existent passengers … we all have to learn, sometime!)

No sign of TMA1 being returned from my tutor yet (again, another reason it’s been a relaxing day), but I have managed to finish off the first half of TMA2 this evening.

Having 200 words for a definition seems like a lot, particularly when the first question is something like  ‘what does a correlation coefficient of 0.7 mean’, but when you try to explain it in the context of the course material the words get eaten up very quickly. I scrapped in just under with 194 words for that one and found the others equally challenging to squeeze in under the bar.

I’ve also started to work on the first chapter of book 2, on parenting and attachment, and have found the  notes I made for DSE212 on Lifespan Development a couple of years ago very useful to look back over.

Looks like it’s going to be a busy week at work – trips to Tewkesbury, Swansea, London, Warrington and Bracknell are all in the diary.

TMA2 and book 2 will be coming with me, but the elephant will be staying at home.

ED209 – Week 8

Week 8, on first relationships, has been much more enjoyable than week 7, which was a huge relief. I was particularly struck by Klein’s object-relations theory from the realm of psychoanalytic theory and the conclusions she draws. The idea that a very young baby doesn’t experience whole objects, but instead regards them as part-objects is fascinating. Klein argues that the same object is experienced as a number of part-objects, some of which are ‘good’ (a nipple that gives milk) and some of which are ‘bad’ (a nipple that doesn’t give milk.) She contends that it is only later in the baby’s development (around 4 months of age) that they are able to put ‘wholly good’ part objects together with ‘wholly bad’ ones and realise that they are, in fact, the same object. It is this internal conflict/recognition which causes the baby to experience a ‘sense of loss’ for the first time – the ‘depressive position’. This experience forms the foundation for good relationships later on because we are able to deal with the idea that people are a mixture of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

It’s fairly easy to criticise this on the basis of ‘where is the empirical evidence to support that this is what is really happening’ and others working in the psychoanalytic tradition (Stern) also criticises some of her assertions, for example, arguing that the ‘splitting’ of objects into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parts is too complex a process for a very young infant to achieve.

After the dry tedium of chapter 6, this has been much more fun to think about.

This is the final week on book 1 (so only 3 more to go, plus the methods book and focus II and Safari and videos and audio …!)  Next is TMA2, which I’ve started to make some notes on already. And, joy of joys, it’s not an essay question!

TMA01 – Submitted!

Having finished off a draft of my first TMA a couple of weeks ago, it’s only been this evening that I’ve felt happy enough (strong enough?) to pick it up and make a few final revisions. I’m particularly pleased that I’ve changed one paragraph in the essay that just seemed to hang there, without it being connected into the rest of the argument I was trying to make. Having tried to get it right a couple of weeks ago and failing dismally, I think I managed to achieve the effect I wanted in about 20 minutes this evening! The tip that tutors give you about writing an essay, putting it aside for a few days, reviewing it and then submitting it seems to work well for me.

I still struggle with essays, partly I think because what’s needed for PR and journalistic purposes in some aspects of what I do at work is very different. In that case, what’s needed are a number of paragraphs that can stand alone from each other, so that a journalist can choose what to use/ what not to use in their articles. However, at least I have the assistance of an excellent agency at work; no-one has that luxury when writing essays on OU courses!

Differently to DSE212 (at least when I took it in 2007) is that all of the assignments are submitted using the OU’s eTMA system. Which, theoretically at any rate, would have given me until 23:59:59 on the 13th to send my essay in, rather than having to allow a couple of days for the Royal Mail to jump up and down on the envelope, bend it, and send it by Aberdeen and Penzance before arriving at my tutor’s house before the deadline. Well, I never did lose a TMA in the post, but a few people I met at summer school last year had had that kind of experience. But what eTMA does introduce to the process is the uncontrollable urge to log in to the OU website 27 times a day to see if your tutor has marked it. Technology is great at helping me find new ways of wasting my time …

ED209 – Week 7 – Yuk!

Please, please please … say that the chapter on ‘origins of development’ in book 1 is the last one like it on the course. It’s probably the most mind-numbingly dull part of an OU course text I’ve ever read. My notes probably reflect my impatience with it as well. I thought I understood most of this stuff before I started reading it and I’m now no longer sure that I do. Tedious, dry, boring. But mostly tedious.

Still, next week looks more interesting. I couldn’t resist skipping forwards a bit, particularly when the course forums were all a-buzz with talk of the ‘naughty’ word on page 271.

The remainder of this week will consist of a few more tweaks to TMA 1 and setting up various reminders to make sure I remember to submit it before the cut-off date on March 13th.

ED209 – Week 6

Temperament and development seemed endless as a chapter to study – but having flicked forward to next week’s topic (Origins of Development) and its heavy evolutionary and biological slant, I think this chanpter might start to have felt like it was a breeze!

Some of the concepts (individual differences, adult personality types, attachment) are familiar from DSE212, but what is more obvious is the distinction being drawn between temperament and personality – and how childhood temperament affects the development of personality.

The four temperament theories compared and contrasted towards the end of the chapter (Thomas & Chess; Buss & Plomin; Kagan and Dunn & Kendrick) look as if they could form the heart of an exam question, so I’ve paid particular attention to them and tried to get their differences of approach / emphasis straight in my notes for this week.

ED209 – Week 5

I must say that I’m enjoying getting back to reading the course books after a frustrating couple of weeks struggling with TMA01. I’m still not very happy with my essay, but I’ve decided to put it aside for the next few days as there are still a couple of weeks or more to go before the deadline.

Chapter 4 is on early cognitive development and seems to start exploring this from the viewpoint of Piaget and then providing evidence to support or contradict his conclusions. It’s not the easiest chapter to read, but distilling it down into a set of notes based on each idea and the evidence that supports or contradicts it seems to work quite well. It’s one of those chapters that you hope a ‘how far does’ or a ‘to what extent’ question appears on the exam paper as there’s plenty of material to construct an answer from.

Last night I listened to the ‘Mind Changers’ audio band on Piaget and if nothing else, I now understand why the idea of sandpits, big sinks and letting children get on with playing as part of education that I experienced in the 70’s must have been such a shock to my parents who were brought up when rote learning was practiced in schools. Piaget comes across in the programme as being a rather isolated figure and quite sad in some ways. The undoubted insights he had into child development could have been much more quickly developed if perhaps he hadn’t had this obstinate streak of wanting to prove his initial ideas were completely right by demanding his assistants produce more and more data to support them and ignoring data that didn’t support these ideas. A genius, certainly, and comforting (to me!) to know that even he had flaws.

Notes here.