#scribbles

by Karoline Nanfeldt

Tag: university

4 Years of University in Pictures

It has now been a bit of time since I finished my final exams. I have spent more amount these past few weeks feeling 22 than I have in the last year. I have also had time to reminiscence about these past four years and the change I’ve gone through – hope you’ll enjoy a trip down memory lane with me!

Year 1

Before actually starting – very excited and nervous about what was to come

I started at Edinburgh thinking I was going to become a social and economic historian. That lasted about 2 weeks until I realised it was the completely wrong choice for me, and that I was much more meant for psychology. I also spent a fair bit of first year wondering if I had taken the right choice in moving so far away. I think I suffered a bit from the idea that first year is supposed to be amazing and the time of your life, yet I did not really find a group of friends before it was almost November. Semester 2 I felt a lot more settled and I started to enjoy living in a big city. I also did a bit of studying, but managed to get through first year without too many late nights.

Studying hard or hardly studying?

Halloween at Teviot – the actor that played Hodor was the DJ

Year 2

The view of my second year flat onto Princess Street

I managed to transfer to a psychology degree in the summer holiday, and I did not look back. I did not do any courses in history in my second year. Instead, I continued on with sociology and did a course on social policy. I also thoroughly started to enjoy statistics, which took up a lot of my time in second year. While living in a flat with the most beautiful view on the Royal Mile, my flatmate and I was not a great match, and I spent a lot of the year in library to avoid being home.

My ex-boyfriend and I also spent our first proper year together, and he managed to drag me up my first (and only) munro. I also took up climbing and spent many hours at the climbing wall (some of it also included climbing and not just chatting). That summer I stayed in Edinburgh to work, without having a lot of friends, and it was in many ways quite lonely, yet I also realised how fine I was on my own, and how I did not really struggle to fill up my time. It was definitely a highlight when my grandparents came to visit. I also went on a very romantic getaway to Portugal.

There is not really any going out photos, because well, I did not really do any of that in second year. I was too caught up in other things to really care.

…. yet I spent most of that year looking onto the Meadows from the main library instead

On my way to the top of Ben Lomond

Finishing my first 6A. Yes, my chalk bag is the Danish flag – one of my favourite pressies!

My grandparents visiting – here we enjoyed an amazing meal at our favourite, The Outsider

A beautiful sunset in Portugal

Year 3

Best friends are not always the ones you have known the longest – here I am with two friends at the psychology ball

I had not found the academic side of things to take up too much time in first and second year, so I decided to fill up my timetable a bit more. In the end, I ended up being school convenor part of the lecture recording procurement, took up jiu jitsu (until I got injured end of first semester), working part-time, being a voluntary research assistant while dealing with a bigger course load than I ever had before.

On top of all of this, my ex and I were long-distance for most of the summer until February in semester 2. It was not always easy, and I found myself constantly running around trying to juggle it all. The worst part of third year was definitely managing 7 deadlines in the span of about 2.5 weeks, having not written an academic psychology essay since first year. I am not sure I enjoyed any of my courses, and I wish I could re-do the year now with what I later learned.

It was not all bad, though. I realised that while jiu jitsu was not for me, I definitely wanted to join a sports club. I also made new friends, which helped me a lot. I finally enjoyed living with a flatmate, and I started to feel at home. I loved being school convenor and rediscovered my love for education. All of this led me to spending my summer working on the lecture recording project at the university, with a month home in June where I interned as an educational psychologist. I did not have a lot of time off, but I started to thrive on being busy, which was lucky as I did not really get any less busy. I still loved statistics, and managed to get to work with my number one choice of supervisor.

My wonderful flatmate, Melina, at our favourite Japanese restaurant for a good bento box

Spent a bit more time in third year being young – here with a group of jitsu friends

I also got all dressed up for my first Scottish wedding

Still a proud statistics nerd

Also went home in the middle of the semester 2 exam diet to celebrate my sister’s confirmation

Spent most of my summer indoors working – here teaching about creative common licenses to academics

Year 4

This sums up fourth year pretty well – a group of friends and me posing next to my poster child photo after a spontaneous night-out

Fourth year flew by before I had even looked around. It was potentially also my best and most eventful year. Throughout my years at university, I matured a lot and I think I really felt that throughout 4th year. While still taking on too much stuff, I struggled much less with juggling all my responsibilities, and I prioritised a better work/life balance that kept me sane.

I started kickboxing, and ended up on the committee. While it took up a lot of my time, it was potentially one of the most giving experiences at university. I loved being part of a sports team, and I found even more friends. I also spent a lot of time on fun socials, which gave a nice contrast to my very adult job and the seriousness of my courses. I also figured out what type of psychology I enjoyed, and only really did courses I liked. It made studying a lot less tedious. I also wrote a dissertation, which really suited my interests. I also continued working on the lecture recording project, and I knew learning technology was the field for me.

A week and a half before my dissertation deadline, my ex and I split up after almost three years together. It was not easy at the time, but I found myself being happier and more optimistic about the future. I also feel much more certain about my choice of (hopefully) staying in Edinburgh long-term. I actually also enjoyed my exam period for the first time ever. I think living on my own for the first time also made this hectic year easier, even though I missed Melina.

And just like that, the year was over, way faster than I could ever have imagined. To be honest, I enjoyed fourth year so much that if someone offered to sponsor me to do a masters, I would not say no.

A beautiful picture of my white sheets before a friend and I ate indian on them and spilled curry.

My dissertation idea was presented on a poster (though it changed a bit before the final version). I also got to use some of my PowerPoint skills from my internship.

The Kickboxing Committee 2017/2018 at the Sports Union Ball

These two came to be a big part of my fourth year, all thanks to kickboxing

I also spontaneously went on a trip to Budapest with Melina – my first proper holiday since I went to Portugal

Leaving the lecture recording team was not easy. I do not think many interns get the goodbye I got, and I am still so grateful to have been allowed to be part of the programme. Hopefully, I’ll get to see all of you again.

Sat an exam in the McEwan hall basically a perfect 2 months before my graduation date

As you can tell, I had fun on the night I finished exams even if town was empty. You only have the fun you make yourself!

And it only got better once these two finished as well. They get a lot of credit for getting me through fourth year.

You cannot really finish a post like this and cover everything there is to say. I think it is fair to say I grew to love Edinburgh and the university more than the nervous and excited little fresher could ever have imagined. I also kind of wish I could do them all over, but I guess it is time to accept I am one step closer to being an adult, with only about a month till graduation.

Why I Chose My Dissertation Topic

After surviving writing my dissertation, I knew I wanted to reflect on the whole process. At first, I was thinking about blogging about what I learned and what I would do differently, but to be honest, I am not sure I can do that before I actually get the dissertation back. As a colleague of mine said; I mainly looked shell-shocked the day I handed it in. The featured image is also definitely a lie; majority of the dissertation process looked more like this:

Of course with a full cup of tea at hand. Extra kudos if you recognise the programme at the bottom.

My dear colleague, Lorraine, suggested that I could write about why I chose my topic. In a field considered as interesting as psychology, my topic may pale a bit at first. But here’s why you should care. (Buckle in, this is going to be a long one)

The main thing I set out to research was whether different approaches to learning had an effect on how well psychology students did on a statistical reasoning test. This end result of a research question was definitely not my initial intention.

I knew when it was time to pick dissertation topics that what interested me the most is the critical analysis of psychology papers and theoretical issues in using statistics in the 21st century. Long story very short; it turns out that psychology academics have one time too many used incorrect statistical methods, not understood what a significant result means, and not understood the problems of having small sample sizes. This paper by Button et al. (2013) really highlighted the issue for me. These issues have led to a replication crisis, where as little as one-third to one-half of replication studies find the original findings.

This is hugely problematic.

Why?

Because psychology considers itself a science based on hypothesis testing. Where every finding should potentially lead us closer to discover more of the real world. If we can’t trust published findings in peer-reviewed journals, how can we really trust any finding in psychology? If we base future studies on previous findings, which we should to not try to reinvent the wheel constantly, but they’re not a true reflection of reality, are we just fumbling around in the dark getting no closer to real findings?

This importance of not only replicating findings, but also being okay with your results being challenged, is more common in harder sciences, such as physics.

Hence, there needs to be massive change in academic psychology if we, as a field, want to be taken seriously. As much as I wanted to challenge the capability of academics, my supervisor said it was a tad bit early in my career to do so. Perhaps later.

Instead, I decided to focus on who will helpfully be the next generation of academics; psychology students.

My degree has changed massively since I started, mainly thanks to my two statistics lecturers who has worked tirelessly, and most of the time thanklessly, to help us become capable data analysts. They have taught us statistical methods usually not encountered before master’s level to help us become more statistically literate. While we will not all become academics, having an understanding and ability to critically assess findings is an important and transferable skill.

Lecturers and course organisers need a way to ensure that students are actually learning what they are intending them to. Things like exams may not always be a true reflection of skills, and certainly if the content has been crammed, it may be forgotten a few months later. Therefore, you’d like students to be able to apply the thinking and reasoning skills in general situations, and not only in an assessment setting. This is what I tested using a statistical reasoning assessment, which measures both correct reasoning and incorrect reasoning. I then used a measure that divides students into three different approaches to learning.

What I found was that students too caught up in following the syllabus, having a high fear of failure, and always feeling behind were less likely correctly apply statistical reasoning. Hence, while they did not seem to have a lot of misconceptions, they were not as good as the two other groups at applying their knowledge in ambiguous situations.

What does this mean? I’m not completely sure. My sample size was small. I couldn’t compare groups as well as I wanted. I couldn’t control for demographics. It was interesting that my model did not have a better fit for misconceptions. Perhaps our statistics courses are already great at ensuring we at least understand some statistics.

But I do think it would be worth doing more work into how we can suit up psychology graduates in the best possible way for the future. I hope I’ve convinced you to (sort of) believe the same.

 

Both a big relief and at the same time strange handing in two printed copies of my dissertation.

 

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