One Year in: My EdD Journey So Far and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

After completing my master’s degree during a global pandemic, I was in a position where I felt that I hadn’t quite finished with university yet. I still had the drive to study, an itch that needed scratching, and I wanted to make a difference. I took the plunge and filled in the application form for the Professional Doctorate in Education (EdD) at Birmingham City University (BCU). And almost a year after being offered a place on the course, I am coming to the end of my first year of study - this is the story of my EdD journey so far.

Jessica Wythe
Visiting Lecturer for the Department of Childhood, Youth and Community, Birmingham City University

I decided to apply for a postgraduate course before completing my BA (Hons) Education Studies degree at Birmingham City University. I felt that my academic journey wasn't over yet. Then, in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, I began my full-time master's degree in Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) in my hometown of Lincoln.

My initial idea was to do a PGCE after my master's degree, but during my master's studies, I realised that my passion was making a difference within SEND policy and practice. I applied to do my doctoral studies at BCU to conduct SEND-based research. I sent my application with not much confidence, as I am so young and inexperienced compared to many PGR students, and I was astonished even to be offered an interview, let alone a place on the EdD course. I am so grateful, and I feel fortunate to be in this position.

Being a postgraduate student has been really challenging so far, but I was certainly expecting the challenge. I have learned so much already about the course and about myself. The teaching staff at BCU are so supportive and engaging, and they have been ever since I began my undergraduate degree at BCU in 2017. I feel confident that I am in good hands regarding my doctoral research journey. The staff and students at BCU are so supportive and have confidence in me, even when I am overwhelmed and lack confidence in myself.

The BCU staff have always encouraged me to go out of my comfort zone and reach my full potential. Elaine Matchett, the course leader for the BA (Hons) Education Studies degree when I was a student, has been a significant part of my academic journey. She has always believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself, and I would not be in the position I'm in now without her encouragement and belief in me. Many of the lecturers that taught me during my undergraduate studies - Liz Titley, Becky Snape, Abdulla Sodiq, Shannon Ludgate, and Zoe Lewis - are still working at BCU now. They are so supportive in the context of my studies and as a lecturer and have really welcomed me into the Childhood, Youth and Community teaching team.

Now, five years after first joining BCU, Tony Armstrong, Jane O'Connor and Rob Smith, and additional members of staff who have delivered engaging EdD sessions so far this year, have played such a prevalent role in my emergent doctoral journey so far – I am thoroughly looking forward to what direction my EdD path takes next.

I think the most challenging thing for me so far during my EdD journey has been my self-confidence. My EdD group are all so incredible and inspiring and have a real scope of life and work experiences. As the youngest in the group, I sometimes felt inadequate, and I often experienced imposter syndrome. However, I would not be in the position I am now if I wasn't capable. The BCU staff believed in me, so why didn't I believe in myself? It took a while, but I am gradually starting to come out of my shell and have the confidence to share my thoughts and experiences with the group during sessions, rather than just hiding at the back of the classroom. Everybody is so supportive: the lecturers and my fellow PGR colleagues. I do love our EdD family – I learn just as much from hearing about the experiences of my peers as I do from lectures.

Since my doctoral journey commenced in September 2021, four years after initially enrolling at BCU as an undergraduate student, I have become so much more confident in my own abilities, and I am less afraid to take risks and go out of my comfort zone. You only live once – so take every opportunity given to you and make the most of your university experience. I still feel overwhelmed sometimes, but I have no regrets and I am thoroughly looking forward to reflecting on my EdD journey. As established during the first module of the EdD programme, my positionality and values will continue to shift and develop in response to new and emerging experiences, and I am genuinely looking forward to what the future brings.

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