I thought it would be appropriate to blog about the candidacy process since I have been receiving so many questions about my experience. First I will begin by describing the two parts to candidacy. As required by the faculty of education at the University of Calgary, after completing a research proposal there are two parts to complete in order to meet the candidacy requirements: (a) 28-day written exam and (b) oral exam. Due to my schedule both with work and family commitments, I decided the complete the written exam during July 2010 and the oral exam in August 2010. I believe the most important part of candidacy is to select a time that can be mainly devoted to those tasks. My supervisory committee provided three questions which were emailed to me on July 2nd, 2010. I spent the first week contemplating which question I wanted to respond to and gathering books, articles and related readings. I really wanted to respond to all three questions but needed to narrow the focus to only one. I selected the question that seemed most meaningful to me at that point in time and the question which I thought would benefit my current professional work in the field. During week two, I refined a conceptual framework of the paper including a diagram and outline to focus my writing and to keep me organized. During week three the paper started to come together and had a cohesive flow. I dedicated the final week to reviewing and checking references and final editing. On day 28, I submitted the paper to my supervisory committee along with two external members invited to participate in the candidacy exam. Some members preferred to receive a digital copy while others preferred a printed copy of the paper.
Three weeks later…
The oral exam took place at the University in a conference room with the candidacy committee members present (one via phone) along with a neutral chair. I started by briefly presenting a “behind the scenes” perspective about my candidacy paper using a slide presentation. The committee members were briefed on my previous research and practical work experiences that led me to the field. I shared some of the organizational tables and diagrams that assisted in writing the paper and those I chose to exclude from the final version. In some cases I chose to exclude tables that may have appeared redundant with the associated text. In addition, I shared how the ideas in the paper establish a gap in the literature, specifically regarding how leaders cultivate instructional improvements integrating technology and strengthen the need to conduct research in the field. Each member of the committee asked a question and sometimes the questions involved two or three parts. I found it helpful to (a) jot down notes while the questions were being asked; (b) have a copy of my candidacy paper at my fingertips with post it notes identifying key sections/authors; and (c) have a copy of my research proposal also ready for quick reference. I tried to respond to each question with specific examples from the literature and from my own practical experiences. The two-hour exam period gave each committee member an opportunity to ask approximately two questions.
Two hours later…
I left the room while the committee reviewed my oral exam responses and voted pass or fail. I just wanted someone to pinch me to make sure it really was over and wasn’t a dream. I imagined my alarm clock ringing and waking up to go through the experience all over again. I was certain that I didn’t answer all the questions to the best of my ability but hoped the answers demonstrated my understanding of the field and passion to conduct research related to educational technology and leadership. It was huge relief to go back into the room and shake hands with the committee members ….I knew the exam was over and I passed.
As I reflect on the experience and search for advice that I would give doctoral students embarking on the candidacy journey, I believe one book that may help with advice is the “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. What is the secret? “The secret is the law of attraction” (2006, p.4) or in other words like thoughts attracts like thoughts. For example, it is important to think positively about candidacy and those positive thoughts will attract like thoughts. Byrne contends that “if you can think about what you want in your mind, and make that your dominant thought, you will bring it into your life” (p.9). According to Byrne, it is necessary to follow three steps: (1) ask, (2) believe and (3) receive.
1. Ask - You need to be clear in your mind about what you want (i.e. your research passion).
2. Believe – act, speak and think about candidacy as if it has already occurred. Instead of rehearsing your presentation for the oral exam, rehearse the presentation you will do for a class of upcoming graduate students about your past candidacy experience.
3. Receive –experience how you will feel once the exam is complete and you are able to move to the next step of your research.
Hope this helps!