Thursday, 23 May 2013

imposter syndrome

I'm at the HEA Social Sciences Cluster Conference (#HEASocSci13) which has as its theme: Teaching Research Methods.  I experienced a painful case of imposter syndrome this afternoon when I attended the opening keynote by John MacInnes (University of Edinburgh) who also happens to be the ESRC Advisor on Quantitative Methods Training.  I'm drawn to qualitative rather than quantitative research.  I'm the girl who ran, weeping with relief, from the room at the end of my O'Level Maths exam (yes, that long ago) and wept with relief again when I was informed I'd scraped a C.  In my mind I never had to think about Maths again.  I'm also the kind of person whose eyes lit up on reading a news article last week on how mild electric shocks to the brain have been shown to improve mental arithmetic skills.  Forget research, life in general would improve measurably (but by what % I hear you cry) without having to constantly revert to a) fingers and thumbs b) pen and paper to work out the minutiae of my personal finances.  No doubt I fall into the 'statistically illiterate' category whose skills are barely basic and certainly don't reach the heady heights of being 'confident at manipulating fractions and decimals to express proportions', attributes John MacInnes listed as as essential for social scientists learning quantitative methods.

I'm not proud of any of this by the way.  But I am content with making the most of the strengths I do have.  I'm a poet and I write fiction (when I'm not writing research papers).  So the speaker's reference to 'the statistical imagination' caught my own.  We must, he said, help students to appreciate the 'excitement of data', to 'learn to see the world in terms of variation and distribution'.  I think I probably already do, in my own way, I just instinctively express my understanding of it in words, rather than numbers.  

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