Well-being, Health and Work during the PhD: Join a Participatory Action Research

Doing a PhD is often considered a stimulating, but also a challenging and stressful experience, as pointed out in the growing body of literature on doctoral education (Austin, 2002; Gérard, 2014; Golde, 1998; Nyquist et al., 1999). Many and heterogeneous stress factors affect PhD students: elaboration of a research project, integration in a research lab and into various networks, relationships with the supervisor(s) and with peers, growing competition, quest for funding, the doctoral writing, solitude, lack of self-confidence, precariousness, uncertain future, etc.

It is perfectly normal to face obstacles during the “doctoral journey” and there seems to be an increasing awareness among academics of the need for a specific support during this long adventure. Various institutional initiatives flourish around the world (e.g. in Australia, in Canada or in Switzerland). Intervention programmes at schools and universities – although they are not intended for PhD students specifically – have shown their efficiency in the United Kingdom, in the United States and in Australia (see e.g. Seligman et al., 2009; Waters, 2011).

In 2008 two renowned experts in Applied Positive Psychology, Dr. Ilona Boniwell  and Lucy Ryan, designed a programme called SPARK Resilience, with the aim of helping people to gain more control over their negative emotions and improve their resilience skills. In 2014, Pascale Haag (Associate Professor at EHESS) adapted this programme to address the specific needs of doctoral students in a cycle of 4 sessions of 2 hours each. More details here.

She invites you to a Participatory Action Research starting in March 2015 at the Centre de recherches interdisciplinaires. The idea is to use the SPARK Resilience programme as a framework to develop collaboratively, thanks to the participants’ experience and input, an intervention programme that can be implemented in various institutions in the future. Expected results based on previous studies (see e.g. Donaldson, 2014) are: on the one hand, improved engagement at work, self-motivation, personal growth and well-being; on the other reduced anxiety, negative emotions and depression. Participants will thus not only benefit from the various techniques that they will learn during this cycle, but also contribute to improve academic learning through the publication of the results of this research.

Sessions will take place on March 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th with groups of a dozen PhD students. The only condition to attend this programme is to be registered for PhD in a French university and to commit to attending all four sessions. Registration is open until February 20th. If you are interested, or for more information, please contact Pascale (ph [at] ehess [dot] fr).

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