Today, I’ve admitted to myself I’m overtired, something I very seldom admit to. I should explain that in the past fortnight I’ve given a paper and two quickfire sessions at the IAML (UK and Ireland) music librarians’ annual study weekend in Cambridge; attended my first IAML Exec meeting at the British Library in London (also fitting in a trip to the Tate, for the RuinLust exhibition); and given a scholarly paper at Musica Scotica in Aberdeen, finishing up with playing at a church dedication service this morning. Oh, and I’ve spent a few days at work in both my library and research capacities too. So finally, on Sunday evening, I find I can’t think straight – not a good time to tackle the Teaching Artist backlog of reading.
However, I have been reflecting about giving research papers. In March I gave a talk, with absolutely minimal notes, at an RMA (Royal Musical Society) Colloquium. I was pleased with it, and peer comments were very favourable. And yet yesterday’s talk, written a full three months earlier and revised this week, was so densely packed with facts and figures that there was no way I’d be able to stand and just “speak” the paper. I was talking about a number of 18th century music books, precise dates (down to the day and the month), and commentary from the late 19th and early 20th centuries – it was very detailed! I looked up at different areas of the audience, a lot. But I freely admit I “read” much of it. I’d marked it with highlighter pen, gone over it several times – but I didn’t have time to reduce it to skeletal form, which is the only way I’d have stood a chance of a freer, less constrained delivery.
This Teaching Artist course has made me much more aware of good pedagogical practice. I suppose it’s fair to point out that giving a research paper at a conference is NOT teaching in the conventionally accepted way. Sharing research findings is a different activity from preparing to teach a class, involving them, getting feedback and monitoring whether they’ve learned what you set out to teach them. But I’m now rather perturbed. Because my delivery of yesterday’s paper, which my research Principal Investigator says was good, and which received favourable comments from several delegates, leaves me feeling flat and disappointed. There was nothing wrong with the content, or the structure of what I said. But I was deeply envious of a colleague who just stood, and delivered, seemingly without notes at all. What is WRONG with me?!
I wondered if perhaps the answer was that the paper would have been better as a publication – something that might yet happen – and maybe I need to produce something more discursive for research presentations. At the same time, what do scientists do? They quite possibly have even more detailed, fact-and-figure-heavy findings than my own. And what about mathematicians, or statisticians?