Renate Donnovan

As PhD students we have to complete certain courses and exams by specific terms in our program. Because of the way courses were offered, the only way I could complete all my required courses was to take my quantitative methods course (statistics) online. I knew this not the best option for me, but I was determined to make the best of it. As the course began I found it challenging, but thought I was understanding the concepts. Then I wrote my first quiz and received a mark of 32%. I have never received a 32% in my life. Needless to say, I went into a complete panic. The passing grade for the course was 75%. 32% seemed a very long way from 75%.  

I didn’t know if I was going to pass.  

I knew the course would be challenging, but never expected I would be a risk of failing. I studied harder, created mock tests, went to speak to my instructor, and did what I thought were “all the right things”. The second quiz was 42%. My research project is mixed methods, so having a strong understand of quantitative methods and statistics is crucial to my research. This experience jarred me and caused me to question whether or not I was going to “make it”. I began to question if I was good enough or had what it takes to be a mixed-methods researcher. I was also concerned I would be kicked-out of my program. I realized that I really needed someone to walk me through the content in person. I hired a tutor who specialized in the type of statistics we were learning. We met three times a week over Zoom. He started at the beginning and walked me through all the content. He saw the types of mistakes I was making and helped me correct those errors. My grades on the quizzes started rising and I completed the course with the grade of 88%. (I’m still not entirely sure how I managed that). What I learned from the experience is that with the proper resources and support, and by taking my time and systematically approach the content, I can learn challenging content and stretch into new growth areas. 

- Renate Donnovan, PhD student and Teaching Development Associate in the Faculty of Engineering


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