25,000 words a minute: what it’s like competing in the Three Minute Thesis competition
07 August 2020
Faculty heat winners from across the University came together this week to compete in the final of the University of Auckland’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.
Originally developed by the University of Queensland with the aim of connecting academic research to a general audience, the competition now takes place in over 900 universities across the world. All participants are tasked with the challenge of condensing their, often, 80,000 word thesis into a three-minute presentation, supported by no more than a single, static slide and then must present alone to an audience.
Faculty of Education and Social Work doctoral heat winner, Amanda White, says she was initially attracted to the idea of entering because she believes in the importance of being able to explain your research to those outside your area of study.
“At conferences and other academic events it is an important skill to be able to explain your research ideas succinctly, and often to others outside your field of study. I wanted to practise and improve my ‘elevator pitch’, so I thought the 3MT would be a great way to clarify my thoughts and to gain feedback on my thesis in a supportive environment," says Amanda.
“At conferences and other
academic events it is an important skill to be able to explain your research
ideas succinctly, and often to others outside your field of study."
Amanda’s research focuses on communication development in young children and the ways that early language and literacy are shaped through their interactions in social and cultural contexts.
“For my PhD study, I am specifically exploring the story experiences of one-year-old children in both their family homes and early childhood education (ECE) settings within a culturally diverse community of Aotearoa New Zealand. In my study, the use of video methods has revealed the complexity in how one-year-olds interact with their parents, siblings, teachers/kaiako and peers in multimodal and cultural ways,” says Amanda.
As a parent and former speech-language therapist, Amanda was initially drawn to the area of research as she wanted to know more about how babies and toddlers learn to communicate.
“I am passionate about the topic because I believe that if we want to fully understand how children learn and develop, then we need to go right back to when babies are born (or even before) to find out about where they come from and the nature of their earliest experiences.
“It’s a fascinating process, and I have been very privileged to have worked with so many families and teachers from a variety of cultural backgrounds over the years,” says Amanda.
“Education and Social Work research
provides the evidence that can shape policy, practice and leadership that
directly impacts on the health and well-being of society in general, now and in
Amanda hopes her research will raise the awareness of infants and toddlers being capable communicators well before they can verbally communicate, and highlight the importance of noticing a child’s visual, tactile and spatial forms of communication including body language and gestures.
“I hope my research will help to highlight the importance of families, whānau and kaiako in supporting communication from the very start of life, and that we need to remember to stop, look and listen to truly appreciate the competencies of infants and toddlers.
“I want to show that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to how children learn to communicate, and that culturally diverse ways of sharing stories in homes and educational settings should be treasured and encouraged,” says Amanda.
Amanda hopes her research will have impact in early childhood education (ECE) contexts in Aotearoa New Zealand and shed light on the necessity of having well-qualified kaiako and suitable teacher-student ratios in order to support responsive interactions in ECE contexts.
“Researching how people learn and develop is important for enhancing the social and emotional wellbeing of all individuals and communities.
“Education and Social Work research provides the evidence that can shape policy, practice and leadership that directly impacts on the health and well-being of society in general, now and in the future.
“I hope that in sharing my research, it might help parents, kaiako, community members and policy influencers to understand more about how communication and literacy develop in our youngest tamariki,” says Amanda.
In regard to whether Amanda recommends entering the 3MT to students next year, she says go for it, but don’t focus on winning.
“Participating in 3MT will really help you to clarify and explain the essence of your research, as well as the impact that you hope you make in the world.“Don’t focus on winning, just take the opportunity to have a go. Take your time to thoroughly plan your speech and practise it, because once it comes to the presentation you will find that the time flies as it is very fast-paced and fun!” says Amanda.