And the award goes to…

Two weeks ago I successfully defended my PhD dissertation and was awarded the title “Dr. Durksen!”

...okay, so my defense wasn't held at the white house...but I did try to respond to questions confidently...

…okay, so my defense wasn’t held at the White House…but I did try to respond to questions confidently…

I’ll post more about this process in the near future, but first I thought I would start by sharing two sections of my dissertation: dedication and acknowledgements. 

This event didn’t include a televised acceptance speech…although I will be crossing a stage later this year in cap and gown…do you think they’ll hand me a microphone…?

Here is what I would say if I had the opportunity to make a speech and thank all those who helped me along the way (…before the music started to play…and I was pulled off stage).

…sorry, couldn’t resist including this one…


My dissertation is dedicated to the pre-service and practicing teachers of Alberta for their commitment to student learning; the University of Alberta teacher educators and the Alberta Teachers’ Association for supporting teachers’ professional growth and well-being; and the educational researchers who are committed to bridging the gap between theory and practice.


When I started my PhD program, I chose the over-used metaphor of embarking on a journey. At first the metaphor held a general and more solitary image – one involving a backpack, a map in hand, and a trail guide. Over the past four years, this image has morphed into a more complex and collaborative metaphor – one more akin to plane travel.

...started my PhD in 2011 while in Edmonton - never would have guessed that I'd live in Australia 4 years later!

I started my PhD while in Edmonton – never would have guessed that I’d live in Australia 4 years later!

While there are a number of travel companions to thank for their support, I would like to first and foremost thank my supervisor, Professor Robert Klassen and co-supervisor, Dr. Lia Daniels, for providing me with a motivational PhD program that helped satisfy my basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. During the research proposal and candidacy process, I was also thankful for feedback and support from Drs. Christina Rinaldi and Rosemary Foster. My committee helped keep me on course and acknowledged that I had the necessary skills to handle the process…even if some unexpected turbulence or re-routing occurred.

Thankful for a great supervisor!

Thankful for a great supervisor!

It was also encouraging to be a part of a group headed towards the same destination. I received support and gained knowledge while travelling alongside members of the Alberta Consortium of Motivation and Emotion. I am especially grateful to Dr. Man Chung (Virginia) Tze for her help during Study 1 and Study 3 and to Dr. Sündüs Yerdelen for her help during Study 3. I also acknowledge Amanda Wagner for her role in the inter-rater reliability process during Study 2. I am very grateful for the insights into Study 3 that emerged through a partnership with Dr. Larry Beauchamp (who sadly passed away in 2013), Professor Klassen, and Dr. Jim Parsons. I appreciated their wisdom and passion for teacher education and well-being.

Like plane travel, a PhD student requires funds. I would like to acknowledge the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for the Doctoral Fellowship and the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (University of Alberta) for the President’s Doctoral Prize of Distinction. I would like to thank the Department of Educational Psychology for the sessional positions where I had the opportunity to contribute to the professional learning of pre-service teachers, the research assistantships with Professor Klassen that advanced my research skills, and the various funds provided for my conference travels.

A number of scholars have contributed to my professional learning as a researcher, beginning with my course instructors. For example, Professor Klassen, Dr. Daniels, and Dr. Rinaldi inspired my theoretical interests through courses on achievement motivation and emotional development, and Drs. Cheryl Poth and Sherry Ann Chapman contributed to my methodological perspective through mixed methods and community-based research and evaluation courses. I am also thankful for research experiences in Australia with Professor Andrew Martin and Dr. Jihyun Lee of the University of New South Wales and Drs. Helen Watt and Paul Richardson of Monash University. I gratefully acknowledge my fellow PhD students and mentors who helped me refine my research during conferences. Two key events were particularly influential: the 2013 APA Division 15 (Educational Psychology) Doctoral Student Seminar and the 2014 European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (International Conference of Motivation) Summer School. I would especially like to thank my APA Doctoral Student Seminar mentors: Drs. Helenrose Fives and Anita Woolfolk-Hoy.

Last, but not least, I am grateful for the ongoing encouragement and support I received from my family and friends – my ground crew. Thank you for being along for the ride! I am especially grateful for Frank – my travelling companion for life. He has been a constant motivational source throughout all of my personal and professional learning experiences – my PhD plane would still be grounded if not for his love and support.

We started 2015 (my grad year) at the Sydney Opera House! Looking forward to more adventures 🙂

Now what…?

Run for president?

No…but I do feel pretty good right now sitting at a desk with my new title 🙂

Time to publish my dissertation :)

Time to publish my dissertation

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