Report on attending The Eighth SELF Biennial International Conference
by Anna Wong on 10 September 2015
When the advertisement of the SELF conference was published last year, my eyes were immediately drawn to the names appearing as keynote speakers (or ‘rock-star speakers’ as one conference attendee later described). These familiar names belonged to some of the top psychology researchers I had been reading and quoting throughout my PhD journey as I attempted to understand music, education and psychological well-being through research.
Under the theme of Positive Psychology and Well-Being, and with a special focus on the Education context this year, the SELF conference brought together international researchers from PhD students, postdocs, lecturers, professors and indeed founders of psychological theories and models in areas like self-concept, self-regulation and motivation.
Having fixed my head in front of the computer monitor for the most part of last year, I was ecstatic to be meeting and talking to new friends from my field in person. The most exciting part was the exchange of ideas borne out of presentations and conversations involving researchers who carried slightly different substantive and/or methodological assumptions, knowledge and practice. We might be looking at psychological needs in music education, but in different settings and countries; we might be UK-based researchers using Self-Determination Theory, one in the music domain and the other sports (which have many parallels worth investigating together!), but adopting different methods and approaches.
Subsequently, at my poster presentation I was extremely privileged to have received valuable reviews and questions on my research from multiple perspectives. Certainly as I finalize my thesis after the conference, my mind is broadened to a bigger and richer picture of music and psychological well-being.
As one researcher put it, the real conversations and collaborations took place over food and drink rather than the papers. We were definitely spoilt outside of the lecture halls too as the conference hosts – Kiel University and The Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN) – thoughtfully provided us with just the right ingredients for refreshment and networking, including local beers and music and dance.
Furthermore, I found myself initiating and continuing conversations with researchers while travelling on the bus and walking on mudflats by the North Sea. As an intercultural student and researcher, I could not help but be fascinated by the rich mix of cultural traditions and nuances communicated through these chats. Going abroad to a conference like this enabled me to meet those coming from other continents on ‘neutral’ ground – where both they and I were away from home – as well as to learn directly from the locals about life and research in Germany whilst in their home country. To me this part was not replaceable by e-communications behind the screen or via the latest devices.
The conference trip of four days and three nights was a highlight of my PhD and a brilliant way to mark the end of that journey. Therefore, I sincerely thank Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge and The Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (Sempre) for their generous support in funding me on this memorable trip.
Image: Anna enjoying a spot of mudflat hiking in the Wadden Sea on the second day of the conference.