Thursday, September 13, 2012

Professional Development for Research Supervisors

Greetings from the University of Canberra "Hothouse", where I am attending a workshop for staff on how to help research students with writing (part of their Professional Development and Training for Supervisors). The university provides a set of resources on "Supervising Research Students". Unlike many universities which close off such sources in the Learning Management Systems, Canberra have made this part of their Moodle system open to all.

Improving supervisor's skills is important for the university's cash flow (as well as academically). To encourage results, the Australian Government only pays the university for the last three years of a PHD. This is a useful incentive and in my view universities should assess doctoral students more often, not just once a year, which is common. An evaluation after the first three months would be useful to decide if a student will be capable of completing, before wasting too much of their time and that of their supervisors.

The University of Canberra will require all PHD students to have a "learning portfolio" from 2013, putting the emphasis on the student taking charge of their progress. This is a useful technique which other higher education institutions could adopt.

It is interesting to see how techniques from coursework pedagogy are now being applied to research supervision. One example is to use a marking rubric to provide efficient feedback to the student on their work. Another is to conduct a pre and post workshop test, to assess progress.

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