Supervising the PhD: identifying common mismatches in expectations between candidate and supervisor to improve research training outcomes
Adam P.A. Cardilini, Alice Risely & Mark F. Richardson (2022)
Higher Education Research & Development, 41:3, 613–627
The relationship between PhD candidate and supervisor influences successful candidate completion and helps maintain candidate satisfaction and mental health. We quantified potential mismatches between the PhD candidates’ and supervisors’ expectations as a potential mechanism that facilitates poor candidate experiences and research training outcomes based on a quantitative survey which including rank order and Likert responses.
114 PhD candidates and 52 supervisors in Australia ranked the importance of student attributes and outcomes at the beginning and end of candidature. In relation to specific attributes, supervisors indicated the level of guidance they expected to give the candidate, and candidates indicated the level of guidance they expected to receive. Candidates also report on whether different aspects of candidature influenced their mental well-being. Using rank correlation and multivariate regression statistics, we identified differences between candidates’ and supervisors’ perceived supervisor teaching responsibility and candidatures influence on mental well-being.
Results indicate the majority of candidates were satisfied overall with their supervision, and find alignment of many expectations between both parties. Yet, candidates tended to have much higher expectations about achieving quantitative outcomes than supervisors. Supervisors believed they give more guidance to candidates than candidates perceive they received, and supervisors often only provided guidance when the candidate explicitly asked. Personal expectations and research progress significantly and negatively influenced over 50% of candidates’ mental well-being.
Our results highlight the importance of candidates and supervisors explicitly communicating the responsibilities and expectations of the roles they play in helping candidates develop research skills. We provide four suggestions to supervisors that may be particularly effective at increasing communication, avoiding potential conflict and promoting candidate success and well-being.
Cite this article
Adam P.A. Cardilini, Alice Risely & Mark F. Richardson (2022) Supervising the PhD: identifying common mismatches in expectations between candidate and supervisor to improve research training outcomes, Higher Education Research & Development, 41:3, 613–627, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2021.1874887