10. Reflecting upon and enhancing practice
If supervisors are to improve their practice, they need to evaluate it, reflect upon it, determine their strengths and weaknesses, build upon the former and address the latter.
As with other areas of academic practice, supervisors should undertake appropriate professional development to enhance their practice, which may include workshops and programmes as well as familiarity with the scholarly literature and its implications for practice.
Where supervisors identify good practice, then wherever possible they should disseminate it for the benefit of others.
- Using an appropriate mix of methods for evaluating supervision.
- Undertaking initial and continuing professional development.
- Familiarity with the scholarly literature.
- Where appropriate, contributing to the professional development of other supervisors.
As Taylor et al (2018) have suggested, supervisors can self-evaluate their supervision by, e.g. after each supervision spending a few minutes completing a simple pro-forma with ‘what went well?’, ‘what went less well?’ and ‘what will I do differently next time?’ and/or by keeping a reflective diary.
It can be problematic to use individual questionnaires for research students as the latter can be identified and may be unwilling to be critical of their supervisors. But the latter still might devote (say) one supervision a year to a general discussion of how the student feels about the quality of supervision, possibly based upon a list of topics such as that developed by Lee and McKenzie (2011).
Peer observation is a familiar part of evaluation in taught programmes, and it is equally applicable in doctoral ones (see for example Goode 2010, Hill 2011).
Nearly all institutions now have initial professional development programmes for supervisors and many have refreshers for established supervisors (see Taylor 2018).
In addition, research supervisors often contribute to the development of others by, for example, mentoring colleagues or facilitating departmental events, institutional workshops or discipline, national or international workshops.
- Do you use self-evaluation pro-formas, summaries of student evaluations, peer reviews, or candidate testaments? What have you learned from this kind of feedback on your supervision?
- Have you attended supervisory development workshops? What did you learn? How has this influenced your practice?
- There is now a substantial scholarly literature on the practice of research supervision. How has this influenced your practice?
- Do you contribute to the development of others supervisors? What has worked in assisting supervisory colleagues to develop their own practice?