Sunday, March 15, 2009

Establishing Effective Supervision

Effective supervision requires supervisors to be knowledgeable and skilled in the research field (Donald et al., 1995; McQueeney, 1996; Sheehan 1994).They are also expected to take the lead in establishing a quality of relations which will give their students access to the knowledge and skills they possess (Ballard and Clanchy, 1993) and to have counselling skills (Hockey, 1997; Zuber-Skerrit, 1994). Students not only expect their supervisors to have the knowledge and ability to supervise in a particular area of research but also want them to be reasonable, serious, supportive of their working in good times and bad, and approachable (Moses, 1985). Moses (1992) considers that supervisors should act as mentors and that a mentoring relationship requires mutual aspect based on high academic standards, similar interests and regular contact (Norhasni Z.A, 2008: 108).

I’ve encountered numerous students' horror stories about their unpleasant experiences as supervisees. Some describe "busy" supervisors or those who lacked interest in their supervisees and the supervision process. Some cite supervisors who seemed most interested in putting in the minimum required time with as little work. Others remember mismatches in theoretical orientation — either in the work we do or in critical personality traits. For those who have communication problems with their supervisors, here are some ways that you can think of to improve your supervisor-supervisee relationship:-

1. If communication with your supervisor is poor or non existent, and has been from the beginning, don't blame yourself. It's also not a good idea to try to change your supervisor's ways; it won’t work. Instead, focus on what you can do to improve the situation. Good communication skills can be learned. If you’re having trouble connecting with your supervisor in a satisfying way, the key to better communication is understanding your supervisor’s personality and communication style, as well as your own.

2. Don’t wait until you get into serious problems before knocking on your supervisor’s door. Even if your supervisor keeps her distance, as a seasoned researcher, she should be able to provide appropriate guidance, and, one hopes, a neutral perspective. Even if you feel that your supervisor tends to place his or her interests above your own, initiating communication on a regular basis will give you the opportunity to voice your concerns.

3. Arrange for a practical, regularly repeated form and different kinds of regular meetings, as required by each work phase. This provides a backbone for work and arranges it into phases. Meeting frequently and regularly with your supervisor, asking relevant questions, and documenting her input will increase the probability that good communication flows in both directions and that your research is in line with what your supervisor wants and expects.

4. On the other hand, for meetings to be meaningful, the student must attempt to systematically improve the work as previously agreed or as a reaction to agreements. The supervisor's time (and opportunities for his/her own research) must also be respected.Suggest a time of day when a meeting is likely to be most successful. Is he more focused first thing in the morning? Then make your appointment before he is swamped with other priorities.

5. Informal, spontaneous communication plays an important role in building relationships and establishing trust. Informal chats about work or other common interests can help build rapport, and the more comfortable you and your supervisor are with each other, the better. A good rapport based on trust and mutual respect can be a great asset. The most crucial form of communication takes place during regular, short, face-to-face meetings between just you and your supervisor.

6. Go to your meeting with a written list of questions and concerns. Be specific; it won’t do any good to ask, “So, how do you think I’m progressing?” A question like that will just encourage your supervisor to respond in general terms or say something encouraging but meaningless, or--worse--disparaging but meaningless. If you need guidance on how to move your research forward, for example, come to your meeting with two or three of your own ideas about how to proceed. Give your supervisor enough context to be able to provide you with helpful input.

7. During the meeting, take notes and jot down your supervisor's suggestions, gauge your supervisor's enthusiasm and interest by paying attention to body language and other non verbal cues. At the end of the meeting, thank your supervisor for her time and immediately send a follow up e-mail that summarizes what you discussed. That way, you’ll have a record of your questions or concerns and your supervisor’s responses. sending an e-mail at the end of every month, with a brief summary of the experiments you’ve done and results you’ve achieved, is another effective way of keeping your supervisor up-to-date.

A successful relationship relies on the devotion of both the thesis supervisor and the student. Fostering effective communication with a supervisor, particularly if he or she is a poor communicator or difficult to approach, is a skill that will serve you well throughout your career. Good communication is critical! Make sure that you know what is expected of you and what you can expect of your thesis supervisor.

No comments: