recognising great PhD supervision – a #SuperVisionaries approach

My Trust Me! research, which collected stories of trust and PhD supervision — see this page, returned both happy and sad, content and frustrated, indifferent and furious, accounts of supervision relationships. The research report resulting from this study focused on recognising how trust is built as well as how it is broken; while the negative experiences help us identify and call out trust breaking behaviours, accounts of happy and positive relationships are hugely important as a development resource, as they help supervisors, and those who develop supervisors, envision what ‘good supervision relationships’ look like.

So following on from this study, I (with Bryony, the Researcher Development Team Leader) have been really keen to support and celebrate good supervision, and wanted to create a way to find out about and share examples of supervision that has a positive impact on doctoral researchers. This is firstly because we recognise that supervision is a complex and difficult practice and yet is a key influencer of doctoral success that can ‘make or break’ a student. In very recent research, the quality of supervision has been highlighted as being a key influencer of PGR Happiness, PGR mental health, and how students perceive whether their PhD was ‘worth it’ or not. I though that creating a wall of great and very practical examples of good supervision, would be useful to new supervisors, and those wanting to do a great job.

The second aim of this work, is to loudly and publically say a massive thanks to those who come to work every day and make a positive difference to their PGRs, because in academic life we don’t tend to celebrate the positives often enough, and good supervision frequently goes unrecognised, and without thanks. We wanted not just the stories, but to ‘Name and Acclaim’ the people involved.

So how? I developed a process whereby researchers can name supervisors — ‘SuperVisionaries’ — and give a 100-word account of the impact supervision has had on their lives, using a Google form. After the deadline, all accounts and supervisor names (but not student names) are checked and posted to a Padlet board (see the image above) and all the supervisors are notified. Students who would like to share a different kind of experience, or who want to seek help with their supervision relationship are signposted to the appropriate processes and resources.

SuperVisionaries is not competitive, there are no shortlists, and no awards — we will simply publicly name and thank all those who do a great job. There are three categories:

(1) Supervision All-rounder: recognising good all-round supervision, that has really made a difference to doctoral students.

(2) Supervision Promoting Wellbeing: recognising good supervision that has enhanced research student wellbeing.

(3) Unofficial Supervision: recognising good ‘supervision’ from those in supporting roles – e.g. postdocs, technicians, PGR administrators and from those supervisors who contribute free emotional labour. I am currently researching the contribution of postdocs to supervision, and how postdocs develop as supervisors through formal structures and opportunities. I’ll write more on that in a future post.

Nominations for #SuperVisionaries close on the 22nd June, and I can’t wait to compile the stories, and share the Padlet back with you all!


Author: Dr Kay Guccione

I listen to stories & I think about them. @kayguccione National Teaching Fellow. PFHEA. Design and teach #mentoring/#coaching/#tutoring. Strategic educational development for #phd/#postdoc/#academic.

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