The efficacy of higher degree research discussion checklists on research candidate-supervisor communication

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 34: Higher Education on the Edge

July, 2011, 394 pages
Published by
K. Krause, M. Buckridge, C. Grimmer, & S. Purbrick-Illek
0 908557 85 X

Measuring student experience in postgraduate research has become a critical metric in research training. Student evaluations and surveys have been used extensively to measure satisfaction on key areas such as research climate, generic skills, infrastructure and supervision. The research discussion checklist (RDC) was designed as a starting point for discussion between candidates and supervisors on a number of specific issues such as authorship, frequency of meetings, graduate attributes and clarification of roles and responsibilities. The pilot study was conducted at a major Australian University from August to October 2010 with 19 student participants and aimed to address the issue of quality and standards in candidate-supervisor communication. The pilot involved the distribution and use of the RDC template amongst commencing higher degree research (HDR) students and their supervisors during the first semester of candidature. Candidates were asked to complete a questionnaire prior to using the RDC to indicate their perceptions on the template. The initial survey sought to ascertain: whether students believed such a measure would be useful; students’ perceptions of their responsibilities and expectations of supervisors. Participants were then asked to complete a follow up survey, exploring the merits of the RDC through the initial three months. The results obtained in the study suggest that a candidate-supervisor discussion checklist, employed at the beginning of candidature, is a useful formal mechanism to set mutual expectations. Further empirical investigation would be valuable to assess the impact of such a measure over a longer term, across different cohorts of students, supervisors and disciplines.

Keywords: research supervision, doctoral candidature, research training and education