Evaluating Doctoral Supervision: Tensions In Eliciting Students' Perspectives

Routledge Journals, Taylor & Francis Ltd
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Innovations In Education And Teaching International, 2011, 48 (1), pp. 69 - 78
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In the context of intensifying accountability requirements for academic work, there are increasing pressures on individual supervisors, departments and universities to evaluate the quality of doctoral supervision. Existing evaluation tools are focused at departmental rather than individual level and are mostly quantitative in nature. Evaluation for supervisors is usually limited to reflective self-assessment and peer critique from fellow supervising academics. It has been notoriously difficult to elicit sustained feedback from doctoral students regarding their experiences of working with an individual supervisor, for ethical and practical reasons. This paper conceptualises the tensions involved in eliciting student perspectives on supervision and explores one possible way forward. It provides a case study of the development and trialing of a research-informed online survey instrument that draws on qualitative methods to elicit sustained reflective commentary from doctoral students, in an anonymous format, about their experiences of supervision. The paper describes the development of the survey, named the RSFS, illustrates the outcomes of the trials, and raises a number of critical issues for further exploration and debate.
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