In early December, Advisory Board members, authors, reviewers, and representatives from a range of higher education institutions attended a two-day workshop to share their perspectives, knowledge, and experience to help shape the upcoming second edition of Supervising Doctoral Studies – an interactive, online training programme publishing in December 2020. Workshops are an invaluable part of Epigeum’s development process – representing the first of a series of peer review opportunities. Run by Emma Gallon, the Commissioning Editor for the programme, with input from Advisory Board members Dr Douglas Halliday, Dr Margaret Kiley, and Professor Stan Taylor, the workshop resulted in rich and detailed feedback from the participants, refining and enhancing the draft module material produced so far, and helping outline how it will evolve.
Following a welcome from Laura Dent, our Director of Publishing & Learning Design, Dr Douglas Halliday presented a brief contextualisation of the programme and doctoral studies today, offering some issues to consider when discussing the development of the new edition. Starting from the premise that “the best research is done by the best researchers”, the workshop members were asked to consider not just the skills necessary to equip a doctoral candidate to deliver a PhD but to support the development of the whole person in becoming an independent researcher. Specific mention was made of mental health and wellbeing, the increasing diversity of the doctoral candidate population, ethics and integrity, team supervision, the post-PhD career path, and the increase in non-traditional doctoral formats. In the face of these developments, what does good supervision look like now, and how can supervisors be supported to be as effective as possible?
Once the broader themes of the workshop were introduced, the group began the lion’s share of their task for the two days: peer-reviewing the authors’ content maps for the ten modules that will make up the new edition of Supervising Doctoral Studies. Forming the spine of the programme, the content maps outline the learning design, topics, and activities for each screen of the programme, module by module. Discussion continued throughout the evening at the workshop dinner – reflecting the passion and energy of the participants.
The second day of the workshop began with a recap of the previous day’s themes and focuses from Dr Margaret Kiley, with the training of more experienced supervisors raised as a specific area to be considered. The pedagogy necessary to engage advanced learners required serious consideration, and, as a result of the presentation, the group examined the possibility of exploring complicated issues without a simple answer via a self-reflective learning tool. Discussions were consistently comprehensive, insightful, and reflective of the diversity of the workshop members. Among the topics covered were the time limitations of supervisors, how to foster a culture of support for doctoral supervision, and the necessity of self-reflection in development of the supervisory skillset. Recognising the variety of viewpoints and experiences shared, the workshop conjured an overwhelming sense of accommodation and acknowledgement for difference, and an agreement to deliver a programme that understands doctoral supervision as a separate and distinct set of skills and practices.
Following the workshop, comprehensive notes detailing the discussion will be explored and fed back to the authors, before being applied to the module content maps, so that the writing of the programme can begin in earnest. This will be followed by further rounds of reviews by the development group ahead of the programme’s publication in December 2020.
We look forward to sharing more news about the new edition of Supervising Doctoral Studies as we move closer to its publication, but we will leave the final word to one of our development group members:
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the Supervising Doctoral Studies workshop in London in December. I found the workshop extremely useful, and indeed invigorating and enriching. The simple but effective workshop structure helped ensure lively conversations and a strong focus on what we all want to get out of the next version. I have no doubt that Supervising Doctoral Studies 2.0 is going to be an excellent resource for the James Cook University Graduate Research School Advisor Training Program, and I am glad that I was able to represent the GRS at this workshop.”
Associate Professor Liz Tynan, Graduate Research School, James Cook University