Announcing TRUST ME! A multi-university research study into doctoral student-supervisor relationships
WoV1gT3FThis project (@predoctorbility on Twitter) is about the relationship between doctoral students and their supervisors and it asks about the quality of that relationship: what constitutes ‘quality’, what does quality mean for learning, and how do you get a quality relationship, and how would you recognise if and when you have it?

The work I’m doing in this project looks at a the relationship between students and supervisors with a particular sharp focus. I want to understand more about what distinguishes a good quality supervision relationship, asking — it it the presence or absence of trust? And what kind of trust? We know from the literature in organisation, management and leadership studies that trust is important, and it’s mediated by the front line managers. Is it the same for student-supervisor relationships as it is for management relationships, are the academic staff the equivalent front-line managers? Opinions vary about supervision… is it leadership? What kind or leadership? What makes a good academic leader? Can supervision be more closely compared to management, or to learning and teaching. What rules apply?

I think we can at least all agree that the doctoral experience is intended to be a learning experience. Good working relationships play a critical role in workplace learning and the emotional dimension of professional work is significant (Eraut, 2004). Research into the role of emotion, and motivation as determinants of the student experience, successful completion of the doctorate, and academic ability is gaining momentum as a discipline (e.g. Cotterall, 2013; Jairam and Kahl, 2012; Wellington, 2010; Kearns et al, 2008). Emotionally competent leadership, as well as technical and intellectual mentorship is expected of academic leaders, and the need to establish good rapport and craft a ‘high-quality’ student-supervisor relationship has been emphasised (Jairam and Kahl, 2012).

So what do you think?  I am collecting anonymous stories over on the TRUST ME! blog and your thoughts are needed.

Doctoral students, I’m interested in hearing about what your supervisor does that impacts on you, what makes all the difference, how are you supported, what does good supervision look like, how do you and your supervisor interact, how did you come to trust each other, is your relationship typical?

Supervisors, what’s your approach, where did you learn about supervision, how is it working for you, what does good supervision look like, what are the essentials for supervision, where does trust come from, how do you interact with your students?