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- Volume 25, Issue 5, 2011
South African Journal of Higher Education - Volume 25, Issue 5, 2011
Volumes & issues
Volume 25, Issue 5, 2011
Knowledge with wisdom in postgraduate studies and supervision : epistemological and institutional concerns and challenges : introductory articleAuthor E.M. BitzerSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 855 –874 (2011)More Less
Publications about postgraduate studies and the supervision address issues and concerns such as supervisory orientations and strategies, ways to handle postgraduate students, challenging postgraduate education practices, factors related to success in postgraduate studies, the benefits of advanced studies, transition to independent research and researcher identity development. However, few studies, if any, address the epistemological and institutional contexts and their implications in which master's and doctoral studies are conducted and supervised. In attempting to narrow this conceptual gap, this article reminds readers that before the advent of modern science, humans lacked the scientific and technological means to effect large-scale damage to life and the environment. At present, however, due to unprecedented powers created by knowledge and science a lack of wisdom has become a major threat; promoted, among other things, by the way in which postgraduate research and supervision are undertaken. I therefore argue that promoting wisdom does not oppose promoting and generating knowledge. Similarly, if the transformation of universities in modern society is characterised by the search for and exploration of wisdom, it can do justice to the continuity of the university's original ideals and might benefit postgraduate studies and their supervision.
Alternative approaches to postgraduate supervision : a planning tool to facilitate supervisory processesSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 875 –888 (2011)More Less
Increased demands on academics due to the changing work and higher educational environments challenge traditional approaches to postgraduate supervision. Supervisors often tend to follow the apprenticeship approach uncritically. Supervisors therefore need to be aware of alternative approaches to supervision and of the need for structured planning for the postgraduate supervisory process. A framework for planning for complementary approaches to postgraduate supervision was designed based on the characteristics and benefits of alternative approaches to supervision identified in the literature. This framework or grid helps to plot the roles of supervisors and the processes and activities for students during the course of their postgraduate studies. Application of this grid in planning and the identification of various role players in the supervision process may help to alleviate the pressure placed on individual supervisors. Structured planning within a specific context will contribute to quality, efficiency and sustainability of supervision in the postgraduate process.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 889 –901 (2011)More Less
To enhance research into revitalising supervisory practices, the aim of this study is to identify approaches of supervisors to mentoring and facilitating doctoral students' progress. Scenarios were created to describe typical situations that supervisors face, namely non-responsive students, dealing with students with low English language proficiency, high workloads of supervisors, managing conflicting expectations about the level of support and implementing high presence technologies. Interviews were conducted with supervisors in two faculties at an Australian university. These supervisors displayed unique insights about their underlying value systems in approaching challenging students and situations. One of the key issues is understanding the contexts of students and supervisors and determining the best way to communicate on the basis of this understanding. The study generated improved guidelines for supervisors on how to deal with doctoral students' expectations as well as how to use online learning tools more effectively to deliver services to doctoral students.
Postgraduate supervision as an advanced teaching and learning practice : exploring the scholarship linkAuthor A.C. WilkinsonSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 902 –920 (2011)More Less
In the light of viewpoints that pedagogy has been an obvious missing category in considerations of scholarly supervisory work, the author argues that the existing theory on the (more established) scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) may be successfully adapted to make it highly applicable to supervisory scholarship. Research supervision has, however, been acknowledged as an advanced and complex kind of teaching-learning activity with its specific products and challenges. Special knowledge and skills are therefore needed. The point of departure is that SoTL (and consequently the scholarship of postgraduate supervision, SoPgS) integrates Boyer's four types of scholarship (discovery, integration, application and teaching). In addition to suggestions for the adaptation and/or extension of the SoTL, a developmental road for SoPgS is considered, with culmination in a proposal for different levels of performance in postgraduate supervision. Two related issues are touched upon: acceptable 'products' of a SoPgS and possible criteria for recognition and reward.
Author A.C. LessingSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 921 –936 (2011)More Less
Postgraduate supervision does not only require academic and research skills from the supervisors - they may also assume a variety of roles to support the postgraduate student from novice to experienced researcher. The role of supervisors in the supervisory process, as well as the views of a purposeful selection of lecturers on the role is the focus of this article. The role of supervisors was determined from the literature and a questionnaire was administered to lecturers in the School of Education (University of South Africa) to investigate their views. Clear views of the role of the supervisor emerged from the literature study, but the lecturers who participated saw very few of these identified tasks as part of their responsibility. To increase the throughput of master and doctoral students, lecturers may have to make a mind shift with regard to their role in the supervisory process.
Shifting boundaries : the challenge of assessing MTech community-based-visual arts research projectsAuthor K. BermanSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 937 –953 (2011)More Less
This article aims to interrogate possible assessment problems arising from a community-based-research mode of research and consider some of the assessment approaches that generate scepticism among some examiners, and endorsement from others. The article explores specific challenges in supervising, accommodating and evaluating diverse candidates who pursue an action-led and community-based research approach rooted within the visual arts.
I contend that there is a specific challenge in the field of postgraduate supervision of engaging evaluation strategies. If students within higher education adopt a focus towards the development of social responsibility, this would imply that the general criteria for this manner of research would require deep revision in order to accommodate diverse and direct action-based community engagement. Research in this mode embraces a multi-disciplinary approach and is therefore complex. It needs to accommodate practice, action and experience, and not be limited to traditional discipline-specific methodologies.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 954 –971 (2011)More Less
Quality research supervision leading to timely completion and student satisfaction involves explicit pedagogy and effective communication. This article describes the development within an action research cycle of an online learning space designed to achieve these goals. The research 'spirals' involved interventions in the form of instructive resources scaffolding best practice and discussion starters facilitating quality interactions. These were evaluated by focus groups and surveys of supervisors, postgraduate coordinators and research students. The instructive resources were valued for their interactivity, conciseness, clarification of research issues, and development of confidence, while the discussion starters were valued for their access ease, unpacking of expectations, encouragement of independent reflection, and enhancement of confidence in supervision relationships. Although the framework and pedagogies for effective supervision in Science have been well described, this online learning space is the first to address the interaction between supervisors and research students and provide resources for facilitating supervision pedagogy.
Debriefing interviews and coaching conversations : strategies to promote student reflexivity and actionSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 972 –986 (2011)More Less
Without conscious will and engagement in critical reflexivity as a process of growth and learning in research, students remain unaware of their subjective biases and the effect of bias on the inquiry. A qualitative, exploratory, single descriptive case study was used to explore and describe the operationalisation of debriefing interviews and coaching conversations as strategies to promote student reflexivity and action in postgraduate supervision practice. Two female Master of Technology (Somatology) students were purposively selected. Data were collected through in-depth semi-structured debriefing interviews, coaching conversations and semi-structured naïve sketches. Data analysis followed a thematic coding approach. It was found that the strategies of debriefing interviews and coaching conversations promote self-awareness and methodological awareness, transformation, learning and support, and increase students' capability to act and react more quickly to research challenges. However, bracketing of personal epistemological beliefs and ethical reasoning remain a challenge.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 987 –1002 (2011)More Less
Supervision has been identified as an important factor in the success of postgraduate students, even as the most significant variable and a large number of studies have been conducted to identify factors that contribute to supervision success. However the dependent variable in these studies - supervision success - has been an elusive one to define. The aim of this article is to investigate one aspect of supervision success, namely throughput success. We isolate two factors (gender and home language) pertaining to the student profile and one factor (multiplicity) pertaining to supervision practice and then investigate the association between the factors and throughput success. Multiplicity is a term defined here to distinguish the practice of solo supervision (one supervisor) from that of having co-supervision. The methodology includes both quantitative and qualitative strategies with a survey and interviews as the data capturing methods. The main contribution is to highlight the impact of multiplicity on throughput success. This research should be of interest to researchers, supervisors and academic planners.
Source: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 1003 –1019 (2011)More Less
Many postgraduate interdisciplinary research (IDR) candidates in the applied disciplines work across two or more traditional areas of study. Such candidates often spend considerable time on knowledge-building activities outside their home (or undergraduate) disciplines; IDR candidates venture into new fields and are exposed to the cultures and values of different disciplines. In this study, IDR candidates, from different applied disciplines, were selected as case studies. The study was delimited to a range of interdisciplinary permutations across the 'hard' and 'soft' applied disciplines (e.g., engineering management, health informatics). The focus of this article is postgraduate students' experiences in doing an IDR study for a Master's thesis. In the article we explore the challenges faced by candidates, with a view to minimising these, given the contribution that IDR can make to a developing society.
Author S. SinghSource: South African Journal of Higher Education 25, pp 1020 –1030 (2011)More Less
An inadequate number of suitably qualified and experienced supervisors, an increase in the number of students, uncertainty regarding the suitability of supervision and academic rigour in dissertations and theses make it difficult to produce quality graduates within the prescribed time-frame as stipulated by the Department of Education. By implication, a strategy is needed to help both students and supervisors overcome these difficulties and produce quality research within the minimum time-frames. In this article, an intervention to assist students with writing their postgraduate research is presented and the need, planning, validation and implementation thereof are described. Reflection, inductive reasoning and observation initiated the need for this study and formed part of the needs assessment for the intervention. A template was designed as the intervention and was used as a guideline for students to use, presenting the basic format pertinent to writing dissertations\theses. To evaluate the intervention, a questionnaire was applied to ascertain students' opinions about the intervention and was validated using face-validity. Responses were deemed reliable using the internal consistency for determining reliability. The study concluded that an intervention such as the template is beneficial and is an improvement from the traditional style of supervision and text-book teaching.