oa Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology - Anarchic educational leadership : an alternative approach to postgraduate supervision
Supervision is widely acknowledged as influencing the quality of postgraduate theses, and thus, by implication, of postgraduates. Despite this, the literature on conducting research offers little guidance in respect of managing the supervision relationship. This paper opens a window onto the relationship - and particularly the power relationship - between a particular supervisor of postgraduate research, Howard, and his Master's student, Ray. It draws on research that explores how contemporary influences in the university domain intersect with individual agency and with power relations to produce knowledge on two levels : the thesis as an extrinsic product of processes of education, and the person as an intrinsic product of processes of learning.
Selections of Michel Foucault's insights are used to explore the notion of power and how it operates through rules of discourse to construct knowledge and identity. Accordingly, the research describes and tracks the functioning of two discourses pivotal to Howard and Ray's experience of supervision : anarchic educational leadership discourse, and humanistic discourse. The research on which the paper is based is constructivist, and as such it is underpinned by the assumption, or rather belief, that the discursive construction of reality is mediated by individual agency. In order to analyse how power operates between individuals, and between them and their broader educational contexts, a conceptual tool capable of accommodating manifest strategic processes - identified along a positional continuum as 'push', 'allow' and 'pull' - was devised.
The case study yields several thematic correlations in interpersonal and institutional power. These are : the significance of supervisor-student matching; links between expectations, abilities, the way participants negotiate power, and the quality of professional and pastoral care they experience; the impact of personal affinity on supervision; and the influence of ontology on thesis-as-product and person-as-product.
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