Friday, November 23, 2007

Co-presenting at a symposium

Shaping the Future of Supervisor Training was the title of a symposium conducted this week at the University of Technology Sydney on 19-20 November. Funded by the Carrick Institute, this event was part of the fIRST Project, that is, the “for Improving Research Supervisor Training” Project. An interesting feature of fIRST is its institutional membership involving 41 universities from Australia and New Zealand.

The structure for the symposium involved six sessions which were led by small groups of academics and researchers. Together with three representatives from other universities, I contributed to the opening session entitled “What is the future nature and purpose of the doctorate?”. My input involved reflecting on the contemporary framing of the doctorate (e.g. as Education, Knowledge Production, Personal Development, Professional Development, Leisure, Training or Other), by drawing on the results of a national online survey of doctoral candidates administered in 2005 as part of the ARC Linkage Project on Reconceptualising the Doctoral Experience.

In accepting the invitation to the symposium, I had some initial reservations about participating in further discussion on supervision, a topic that has dominated the field of doctoral education for the past twenty years. One of my concerns is that many academics continue to conceptualise supervision in terms of a dyadic relationship, in which candidates are viewed as young, full-time, on campus etc. However, it was good to interact again with colleagues who at the end of my candidature constitute a ‘community of practice’. The final session “What is the agenda for future research education?” was useful in that it moved beyond some of the conventional conceptualising around supervision. For example, the tension between reductionism (e.g. supervision as a component of the doctorate) on the one hand, and a more holistic view (e.g. reflecting the diversity and complexity of the doctorate) on the other, was explored.