Master Class Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Master Class: Effective supervision of Honours and coursework dissertation students (#9)

Lynne D. Roberts 1
  1. Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

There has been a paucity of material available to support supervisors of Honours and coursework dissertation students in Australian universities. Most universities provide policy and procedural documents, but limited information is provided on the practice of supervision. In 2013 Associate Professor Lynne Roberts was awarded an Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) National Teaching Fellowship to identify, develop and disseminate best practice in supporting Honours and coursework dissertation supervision. This masterclass is designed to share good practice supervisory materials developed during the Fellowship. Activities during the masterclass are designed to engage participants in reflecting on their own supervisory practice and develop strategies for dealing with a range of supervisory issues.

The target audience for this masterclass is a) academics who are new to supervising Honours and/or coursework dissertation students, b) academics who would like to further develop their supervisory skills, c) coordinators of dissertation units, and d) academic developers with an interest in providing training and development on supervisory practices within their own universities.

The masterclass will begin with a brief overview of the current state of knowledge regarding supervisory practice for dissertation students in Honours and coursework degrees.  Models of good supervisory practice from the perspective of students and supervisors will be presented and discussed. Following an initial activity identifying shared supervisory problems, triads of participants will work through a series of vignettes depicting student, supervisor and dissertation coordinator perspectives of selected supervisory issues. Each triad will be tasked with identifying the underlying issues and ways of progressing that meet the needs of the student, supervisor and dissertation coordinator. Following discussion of each scenario within the triad, Lynne will facilitate a larger group discussion on the range of good practices that emerge, supplementing these with further information and supervisory tools developed or identified during the Fellowship.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

Theme: Navigating Uncertainty and Complexity

New academics are often tasked with supervising Honours and coursework dissertations, yet are frequently not provided with training or support to do so. Directly relating to the conference theme of navigating uncertainty and complexity, new supervisors report struggling with the practice of supervision, particularly in relation to understanding and working within the boundaries of supervision, motivating students and dealing with lack of progress.  The proposed Masterclass is designed to engage supervisors in reflecting on their own supervisory practice. Working with other supervisors, they will share supervisory experiences and develop strategies for dealing with common supervisory issues. This will provide participants with ways of navigating the uncertainty and complexity associated with supervising Honours and coursework dissertation students.