About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 906-914
Publication year: 2016
ISBN: 978-84-617-5895-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2016.1206

Conference name: 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2016
Location: Seville, Spain

A BLENDED MODEL FOR STUDENT-CENTERED SUPERVISION OF THESIS WORK IN HIGHER EDUCATION

M. Åkesson, M. Thomsen

Halmstad University (SWEDEN)
The thesis is the crown on students bachelor’s degree program. To many students, however, the thesis work has proved to be the biggest hurdle to overcome in higher education. The bachelor thesis is in many cases the first experience of writing a long and coherent text of scientific character, and many students experience problems to finish in time. Students sometimes feel unconfident and find that the demands and criteria of the thesis work are unclear.

The traditional individual supervision approach to thesis work is still dominant in higher IT education. Individual supervision can certainly be supportive, but there are also problems. In research on supervision both students and teachers have raised issues such as over dependence of the supervisor, mismatch of ambition and personalities, balancing authority and independence, and difficulty in understanding each other. There is no general agreement among teaching experts regarding what constitutes an optimal model for supervision. The literature suggests that a blended supervision model, i.e. traditional supervision, group supervision and peer group supervision can better support students and teachers. Literature also point out that activity, acting and reflecting, social interaction is vital in supervision.

In this paper we address the question of how a blended model for student-centered supervision can be designed. We have approached the question in our supervising practice of bachelor thesis work in informatics education. Drawing on Vygotsky’s (1978) social constructivist theory of learning and the notion ”zone of proximal development” (ZPD), and our experiences from 20 years of teaching bachelors, we have developed a blended model for student-centered supervision of thesis work. We interpret ZPD as the zone ranging from the thesis challenges a student can solve in collaboration with more proficient students or under supervisors guidance, to the problems a student can solve independently.

We theorize thesis supervision as an asymmetric learning process where the supervisor’s role is to support the student progress to independently solve problems that the student previously could only solve with supervisor guidance. We use the concept of scaffolding to highlight structures and learning activities that support students in developing their own strategies for problem solving. Here, the role of the supervisor is to visualize the student’s current level of competence and her or his potential level of competence, and to encourage the student’s development. Such a supervising process is in essence student-centered and encourages student active learning, independence and responsibility.

The general aim of the model we have developed is to:
(1) increase the potential for students to finish in time,
(2) provide a rich learning experience,
(3) provide students with continuous support based on their own experienced problems,
(4) reduce the dependence of individual supervisors, and
(5) provide better process support for supervisors.

The model is based on a structure of two co-supervisors with 4-5 thesis projects written by students in pairs of two. The model provides a framework including different types of learning activities, forms of group dialogue, feed-back structure, student driven group sessions, obligatory control points, and form and length of deliveries such as project plans, text and empirical material.
@InProceedings{AKESSON2016ABL,
author = {Åkesson, M. and Thomsen, M.},
title = {A BLENDED MODEL FOR STUDENT-CENTERED SUPERVISION OF THESIS WORK IN HIGHER EDUCATION},
series = {9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2016 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-617-5895-1},
issn = {2340-1095},
doi = {10.21125/iceri.2016.1206},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2016.1206},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {14-16 November, 2016},
year = {2016},
pages = {906-914}}
TY - CONF
AU - M. Åkesson AU - M. Thomsen
TI - A BLENDED MODEL FOR STUDENT-CENTERED SUPERVISION OF THESIS WORK IN HIGHER EDUCATION
SN - 978-84-617-5895-1/2340-1095
DO - 10.21125/iceri.2016.1206
PY - 2016
Y1 - 14-16 November, 2016
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2016 Proceedings
SP - 906
EP - 914
ER -
M. Åkesson, M. Thomsen (2016) A BLENDED MODEL FOR STUDENT-CENTERED SUPERVISION OF THESIS WORK IN HIGHER EDUCATION, ICERI2016 Proceedings, pp. 906-914.
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