RESULTS OF A TRAINING INTERVENTION TO IMPROVE PHD SUPERVISION PRACTICES
Universitat Rovira i Virgili (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:Good supervision during doctoral studies is considered a key determinant of the success or failure of a thesis. In universities, the number of training initiatives for PhD supervisors is increasing as a means to succeed with the continuous improvement of PhD programs, the efficiency and productivity of PhD theses, and the employability of PhD students. To achieve these objectives, PhD supervision as an overall role requires the fulfillment of a series of responsibilities and demands at the highest academic standards for which training can be provided. However, the results of these training interventions have scarcely been investigated.
Thus, it is necessary to determine whether the investment made by universities to provide such training and the time devoted by researchers to attend it translates into observable results. To this end, we investigate the effect of the training intervention "Good practices in doctoral supervision" offered to PhD supervisors at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, attended by 144 supervisors of this institution in different editions of up 20 participants each. This training intervention consists of a two-day workshop aimed at equipping supervisors with the tools, skills, and mindset necessary to meet the challenges of good supervision in an efficient and professional manner. The workshop was made up of interrelated modules, focusing on an overview of international developments in doctoral supervision, the supervisory relationship, and the identification and possible solutions to common problems. The teaching methods of the workshop incorporate lectures, discussions, group exercises and short projects, including the analysis of examples of difficulties that had arisen in the personal history of the participant supervisors.
Since there were not readily available scales to measure the effects of this PhD supervisory training intervention, a tailor-made questionnaire was designed to determine any possible changes that occurred as a result of participating in the workshop. Thus, the main block of the questionnaire was devoted to inquiring about the frequency, before and after participating in the course, of performing 15 typical tasks that are considered good practices in the literature on doctoral supervision. Each item was measured through a semantic differential ranging from “almost never” (value 1) to “always” (value 5).
The resulting questionnaire was sent to all 144 participants of the workshop. From the whole sample, 73 subjects fully responded to the questionnaire, achieving a valid response rate of 50.7%. This sample represents the population in terms of previous supervision experience, areas of knowledge and doctoral programs represented.
The data obtained was analyzed by carrying out a t-test of mean differences to determine whether the frequency of performing the tasks was different before and after attending the workshop. The results show that many of the 15 doctoral supervision tasks analyzed in the questionnaire underwent an improvement after attending the course, with more significant changes in those tasks for which more incidence is made throughout the workshop, such as clarifying the expectations between supervisors and their doctoral candidates, accompanying the doctoral researchers in the development of their transferrable skills, or adapting the roles of the supervisor according to the needs of their doctoral students.
Keywords: Educational and training intervention, Supervision practices, PhD Supervision, Doctoral training.