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The Importance of Honours Supervision in Supporting Students Transitioning from Undergraduate Coursework to Postgraduate Research Degrees Lynne Roberts.

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Presentation on theme: "The Importance of Honours Supervision in Supporting Students Transitioning from Undergraduate Coursework to Postgraduate Research Degrees Lynne Roberts."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Importance of Honours Supervision in Supporting Students Transitioning from Undergraduate Coursework to Postgraduate Research Degrees Lynne Roberts

2 THE AUSTRALIAN HONOURS CONTEXT QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

3 Honours the Preferred Pathway to PhD the Gold Standard pathway, especially at Go8 universities (Kiley, 2013) The predetermined pathway (Draper & Hitchcock, 2013) QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

4 Honours No Longer THE Pathway to HDR Studies Only 20.3% of students enrolled in honours in year immediately prior to commencing HDR (Edwards, Bexley & Richardson, 2011, p. 18) 1 in 5 QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

5 HDR Enrolment No Longer THE Outcome of Honours Only 26.9% of honours graduates from 2012 were in full-time study at time of Graduate Destination survey the following year (Graduate Destinations 2012) 1 in 4 QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

6 …Or the Preferred Immediate Outcome 25% would consider enrolling in PhD in following year if awarded 1 st class honours 20.8% if 2A honours (Roberts, Blosfelds & Gasson, 2014) 1 in 4 1 in 5 QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

7 …Or the Primary Reason for Enrolling in Honours 1.To widen opportunities 2.Eligibility for Masters 3.Improve job prospects. 8. Eligibility for PhD (Roberts, et al., 2014) I mainly applied for Honours to increase my chance of getting into a Master of Clinical Psychology course as it is very competitive QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

8 Honours Students are Not Discounting Later HDR Studies 58.3% anticipate returning to HDR studies at a later date Further 25% may do so (Roberts, et al., 2014) QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

9 Honours Programs Disappearing Following Bologna model, pathways adopted QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR faculty_of_arts/mhpir/modern_history/masters_of_research-mres/

10 Despite This, Until Recently… … in policy discussions in Australia there persists the implicit assumption of a stereotypical doctoral candidate as young, male, full-time, with few other commitments, proceeding from an honours degree and preparing for workforce entry after the doctorate, preferably as an academic (Pearson, Cumming, Evans, Macauley, & Ryland, 2011, p. 528) QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

11 New Pathways to PhD Masters by coursework (Kiley & Cumming, 2014) Returning to study after/during professional career – Many part-time Do these routes provide the same level of research training as honours? QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

12 Research Learning Outcomes AQF Level 8 Bachelor Honours Masters (Coursework) Apply a body of knowledge in a specific context ….as a pathway for research and further learning *Knowledge: research principles & methods *Skills: technical skills to design and use research in a project *Application: plan and execute project work and/or a piece of research and scholarship with some independence Apply an advanced body of knowledge in a range of contexts … as a pathway for further learning *Knowledge: research principles & methods *Application: plan and execute a substantial research-based project, capstone experience and/or piece of scholarship Masters (Research) AQF Level 9 Apply advanced body of knowledge in a range of contexts for research.. and as a pathway for further learning *Knowledge: advanced research principles & methods *Skills: cognitive, technical & communication skills to design, use, evaluate and disseminate research and research methods *Application: plan and execute substantial piece of research Source: Adapted from Australian Qualifications Framework Second Edition January 2013 pp 16-17

13 MY RESEARCH Semi-Structured Interviews 14 Honours students 6 new Honours supervisors 5 Honours coordinators QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

14 Honours Supervisors Support Development of Research Skills Im like this new fresh lamb and these are my shepherds. Theyre helping me along like, Heres the best grass over here. Without telling me what to do. She knows how much she has to herd me and how much she can sort of just let me do my thing, and she knows she doesnt have to sort of mollycoddle me or anything. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

15 Honours Develops Students Independence (Honours) teaches you that independence…at that really early, fledgling level, you know, where theyre really green to doing research. Theyre just not prepared for that type of situation, and theyre just not equipped with the skills or the confidence to be able to say to their supervisor, Look, this is my project. Im in charge of this, not you. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

16 Encouraging Ownership of Research ….having to transition, I suppose, between being a student at undergraduate level to … Honours level. A lot of it was that transitionary stuff that students had to learn... focusing on building the confidence within students to actually take charge of the relationship with their supervisors. Because I think until you actually get to that stage of being confident and being – you know, feeling empowered – youre never really gonna have the ownership of the project thats required. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

17 Changing Role of Supervisor Over Time Facilitates Independence He was initially like, I guess, sort of a repository of experiential knowledge and information and that. But he soon became a bit more of a mentor or a coach, and I felt he would kind of facilitate my own learning rather than tell me what to do. Toward the end, … it took on, say, more of a supportive role. I felt like my supervisor knew I was capable of completing the dissertation and was just there to sort of allay any concerns I had, those sorts of things. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

18 Students Recognise own Development My approach was very naive in the beginning and perhaps still is, but Im on a journey. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR I can truly say that my research, this current project, is my own. [Supervisor] offers guidance but its done so cleverly that its all coming from me.

19 Students Report Increased Confidence in Research Ability You know what? That year was hard but it was great. I feel like I've really developed as a researcher and I feel like I've really developed and ready to take on the next step. I always felt that they wanted me to do well. … I really felt that they put a lot of effort into me and I think that made a lot of difference for me, like it made a lot of difference for my confidence and … it made me feel like I could do it and I could do well … it felt that they were going to ensure that I did well. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

20 New PhD Students Reflecting Back on Honours Supervision Our relationship has matured a lot more and I think I feel a lot more like a colleague than a student as I was before. I think fourth year was great because you really did feel like a colleague and that was a big step up from third year. I would say my supervisors … a lot less of a coach and more of a mentor now … I think Ive kind of demonstrated that I can do it now … So I feel a lot more autonomous again now. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

21 Honours Provides the Training Ground for PhDs Honours is all about training, whereas PhD is very short bit of training followed by a journey for the student, an assisted journey … An Honours student, you would expect to sit down with them and talk them through how to achieve X, Y, and Z and then go through with the lab … With the PhD student, youd be able to say, Hmm, I wonder if such and such program would do that job? And you would expect them to go out and tell you could it or not. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

22 Honours Supervision as Harder than PhD Supervision I think Honours (supervision) is harder! Well, I just think in terms of the commitment to the student and in some ways Honours students actually take more time because they know less. They have less experience. Theyre less mature. Theyre under a lot more time pressure. They're starting to own their projects, and drive it, and find out what that means. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

23 Supervisors Aware of Importance of Honours Year I must admit, in may ways I feel supervising honours students extremely stressful because the consequences for the honours students are so profound that if you havent helped them devise an appropriate project, if you stuff up anything in the supervision process then it has real consequences for what the student is able to do later on. And that I found extremely stressful in honours supervision. QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

24 Honours Supervisors Encourage PhD Enrolment … they are almost shy about bringing up the fact that they might want to do a PhD. It's like there's so much status about doing that that they almost feel embarrassed to have the conversation to say, I might be wanting to do future research. So if I put on the table beforehand, they dont have to have the embarrassment or dont have to feel that anxiety of embarrassment QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

25 Concluding Thoughts For many, honours provides first opportunity to design and conduct research. Honours supervision supports students transitioning from taught undergraduate degrees to HDR Guidance and support by supervisors provides strong foundation for postgraduate research – development of research skills – internalising of researcher identity Unclear whether alternative pathways will deliver same degree of research preparation QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR

26 Website:

27 References Draper, P. & Hitchcock, M. (2013). Between practice and research: The honours undergraduate experience at an Australian conservatorium. EDULEARN13 Proceedings (pp ). Edwards, D., Bexley, E., & Richardson, S. (2011). Regenerating the academic workforce. Retrieved from HigherEducation/ResourcesAndPublications/Documents/RAW.pdf Guthrie, B. (2013). Graduate Destinations 2012: A report on the work and study outcomes of recent higher education graduates. Melbourne: Graduate Careers Australia. Kiley, M. (2013). Ive done a coursework masters now Id like to do a doctorate: Can I?. Final report Retrieved from Kiley, M. & Cumming, J. (2014). The impact of changing government policies and institutional practices on masters by coursework students in Australia: A viable pathway to the PhD? Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 36, doi: / X Pearson, M., Cumming, J., Evans, T., Macauley, P. & Ryland, K. (2011). How shall we know them? Capturing the diversity of difference in Australian doctoral candidates and their experiences. Studies in Higher Education, 36, doi: / QPR 2014: Honours Supervision Supporting Transitioning to HDR


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