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CHEP DISCUSSION FORUM Thurs 18 th Oct 2012, 1.15-2.15pm, Videolink Undergraduate Dissertation Supervision: Managing Preparation, Support & Expectations.

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Presentation on theme: "CHEP DISCUSSION FORUM Thurs 18 th Oct 2012, 1.15-2.15pm, Videolink Undergraduate Dissertation Supervision: Managing Preparation, Support & Expectations."— Presentation transcript:

1 CHEP DISCUSSION FORUM Thurs 18 th Oct 2012, 1.15-2.15pm, Videolink Undergraduate Dissertation Supervision: Managing Preparation, Support & Expectations. Sally Cook & Wendy Saunderson A. CONTEXT & PROBLEM B. MANAGING EXPECTATIONS C. PROVIDING ON ONLINE SUPPORT SYSTEM ‘ODISSY’

2 CONTEXT & PROBLEM Tens of thousands of UG students complete Dissertations in UK HEIs each year (across the Arts, Humanities, and Social, Natural and Behavioural Sciences) Despite the significance of Dissertation re. student learning & staff workload: there is a paucity of guidelines, Supervision Sessions are not subject to peer-review, and are rarely observed by QAA auditors. (Rowley and Slack, 2004; Todd et al., 2005)

3 VARIABLE STANDARDS & PROVISION HUGE VARIATIONS in the nature, approach, attitudes, concerns, provision, strategies and experience of both Supervisor and Supervisee: But COMMON CHARACTERISTICS and COMMON CHALLENGES / PROBLEMS

4 COMMON / KEY CHARACTERISTICS Student-determined topic; Self-directed learning; Independent/individual work + Tutor support; Typically includes empirical research component; Involves prolonged & sustained engagement. USUALLY: 20 credits - 200 hrs - Final year 1/6 5 – 10,000 words; No taught component Dissertation Handbook/BB; Individual supervision No formal Supervisor training or guidance

5 COMMON CHALLENGES / PROBLEMS  Delayed start / delay in choosing topic;  Poor time management;  Failure to fully engage with the process;  Dissertation as ‘unknown entity’;  Balancing workload – 1 out of 6 modules;  Lacking self-confidence for independent work;  Unsure of Supervisor-Supervisee relationship;  Unrealistic (misinformed) expectations;  Fear of not knowing what is required, and  Fear of being unable to meet requirements. Risk of under-achievement & dissatisfied students

6 SUPERVISOR’S ROLE ACADEMIC GUIDANCE: advice on suitability, feasibility, scale/scope of study; conceptual/ theoretical issues; ethical issues; research methodology; structuring; presentation. AS ‘MOTIVATOR’: setting tasks and deadlines; managing expectations; providing feedback. Do we have a clear idea of our role? Boundaries? Time commitment? Depends on number of Supervisees? Or our own research/workload? Awareness of acute disparities between & within subjects/Faculties?

7 BOUNDARIES & BALANCE Where does the Supervisor Role & Responsibility start and end? How much is enough? Students do need a certain amount of guidance, support and encouragement to gain confidence to apply their skills to complete. How much is too much? Spoon-feeding infantalises students and stifles original thought: are we teaching / producing ‘technicians or technologists’? For Discussion…

8 A. MANAGING EXPECTATIONS (& ‘FEARS’) B. PROVIDING AN ONLINE SUPPORT SYSTEM ‘ODISSY’ What ARE students’ expectations? Where do they come from? How realistic are they? How often do students expect supervision? By which means? Which types do they prefer? How realistic/realisable are their expectations? What are students biggest fears/concerns?

9 What ARE their Expectations? Fears? 80 UG students; Starting final year; Social Policy, SP Modular, HSCP; Semi-structured questionnaire, pre-Dissertation Special Session & pre-Supervisor contact. 64% expect Strict Timetable of Supervision 36% expect Flexible Supervision


11 How often is private face-to-face Supervision expected?

12 Expected duration of each private face-to-face Supervision

13 UG Students’ ‘Greatest Fears/Concerns’ at start of final/Dissertation Year Not being able to understand certain aspects of dissertation; not having enough time or 1-to-1 sessions with Supervisor That I won’t get a high enough grade; that I won’t pick the right dissertation title; that I won’t get enough guidance and support from my Supervisor Biggest fear is juggling Uni work with 2 jobs; failing; not understanding the work; time management. Doing something wrong in my dissertation and wasting time by not being able to fully understand it; Not having enough one-to-one time with my Supervisor That I will fall behind and not do my best and that my Supervisor won’t be interested in my topic; it will be hard to balance work & Uni Biggest fear is everything snowballing if I get stuck on one piece of work; time management; balancing dissertation with other modules

14 School of Environmental Sciences: Geography, Env. Science & Marine Science BSc 30 credits to 20 credits S1 to S2 scheduled Yr. 2 preparation sessions dissertation ‘log’ – minimum contact Online Dissertation Support System (ODISSY) - supported by CIES/CHEP

15 guidance on research & writing up expected standards contradictory advice independence S1 workload credits vs. expectations supervisor knowledge / interest supervisor availability ODISSY student surveys & focus group

16 improve student engagement assist time management centralise resources & advice make better use of supervision time enable visualisation of process & progress Development of ODISSY – aims:

17 visual interface: journey break into manageable ‘chunks’ indicate progress consistent online information (timetable, C/A criteria, explanations & advice, ‘how to’ guides, links to podcasts & web sites, exemplars etc.) tools for communication & management Main Features of ODISSY



20 ODISSY: feedback so far… overview of process relevance of advice and links convenience consistency exemplars  in regular use (2012 graduates) 57% used at least weekly: 80% at least monthly > 80% found map interface useful (¾) ½ said it (maybe) helped time management

21 Key questions: any answers to…? optimum timing for engagement (S1 / S2 / long-thin) credits: effort vs. degree classification student preparation Yr 2 / 3 expected minimum supervisory contact level of support (independence / spoon-feeding) ensuring supervisor availability

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