Presentation on theme: "Improving completion rates and times Dr Stan Taylor Supporting students to complete and on time."— Presentation transcript:
Improving completion rates and times Dr Stan Taylor Supporting students to complete and on time
∂ Historically… … as long as [doctoral students] paid their fees and fulfilled the minimum residence requirements, no one worried too much about how long they took. (Simpson 2009: 458)
∂ In 1980s… Governments across the globe began collecting statistics on completion rates and times Studies in Western Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand found that only around half completed, and of them few completed on time;
∂ Governments across the globe adopted tough measures: Sweden – in 1998 four year legal limit introduced; Netherlands – in 2000 entitlement to unemployment benefit in fourth year when writing up terminated; UK – in 1980s and 1990s some research funders introduce target completion rates and penalties for institutions/ departments which did not meet them; Australia – state funding for research studentships linked to completion rates; New Zealand – 25% of all state research funding made dependent on meeting completion targets.
∂ Pressures for timely completion on: Institutions; Departments; Supervisors.
∂ Aim and objectives The purpose or aim of the workshop is to see how we might go about supporting students to complete within four years. The objectives are: to review the causes of why students might not complete on time; to consider how supervisors can improve time to degree.
∂ Task You should spend a few minutes considering why students might be unable to complete within a four year period. You should discuss these with colleagues, and be prepared to report back to the workshop as a whole.
∂ Why students might not complete on time – individual personalities Over-perfectionist; Expect far too much of their research projects; Suffer performance anxiety; Lower self-esteem; Response of procrastination.
∂ Why students might not complete on time – individual motivations Initial motivation as students failed:..to understand the amount of effort and rigour required in doctoral study, such that their encounter with research constituted a shock from which they never recovered in terms of motivation or effort (Hockey, 1996: 361).
∂ Why students might not complete on time – individual motivations (cont.) Later motivation as the initial impetus was: …considerably diminished over the relatively long and arduous passage of time required for completion. Initial enthusiasm sometimes dissipated to such an extent that boredom, frustration and resentment of the situation, and of the supervisor, became apparent. (Hockey, 1996: 361).
∂ Why students might not complete on time – individual lack of skills Students are: …often reluctant to discuss their inability to complete some research tasks with their supervisors for fear of ‘not looking professional’…As a result, many students not want to admit…that they did not understand how to do a literature review, start writing or perform other research tasks… Ahern and Manathunga (2004: 243)
∂ Why students might not complete on time – individual changes in circumstances Pregancy; Mental or physical ill-health; Relationships; Families; Employment.
∂ Why students might not complete on time – social/gender Many (but not all) studies find women take longer than men; Largely due to family circumstances; But evidence of discrimination and exclusion as well.
∂ Why students might not complete on time – social/race-ethnicity Completion times shortest among Asians and whites, longest among black doctoral candidates
∂ Why students might not complete on time – social/disability Very little evidence, but what there is suggests that completion takes slightly longer among students with declared disabilities.
∂ Why students might not complete on time – cultural Evidence disparate with some (in fact the bulk of) studies suggesting that international students have shorter completion times than domestic students, others about the same, and a few slightly longer.
∂ Why students might not complete on time - economic/financial Key finding that students who are fully funded to study have much higher completion rates and shorter completion times than students who are partially- and/or self-funding, and underpins much lower completion rates and times among part-time students.
∂ Why students might not complete on time - supervisory Expertise in the area of the research project Interest in the research project Supervisory relationships Some supervisors: …had rough edges to their personalities; …were remote, hard to approach, difficult to talk to and work with; …had been intimidating or made students feel intimidated. Lovitts (2001: 162).
∂ Why students might not complete on time – supervisory (cont.) Regularity of supervision; Continuity of supervision.
∂ Why students might not complete on time – disciplines Research shows that completion rates are higher and completion times lower in the natural sciences than the social sciences, with the arts and humanities usually bringing up the rear; Reasons include: Designated/self-selected topic Student profile Research support
∂ Why students might not complete on time - projects Inherent risk in a PhD because: …it is impossible to be sure…that a given piece of research will produce results, until [it] has been done. But if it has been done already, the research is not original. Rudd (1985: 65) Can try to minimise but: Unable to acquire raw materials for experiments; Non-cooperation by research subjects; Natural disasters; Failure to get results acceptable to research community.
∂ Why students might not complete on time – lack of academic and social integration Academic integration - research students need to be integrated within the discipline and within the research culture ; Social integration – research students need to to interact with staff and peers; Numerous studies showing lack of academic and social integration a major cause of non- and delayed completion.
∂ Why students might not complete on time – producing the thesis Quote from supervisor: Some [students] have a genuine inability to see how it all fits together. They have done the reading, they know the subject, they also know how to analyse all their data, then they come to a stop. The frustration they have then is tangible. Most struggle on and get there. A few give up. Trafford and Lesham (2009: 313).
∂ Why students might not complete on time – producing the thesis (cont.) Quotes from students Nobody actually explained to me the principles of how to write a doctoral thesis. Reading one gave me useful pointers, but I still have this constant worry that I might be wrong. I get confused when my supervisor returns my chapters suggesting that I relate them to other parts of my thesis. Equally I do now know how to ‘integrate theories’ or make my text ‘more interesting’. My topic is described, my fieldwork is complete, and the analysis shows what I had hoped to discover. Once this is written up it should surely just speak for itself’ [Italics added] Trafford and Lesham (2009: 314)
∂ Why students might not complete on time – producing the thesis (cont.) Recently identified by Kiley (2010) as a ‘threshold concept’ for research students; Evidence that problems in producing the thesis is a major cause of delay.
∂ Supporting timely completion Bearing in mind the possible causes of delay, you should think about how supervisors can go about supporting students to complete as far as possible within the designated time limit. You should discuss these with colleagues and report back to the workshop as a whole.
∂ 1)Awareness of the signs of procrastination constantly changing the topic or planned work; avoiding communication with their supervisor; isolating themselves from their department and other students; avoiding submitting work for review. Manathunga (2002), Kearns et al (2008)
∂ 2supporting students suffering from over-perfectionism reminding research students that, as Mullins and Kiley (2002) have put it, ‘It’s a PhD thesis, not a Nobel prize’ or, as the facilitator used to remind his own students, ‘It is a big step for you but a small one for mankind’ by asking them to read successful theses to indicate the limited magnitude of the contribution made by them to the discipline.
∂ 2supporting students suffering from over-perfectionism (cont.) as Ahern and Manathunga (2004) have suggested, supporting students to re-plan the research as a series of smaller steps which students will find more manageable. as Murray (2002) has argued, to encourage them to get things down, supervisors can give students given permission to present imperfect ‘work in progress’ rather than polished final drafts.
∂ 3 Motivating students who are stalling praising them; negotiating stepping stones; re-focusing the research; providing incentives for students to make progress; encouraging them to take a break.
∂ 4 Supporting students to acquire the skills to do their projects Training needs analyses as part of induction; Regular reviews over the course of the studentship.
∂ 5 Supporting students in the face of changing personal circumstances Issue about how far supervisors should become involved in personal matters; One argument have to in order to advise students and support completion; Other that it is inappropriate and can lead to problems e.g. supervisor who said: I was sucked right into the black hole of this thing…she had all kinds of family problems and, of course, health problems, and all the time she was having these problems, her schedule was slipping, you know…I mean I was in the water there with here and I needed somebody on the bank shouting instructions and I didn’t have it. (quoted Hockey 2995:205)
∂ 6 Responding effectively to social diversity in the student population Be aware of possibility of indirect discrimination; Ensure do not practice direct discrimination.
∂ 7 Responding effectively to cultural diversity in the student population Aligning expectations; Supporting the development of new learning styles; Auditing research skills; Reviewing communication; Supporting the development of academic writing.
∂ 8 Responding effectively to the needs of part-time students negotiating formal agreements covering the supervisory relationship and including the submission of work; having a clear policy for contacting students on a regular basis; understanding and being sympathetic to problems outside the research; providing opportunities for academic and social networking; to support them with their writing.
∂ 9 Selective in agreeing to supervise I think basically we are encouraged to take as many PhD students as possible…everybody from the department head down has been saying we must have more PhD students. I mean its almost like a mantra. I’m really wary of that push, because I think that it does have implications on resources and I don’t really want to take on someone who is not going to be good… I mean one thing that happened recently was that last year we had quite a number of students who withdrew quite early in the first year, and this alarmed us. Neumann 2003:28
∂ 9 Selective in agreeing to supervise Have the expertise to supervise the topic; Are intellectually interested in the topic.
∂ 10 Establishing and maintaining a professional relationship with the research student. Supervisory styles model of Gatfield (2005) structure – who is responsible for organising and managing the research project support – who is responsible for supporting the candidate personally through the slings and arrows of life as a researcher ‘low’ and ‘high’
∂ 10 Establishing and maintaining a professional relationship with the research student (cont.)
∂ Supervisory styles and student needs laisser-faire – assumes student capable of managing both project and themselves pastoral – assumes student capable of managing project but needs personal support directorial – assumes student not capable of managing research project but can manage themselves neo-parental – assumes student needs high levels of both academic and pastoral support.
∂ Congruence between preferred styles and student needs In the beginning, I was not very confident of my scholarly abilities. However, I had years of life experience and was an established mature professional capable of taking control of my actions…I did not want a supervisor who directed, inspected or controlled my doctoral process…I wanted my supervisor to be a ‘critical friend’…I deliberately chose my supervisor for this capacity…and found this both an effective and appropriate form of supervision’ (Chapman 2002)
∂ Possible discongruence between preferred styles and student needs ‘[Chinese] students’ expectations of the student/ supervisory relationship were based on previous cultural and educational expectations and their perceptions of whether or not those expectations were fulfilled. Accustomed to undertaking joint research with their supervisors and developing very close emotional bonds, the majority of students felt unprepared for the expectations of supervisors that they undertake independent research’. McClure (2007: 204)
∂ Dynamics of supervisory styles over time …the supervisory style needs to be adjusted to a more hands-off approach to allow competent autonomy to be developed.... Unfortunately, in some cases, supervisors adopt a static supervisory approach, or if it is altered, this may not be done in alignment with the growth and emerging needs of the student but on the basis of a teacher-centred ("I know what is best for this student") dogma. Gurr (2001: 86-87)
∂ 12 Providing continuity of supervision Move from single to team supervision; Institutional policies defining maximum period in which student can be without main supervisor.
∂ 13Minimising the element of risk in research projects Supervisors are under pressure: …to afford well-organised, almost manicured research projects that are clearly defined and pursued in step with a tight but achievable deadline. The opportunities for curiosity-driven research, where outcomes are not known in advance, and developed at a leisurely pace, have little place in this new landscape. Green and Usher (2003: 47)
∂ 14 Supporting academic and social integration Joint supervisions; Peer support groups; Writing groups; Internal seminars and conferences; External seminars and conferences; Supporting publication; Supporting teaching.
∂ 15 Supporting production of the thesis Thesis Content Structure Planning Presentation Audience Timetable
∂ Conclusions Historically, doctorates ‘took as long as it took’; Now pressures from research sponsors for candidates to complete within 4 years; Supervisors cannot guarantee this because many factors are outside their control; But they need to be aware of the signs and, where possible and appropriate, ready to intervene; Such intervention may not only be for the benefit of research funders, but also of students themselves.