The balancing act

Coralie McCormack and Barbara Pamphilon (University of Canberra) have contributed eleven case stories which explore the experiences of postgraduate study and supervision from the perspectives of students and supervisors.

A ‘good’ case story documents a typical and real experience. It has elements that include a personal level, an institutional level and other contextual elements that reveal the range of complexity in the issue. The case story describes the issue in detail (often chronologically) as well as the reactions of and issues for the person(s) involved. Because these cases emphasise the personal and highlight complex issues, group leaders should allocate sufficient time for discussion and prepare a detailed plan for the session.

There are stories from three full-time students, three part-time students, and three supervisors. The final two stories are told by a student and her supervisor. The initial stories were developed from a research project investigating women academics’ experiences of balancing work, study and life. A number of stories were gathered later via word of mouth (people seeing the earlier work and wanting to contribute their story), and it just happens that these additional stories have also been authored by women. Coralie and Barbara have found the stories work for both male and female workshop participants, and in sessions for both supervisors and students.

Coralie and Barbara have also provided detailed advice for leading groups in discussion of case stories. They suggest formats for 90 minute and 4 hour sessions. The Balancing Act: authors’ suggestions for using case stories. (PDF 136k) (Word File)


Dr Coralie McCormack is a senior lecturer in the Centre for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and Scholarship at the University of Canberra.

Dr Barbara Pamphilon is an associate professor in the Division of Communication and Education at the University of Canberra.

fIRST consultant, Dr Peggy Nightingale, helped prepare the materials for this website.

Publications about THE BALANCING ACT:

McCormack, C. & Pamphilon, B. 2004. More than a Confessional: Postmodern groupwork to support postgraduate supervisors’ professional development. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 41(1), 1-20.

McCormack, C. & Pamphilon, B. 2001. More than a Confessional: Postmodern Groupwork to Support Postgraduate Supervisors. A paper to the Innovation and Links: Research Management and Development & Postgraduate Education, Auckland, 26-27th November 2001.

McCormack, C. & Pamphilon, B. 1999. The Balancing Act: A paper for a workshop exploring the experiences of women academics as postgraduate students. In D. Cohen, A. Lee, J. Newman, A. M. Payne, H. Scheeres, L. Shoemark, & S. Tiffin (Eds.), Winds of Change. Women and the Culture of Universities Conference Proceedings (pp. 694-704). Sydney: Equity & Diversity Unit, University of Technology, Sydney.

McCormack, C., & Pamphilon, B. 1998, revised 2002. The Balancing Act: Exploring Women’s experiences of postgraduate study, supervision and workload. A workshop manual. Canberra: Centre for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and Scholarship, University of Canberra.

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