Making use of your prior knowledge

Making use of your prior knowledge of research supervision to start building your repertoire of research supervision practices

We come to any practice with a range of knowledge from previous experiences that can be applied to the new practice.

In the case of research supervision, most research supervisors have been on the receiving end of research supervision and, while this has been part of their own journey towards a research degree, it has also framed their understanding of what constitutes research supervision (Kandlbinder & Peseta, 2001).

Following is a series of exercises designed to help you bring your own experiences to light and encourage reflection. The insights gained will flesh out your own understanding of your current supervisory practice and can be used to establish your own agenda of interest in research supervision.


What can you do with this prior knowledge?

Self-awareness is an important element of all professional development.

Recognising interventions that your own supervisor made that were helpful for you creates a starting point for developing strategies that you can implement in your own research supervision practice.

Recognising what was troubling for you in your candidature can alert you to interventions which may not have been as successful, and you may decide to either avoid these or try to turn them around so that your own students can benefit.


Exercise 1

Start by brainstorming anything that you can remember about doing your own research degree. Make a list or a mind map, then go back and indicate whether the experience was positive or negative by placing a + or a – beside each word.

This reflective activity might also make you aware of negative experiences. You may find that these experiences impact on your repertoire of research supervision practices in that you endeavour to avoid these practices or have come to an understanding of how you would have liked them to be different. These can be classed as troubling things about research supervision.

For additional discussion on this point, please see the following section of this resource, Reflecting on this exercise.


Exercise 2

Complete the following sentences about your own research degree experience:

1) When I was doing my doctoral studies, the best thing about it was _______________________________________________.

2) When I was doing my doctoral studies, the most troubling aspect was _______________________________________________.

In the context of this reflection on prior knowledge you may also wish to consider some other areas of prior knowledge which, while they may not pertain directly to your own experiences of candidature, can nevertheless assist as you build your repertoire of practices around research supervision. For example:

• In work that you have undertaken separate to your candidature you may have been exposed to counseling or teaching skills. These can be useful in providing research supervision for research students. Another skills set that comes from professional work is project management.

• Sometimes in adult education programs we are made aware of ways in which we prefer to learn. This is useful prior knowledge for the development of your own practice of research supervision and also in facilitating research students to become aware of how they prefer to learn so that this can influence some of the learning choices they make.

• Any project you have undertaken that called for a review of the project against a set of identified performance indicators or milestones will have afforded useful skills that you can apply to the project management associated with research practice.


Exercise 3 – Establishing an agenda of interest in research supervision

Now look at the two things you wrote about for Exercise 2 and ask yourself about the agenda that this is setting up for you.

What questions does this reflection generate for you about research supervision? Try to name the sort of agenda that you are recognising in your emergent practice.

In order to help you complete this exercise, we have provided some sample answers to exercises 2 and 3.


Reflecting on this exercise

Once you have completed the three exercises outlined above, please proceed to the next section Reflecting on this exercise.


This resource was provided to fIRST by Dr Geof Hill. It was developed for the Queensland University of Technology. Geof works at the Graduate Business School at University of Queensland


A list of references pertaining to this resource is available here.

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