The Head of School tells you that your student John has made a complaint about you to the Postgraduate Co-ordinator. The complaint is basically that John feels you are not giving him enough direction, that you don’t organise regular meetings, and that he is sure that you know the research question he should be researching but won’t tell him – you keep trying to get him to guess what’s in your head. The Head reports that John stated that he is worried because he has been going for nearly six months and feels you haven’t given him the help he expected.
You are shocked.
Q: You ask colleagues (the group) for advice on how to give your side of the picture to the Head of School. What does the group say?
Responses to the above were
- This would be extraordinary. I always finish every meeting with a clear goal and date for the next meeting, so I would not ask for advice, I would simply confirm these dates and goals by email, and make sure I stressed to the student that he should email back if he did not understand.
- If the relationship is to continue, it needs to be resolved between the supervisor and student in the first instance. The student should have the opportunity to identify and articulate his or her concerns, a remediation pathway negotiated, a schedule agreed for future meetings and further support put in place. The relationship is bilateral and both student and supervisor may need to give ground and reach agreed milestones.
- There is a clear lack of communication in this instance. The student requires additional support and structure in the way of regular scheduled meetings, clarification of direction and established guidelines with respect to the research question.