Hey, wanna make a dyad?

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What if the language around doctoral supervision foregrounded the collaborative and symbiotic nature of doing a PhD? Rather than “I was wondering if you might be prepared to supervise me”, which places the supervisor at a distance from a student project (not to mention positioning the student in an attitude of deference and gratitude), perhaps potential students could ask potential supervisors:

  • Could we form a supervisory partnership?
  • Do you offer apprenticeships in being an academic?
  • Are you available for a doctoral mentorship?
  • Would you be interested in aligning your professional learning to a topic I have in mind?
  • Are you interested in collaborating with me to launch a study?

Supervision is a huge learning curve for a supervisor, yet Chris Halse has written of the “striking silence” (2011, p. 557) around what supervisors learn from it. Flipping the roles, and defining the student as equal, as a partner or even in control, exposes the power plays that frequently inform supervisory roles. As supervisors, how do we attempt to position our students through language, from our very first contacts with them?

Halse, C. (2011). Becoming a supervisor: the impact of doctoral supervision on supervisors’ learning. Studies in Higher Education, 36(5), 557-570.

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Author: becomingaphdsupervisor

Dr Lucinda McKnight is a lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy at Deakin University.

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