How often do you really understand how a supervisory meeting, or thesis writing, fits into a student’s day? Experienced supervisor, AP Joanne O’Mara believes it is vital to understand what else is going on in students’ lives so supervisors can jigsaw their advice to allow for the competing demands many students face. She feels this is central to understanding what is and isn’t happening in relation to any doctoral project.
There is a lot of potential for developing this concept of jigsawing as supervisory skill, requiring sensitivity, empathy and also respect for student privacy, too. Jigsawing means negotiating reasonable and flexible expectations for further work which take into account all dimensions of a student’s life. It means students not walking away from meetings with the sick feeling they have agreed to something impossible, because their father is requiring repeated hospitalisation, or they are performing in a play that’s about to open, or they are writing reports in their school teaching job. Jigsawing means good supervision based on communication and mutual respect.