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Todd et al (2004) investigated students’ perceptions of the experience of undertaking a dissertation and found that “a strong consensus existed among respondents that the role of the supervisor is to give academic guidance on managing the dissertation, to motivate and encourage and to possess (and communicate) academic expertise in the area of the dissertation”.However, the idea that the supervisor should provide academic expertise in the topic area is at odds with the idea that a dissertation is mostly about process.According to Kimani (2014), the role of supervisor is multifaceted and can be described as that of a foreperson, overseer, coach, facilitator and coordinator.
Rather, their level of knowledge and interest should be such that they develop a deeper understanding of the subjects their students are writing about as dissertations progress.
Supervisors should have an inherent interest in learning through systematic enquiry, be student-focused and have a personality that enables them to be both nurturing and challenging.
It is important to establish this principle at the outset to ensure the student does not consider academic expertise from the supervisor as a prerequisite.
Ensuring students understand their supervisor’s role will avoid the risk of disproportionate demands made on particular staff and the expectation that supervisors will be able to ‘fill in gaps’ in a student’s knowledge.
Highlighting the merits of group supervision, Akister et al (2009) note that if students plan to work with others after graduating, then undertaking group work during their studies is invaluable.
In that scenario, the supervisor plays a maintenance and overseeing role while students organise themselves, help each other choose and understand research methods, share resources and discuss literature on common areas of interest.Another important facet of the relationship is to ensure that while students receive adequate support, it fosters independence and does not produce dependency.If the relationship is conducted properly, both parties can benefit from it; students will maximise their chances of success and achieving the best possible grade, while supervisors will use their students’ work to enhance their own understanding of the subject matter.This article, part of an occasional series on study skills, gives an overview of how students and supervisors should handle the process, what each party’s responsibilities are, and how to resolve potential conflict.Citation: Lowry M (2018) Making the most of the relationship with your dissertation supervisor.This article explores how to make the best of the supervisory relationship.Although it has a long tradition in psychology, guidance, counselling and education (Agu and Odimegwu, 2014), there is no clear definition of supervision.An early meeting is needed to discuss roles, clarify expectations and agree on markers of progress so that each party is aware of what they can expect of the other.Some supervisors insist on a written learning contract, which is revised after each supervision meeting.This article provides guidance for students on how to have a fruitful supervisory relationship Writing a dissertation can be stressful; one of the keys to success is for students to have a positive, fruitful relationship with their dissertation supervisor, whose guidance can be a great asset.Making the most of this important relationship starts with meeting the supervisor early in the process to agree on roles and expectations.