Beyond Personal Expectations: Research Supervision Framed as a Collective Endeavour in Online Structured Doctoral Programmes

Mariangela Lundgren-Resenterra, Lucilla Crosta
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 14  •  2019  •  pp. 703-720

This paper explores how online structured doctoral programmes (OSDPs) can sustain more fully the collective dimension of supervision for student emancipation leading to academic success. The paper answers the following research question: What mechanisms, if any, are responsible for successful online supervision leading to student academic success, and under what conditions can this occur? Moreover, what does academic success mean for the different parties involved?

Recent research on online supervision has highlighted that such supervision’s effectiveness relies on creating a relationship based on converging personal expectations and preferences, generating a common language between supervisors and supervisees to assure student emancipation for academic success. Further research reveals that creating such a relationship is more challenging in an online environment because of increased student isolation due to distance issues. We, however, contend that this approach is limiting as it fails to consider its collective aspect for enculturation purposes more fully, which is relevant for student emancipation and academic success.

The research relies on autoethnography, focusing on the self as a relational subject generating social relations as a basis for collective reflexivity relevant for a successful supervision experience. This paper employs the critical realist paradigm and, more specifically, Archer’s reflexivity approach for causal explanations.

This paper discusses how collective reflexivity triggered through social relations impacts student enculturation generating their agency for emancipation, and how such emancipation can have a causal effect on student academic success. However, academic success can differ in meaning depending on the nature of reflexivity that students embrace.

This study identifies that supervision generates relationships that can be performative or emancipatory in nature, depending on how students engage in a reflexive discourse relevant to their enculturation leading then to emancipation and academic success.

This paper explores the problem of how higher education institutions can support a more collective approach towards online supervision with students relying more fully on their social network for the successful completion of their studies.

Researchers should explore and understand interpretive inquiry and qualitative research through the lens of critical realism, primarily through Archer’s reflexivity approach. Reflexivity refers to people making choices depending on their internal conversations, impacting how they think and act, and consequently on their agency for social emancipation.

Such considerations have the potential to widen the discourse regarding the purpose and role of online supervision, which should encourage students to engage with others in collective reflexivity to become critical beings for the emancipation of all parties involved.

Future research should consider how OSDPs could help to support a supervisory process encompassing the individual and performative approaches to supervision complying with institutional and economic demands with a more collective and emancipatory approach by focusing on social relations supporting doctoral candidates’ emancipation as critical beings.

autoethnography, collective reflexivity, corporate agency, critical realism, online supervision
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