A Theoretical Perspective on How Doctoral Supervisors Develop Supervision Skills

Katherine Fulgence Swai
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 14  •  2019  •  pp. 721-739

The paper establishes how doctoral supervisors develop the supervision skills needed to handle the doctoral supervision process in the contemporary world.

While the existing literature confirms that PhD holders can supervise doctoral students, there is a need to provide supporting evidence that the skills they possess qualify them to do this.

Using the qualitative research approach, the study established the knowledge and skills that are needed to supervise doctoral students in the contemporary world. Through thematic analysis of 82 scholarly publications, the study established, in order of preference, five mechanisms through which doctoral supervisors develop supervision skills, i.e. the supervision process, doctoral education, institutional guidelines, institutional training courses and individualized learning.

The study contributes to the ongoing research on the supervision of doctoral studies in the 21st century.

Findings show that a well-structured doctoral education, including the related processes, imparts the knowledge and skills needed for doctoral supervision. Likewise, a combination of the mechanisms and an individual’s commitment, in terms of time and engagement, develop the skills that are relevant for doctoral supervision.

Higher Education Institutions need to make supervisors aware of the potential of these mechanisms for developing the skills necessary for doctoral supervision and encourage them to use them

Further research on the development of doctoral supervision skills should broadly consider the role of different programmes in developing doctoral supervision skills in different contexts.

The study has implications for doctoral supervisors and universities as regards the need to ensure that both mechanisms are instituted to enable doctoral supervisors to develop doctoral supervision skills.

Since the study was done theoretically, it might be important to conduct further research using mixed-methods research with a phenomenological design to establish the skills possessed by doctoral supervisors and the mechanism they used to develop the supervision skills in any context.

doctoral supervision, supervisors, principal investigators, doctoral education
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