Alignment of Doctoral Student and Supervisor Expectations in Malaysia

Irina Baydarova, Heidi E Collins, Ismail Ait Saadi
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 16  •  2021  •  pp. 001-029

This paper compares doctoral student and supervisor expectations of their respective roles and responsibilities in doctoral research supervision relationships in Malaysia. It identifies the areas, and the extent to which expectations align or differ.

Incongruence of expectations between doctoral students and their supervisor has been cited as a major contributor to slow completion times and high attrition rates for doctoral students. While researchers urge the need for explicit discussion of expectations, in practice doctoral students and supervisors rarely make their expectations explicit to each other, and few researchers have examined the areas of alignment or misalignment of expectations in depth.

Semi-structured interviews were held with fifteen doctoral students and twelve supervisors from two research-intensive universities in Malaysia. An inductive thematic analysis of data was conducted.

This paper provides the first in-depth direct comparison of student-supervisor expectations in Malaysia. A hierarchical model of student-supervisor expectations is presented.

Expectations vary in the degree of congruence, and the degree to which they are clarified by students and supervisors across four different areas: academic practice, academic outcomes, skills and personal attributes, personal relationships. A hierarchical model is proposed to describe the extent to which both students and supervisors are able to clarify their mutual expectations arising throughout the doctoral student-supervisor relationship.

Institutions should support discussions with both doctoral students and supervisors of expectations of their student-supervisor interactions, and encourage them to be more proactive in exploring their mutual expectations.

Data is recommended to be collected from students who have recently completed their studies, given the observation that some student participants were uncomfortable speaking about their supervisors while still in the student-supervisor relationship.

Opening opportunities for discussions of expectations by students and supervisors, supported and encouraged by the institutions within which they work, can help set the scene for positive and productive relationships.

Findings indicate there is need to examine in depth the impact of gender, and the competing pressures to publish and graduate on time, as they relate to the student-supervisor relationships and experience.

doctoral, supervision, expectations, model, Malaysia
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