Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Supervision philosophies

So. Let's hear about your philosophies for dealing with the graduate students you supervise. (Or "advise," in the US.)

I ask because I am a first-time supervisor, this year. This MA student is, I think - by all accounts - fabulous. We have met a few times, she and I and my friend S, who's co-supervising. But her super-engagement and nerves are going to be my issue. Weekly. Almost daily.

I'm doing a Directed Studies course with her. I suggested that we meet about this every two weeks (what I did in every one of the many directed studies courses I took), and she wrote back that she would really like, if that's okay, to meet every week, because she learns better when she can talk through ideas with someone. She also emailed, over the weekend, to tell S and I about her extreme nerves about starting this process. I knew she was looking for advice, reassurance. So she's going to be high-maintenance. In a mostly good way. But still. I'm aware of a kind of added psychic burden, now that she's in my life. And I'd love to hear the philosophies you bring to your graduate supervision, those of you who do it...

8 comments:

Brigindo said...

Personally I like to keep them close initially. A little bit of nervousness is good and I'd rather instill confidence than deal with someone who is too confident for their own good.

I met with my new assistant today and gave her a very explicit list of tasks. I told her what I would train her on. I told her to check back with me on the big tasks sooner rather than later so that she didn't end up re-doing a lot of work. I will be meeting with my team (she's part of the team) weekly at first. I will probably meet with her alone once a week for a while as well.

It does take more time. I spent several hours preparing the work I wanted to give her and will spend several more in hours and in training. However I've found in the past that if I invest the time upfront I end up with people who I can trust, who are invested in the work and who know when they need to come to me and when they can handle something on their own.

Just my 2 cents...for what it's worth.

Psychgrad said...

I've only supervised an honours thesis student. So, take my advice with a grain of salt.

Your student sounds similar to my student. She needed a lot of assistance and reassurance. She put the time in, but found reasons to email me multiple times a day. It was very consuming.

I like brigindo's advice. Keep her close to begin with, but don't get sucked in to being her security blanket indefinitely. Sown the line it may require pushing her to be more independent and setting tighter boundaries.

Dr. Crazy said...

Hmmm... I am mean, but my thought is that part of the POINT here is that a graduate degree means independent work. Heck, I feel like ANY thesis project - or directed study - even for an undergrad - means independent work. I'd be inclined to explain why pedagogically it's important for the student to be a bit on her own, and I'd set up the meeting schedule according to that pedagogy - i.e., I would NOT cave on the desire to meet weekly throughout the semester. Part of what this student needs to learn is to find strategies for learning independently - or at least for talking through her ideas with somebody other than the teacher. BUT, all of that being said, I would be flexible on adding additional meetings early on *if they were necessary* - by appointment, scheduled one week in advance.

But then, I'm mean.

dbm/gaa said...

I also learn by talking things through, but meeting every week is too much. Tell her you'd like to try to meet every other week at first, and then make sure you give her something concrete to work on in the meantime.

Two cents from the student's point of view!

plam said...

Funny you mention this now, I have my first meeting with my new master's student in an hour (I'd better get out of the house!)

I therefore obviously don't yet have any experience with grad students. But I did have weekly meetings with my master's advisor. For my PhD, the meetings were whenever he came by and asked if we were being brilliant (which was pretty often back then, probably every couple of days).

I think it depends a lot on the student; different students require different advising styles. I would not say that every week is too often, but it may also depend on the field.

Belle said...

Another thing you might consider is having her write an essay before every meeting - get her to articulate her response to the material/issues before she comes in.

Hilaire said...

So I told her today that I'd meet with her every week for the first few weeks, but then we'd re-assess. She seems okay with that.

And Belle, absolutely - I am the queen of weekly writing. I'd never do a directed studies course without a major weekly writing component. It's what stands in for "class."

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