Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes

  • Identify possible obstacles to a successful doctorate and strategies for overcoming them
  • Reflect on communication, negotiation and conflict management skills
  • Describe strategies for managing inappropriate behaviour and demands
  • Identify sources of support within and beyond the supervisory team, including for mental health and wellbeing.

Using the module

Welcome to Working with your Supervisors. This course will support you in the development of a positive and professional relationship with your supervisory team during your doctoral degree. It has a proactive focus and aims to enable you to get the best out of your time with your supervisors, as well as offering potential approaches for navigating the common issues that can arise in these relationships. Working with your Supervisors is part of the Becoming a Researcher programme.

This module will encourage you to think through some of the possible challenges that might come up as you work with your supervisors and ways of resolving any differences. It will consider some of the skills that might help you to manage these situations and how other people can support you. It will also look at situations where a more formal resolution might be necessary.

If this is the first time you have accessed the Working with your Supervisors course, or if you need a brief reminder, here is some information on how the screens are organised, and some of the tools and features that are used throughout:


Content

  • The centre of each screen contains the core content for the course, presented as either text, interactive activities, graphics, videos or animations
  • Text highlighted in a box preceded by an arrow contains instructions on how to navigate the activities that follow

  • Terms highlighted like this are clickable glossary terms, and can be clicked on to access pop-up boxes containing definitions of key terms
  • Note that your responses to the notemaking and text entry activities (where you type responses in the space provided) can be printed and used as part of your ongoing work
  • At the top of each screen you will see an indication of the approximate time it will take to complete the core content. These estimates include time to watch videos and complete activities in the central section, but not to read the content in pods.

Poll questions

The poll questions are designed to help you think about your own situation and attitudes, and to compare your responses to those of others taking the course. Consider talking to an academic advisor about your responses.


Pods

Throughout this course, you will see additional learning opportunities in 'pods'. Exploring the information provided in the pods will enrich the learning experience.

  • Useful information pod iconUseful information Contains extra content to expand on key points from the main screen.
  • Your context pod iconYour context Contains links and information specific to your context and/or institution.
  • Employability skills pod iconEmployability skills Highlights transferable skills that are valuable both within and outside of an academic setting.
  • Ethics pod iconEthics Highlights ethical issues relevant to the doctoral research process.
  • International candidates pod iconInternational candidates Contains useful information to support international candidates.
  • Remote candidates pod iconRemote candidates Contains useful information to support remote supervisory relationships.

Quiz

At the very end of each module, you have the opportunity to test your learning further with a multiple-choice quiz. This consists of five questions and can be taken more than once (a new set of questions will appear).


The Working with your Supervisors course is designed to gradually build up your understanding and skills. We recommend that you complete the modules in the order given, but they have been designed so you can access each of them independently according to your own requirements and those of your institution.

Expert panel

Author

Dr. Alex Standen

Dr. Alex Standen

Alex Standen is Associate Professor (Teaching) in the Arena Centre for Research-based Education at University College London (UCL). Alex is responsible for the academic development of early-career staff, doctoral supervisors and personal tutors. Her research interests include postgraduate research student development and student–supervisor relationships. She is the co-editor of Shaping Higher Education with Students: Ways to Connect Research and Teaching (UCL Press, 2018), in which both students and academics explore how they can work in partnership to advance research-based education.


Lead advisors

Professor Fiona Denney

Professor Fiona Denney

Fiona Denney is a Professor of Business Education at Brunel Business School, Brunel University London, where she has a particular focus on supporting and enhancing the student experience. From 2014 to 2020 she was the Director of the Brunel Educational Excellence Centre, supporting learning and teaching enhancement for both staff and students. Fiona is a member of the Executive Committee of the UK Council for Graduate Education, a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). She has a Ph.D. in marketing and has held academic posts in marketing and management studies. Fiona has worked in academic staff development since 2003 and has research interests in academic leadership.

Professor Douglas Halliday

Professor Douglas Halliday

Douglas Halliday is a Co-Director of Durham Energy Institute and the Director of the Multidisciplinary Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy, which trains doctoral candidates across science and social sciences in a multidisciplinary training environment, helping doctoral candidates to understand the breadth and complexity of the whole energy system. Douglas is the Director of Durham University Global Challenges Centre for Doctoral Training, supporting a cohort of international students to undertake research exploring solutions for the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Previously, he was Dean of Durham's Graduate School from 2005 to 2010 and a recipient of a 2009 THE Award for Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and the Energy Institute, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Douglas was Chair of the UK Council for Graduate Education until July 2021.


Reviewers

Professor Jane Creaton

Professor Jane Creaton

Jane Creaton is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Portsmouth. Her expertise is in doctoral education, particularly professional doctorates and mental health and wellbeing. Jane was Principal Investigator on an Office for Students funded project on PGR Wellbeing, which was completed in January 2020, and has been on the organising panel for the two International Conferences on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Postgraduate Researchers. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a National Teaching Fellow, and currently chairs the Vitae Working Group on Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Dr. Margaret Kiley

Dr. Margaret Kiley

For many years, Margaret Kiley's research and teaching interests have been related to doctoral education. Margaret holds an adjunct position at the Australian National University and, in addition to working in school, further and higher education in Australia, she has worked in Indonesia, Malaysia and the UK.

Dr. Vijay Kumar Mallan

Dr. Vijay Kumar Mallan

Vijay Kumar Mallan is an Associate Professor of Higher Education at the University of Otago, New Zealand. His expertise is in doctoral education, feedback practices and doctoral examination. Vijay is internationally recognised through invitations to build supervisory capacities in 47 universities across 22 countries. He is the first person outside of the United Kingdom to become a UK Council of Graduate Education recognised doctoral supervisor.

Professor Stan Taylor

Professor Stan Taylor

Stan Taylor is an Honorary Professor in the School of Education at Durham University in the UK. He specialises in doctoral supervision and has facilitated workshops for supervisors in universities in the UK and internationally. He is an active researcher in the field and has a number of publications including (with Margaret Kiley and Karri A. Holley, eds.) The Making of Doctoral Supervisors (Routledge, 2021) and (with Margaret Kiley and Robin Humphrey) A Handbook for Doctoral Supervisors, Second Edition (Routledge, 2018). Stan is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Professor Gina Wisker

Professor Gina Wisker

Gina Wisker's current role is at the University of Bath, where she supervises doctoral candidates at the International Centre for HE Management. Gina is also a Professor at the University of the Arctic in Tromsø, Norway, where she co-runs the postgraduate supervision course. Previously, she was Professor of Higher Education and Contemporary Literature at Anglia Ruskin University and then at the University of Brighton (now Emeritus). Gina has published 26 books (some edited) and over 140 articles, including The Postgraduate Research Handbook (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001; Second edition 2007); The Good Supervisor (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005; Second edition 2012) and Getting Published (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Gina also specialises in contemporary women's writing and postcolonial, Gothic and popular fictions. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, National Teaching Fellow and Senior Fellow of SEDA (Staff and Educational Development Association).


Accessibility advisor

Wilma Alexander

Wilma Alexander

Wilma Alexander is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy with Master's degrees in Human–Computer Interaction, Linguistics and Information Science. She has over 15 years of experience as a manager with the online learning team at the University of Edinburgh, where she specialised in usable and accessible digital practice, tutored on the groundbreaking Master's degree in Digital Education and developed online staff training on accessible e-learning and online tutoring skills. Since retiring from the university at the end of 2015, Wilma has provided consultancy services on all aspects of online learning, with a special focus on accessibility and usability issues.