Christine Comrie, Ali Sherratt & Pete Quinn – Strategic Marketing and Digital Communications/ Student Support Services
NSS feedback indicates that good supervision enhances the student university experience, supporting students to develop both their academic and personal skills and reach their full potential. This workshop was divided into two parts. The first part covered the latest material available to support supervisors of taught students. The second part presented the equivalent, yet to be released, student facing material for comment. The overarching ambitions are to clarify the role of supervisor and define expectations.
The taught student supervisor resource
To create more consistency across all departments, Alison Sherratt and Christine Comrie in Strategic Marketing and Digital Communications worked with Pete Quinn, director of Student Support Services, to develop a resource to support taught student supervisors to help them cover ‘the essentials’, whilst also leaving flexibility for supervisors to tailor support to each student. The resource focuses on good practice and brings together useful contacts and resources in six key areas:
- Holding sessions
- Discussing progress
- Helping with problems
- Promoting activities
- Planning for employability
In developing this resource, the team noted a wide variation in the interpretation of the role of the supervisor. It was also apparent that some supervisors were more comfortable than others in dealing with emotionally charged situations, and that it was not always clear to the supervisors how best to manage referrals to specialist support services within the university. Christine and Alison demonstrated the new resource and answered questions.
Questions during the session
- How do we ensure consistency in terms of the expectation on the supervisor and student? Answer at 20:50 indicates that the resource clearly articulates the role and possible routes available to direct students to university services, allowing BoS to more clearly guide supervisor effort.
- How would you advise BoS define the role of the supervisor and the associated expectations to new undergraduates? Answer at 23:14 suggests this be promoted during the welcome week and that guidance will be provided to departments on supervisions, mitigating circumstances and the student experience in advance of 9/15.
- What support is available to supervisors who feel they have been affected in dealing with a significant student issue? Answer at 28:12 asks staff to contact CiC in order to receive support. The link is under ‘Signposting’ on the resource or it can be accessed directly. http://www.york.ac.uk/admin/hr/employee_assistance/
The student facing supervisor resource
Focus groups formed from new undergraduate students indicated that there was a huge expectation on the supervisor to provide intensive academic and pastoral support, and that the supervisor would be considered to have failed if this level was not reached. This has prompted the creation of a student facing resource which seeks to clarify the role of both the supervisor and the student, placing expectations on both.
Currently in its final stages of development, the intention is that this will be released for 9/15. A draft version of the resource is available and we ask you to provide comments either through this blog or direct to the team. The rest of the session provided an opportunity to discuss this draft resource.
Comments made during the session
- The language within the student facing resource appears to indicate that the supervisor should be able to support the student with any problem they may have. Should it more clearly indicate that this support would most likely be achieved by directing the student to specialist support services rather than acting solely to remedy an issue?
- The language also indicates that the supervisor should be considered to be the first point of contact. The comment was made that if we are to engender resilience within the student body, the student should first make an effort to resolve an issue themselves prior to seeking help from the supervisor.
- A comment was made that the extensive list of topics which the student was asked to consider for discussion during the session, could not all be covered in 15 minutes and that this would be seen as having failed to meet expectations. The reply was that the intention was more to encourage the development of a balanced relationship between student and supervisor and indeed that not all topics could be covered in one session. Also some topics are stage specific e.g. job applications.
- A question was asked regarding the suggestion on the resource that students share mitigating circumstances information with their supervisor. The question asked if there was an issue of confidentiality in that the supervisor was not part of the mitigating circumstances application process. The answer indicated that it would usually be advantageous for all involved if the supervisor were aware of any difficulties in terms of offering support and providing advice on what would qualify.
Phil Lightfoot, Physics, University of York