Illuminating dissertation supervision through reflection


Kathy Murphy, Senior Lecturer, School of Health Cure Studies, Oxford Brookes University, Level 4, Academic Centre, John Radcliffe. Hospital, Headington, Oxford OX3 9OU, England.


This paper describes a small research study designed to explore the role of the dissertation supervisor and to examine the potential of using reflection as a tool for learning and for enhancing professional educational practice. The authors met to discuss and reflect upon the processes of supervision and the role of the supervisor throughout the period of supervising three dissertation students. Each author maintained individual reflective written accounts of supervisory meetings with students. These accounts and the transcribed tape-recordings of the group meetings provided two sets of data which were analysed using qualitative techniques. From the data analysis the authors were able to identify various phases in dissertation supervision — partnership; setting the learning contract; signposting; ownership of the dissertation; letting go; the rush at the end; maintaining the balance — and also contextual issues of humanness; time; and energy, which were needed to sustain the supervisory processes. The role of the dissertation supervisor was illuminated and the potential of using reflection as a tool for developing professional educational practice was realized. The importance of constructive support while engaged in processes of reflection cannot be underestimated.