Doctoral research training : encouraging timely completion – case study reflections of one university on how it supports a vibrant research training culture

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This is a case study of a young university striving to generate and sustain a vibrant Research Training culture. The university’s research training framework is informed by a belief in a project management approach to achieving successful research candidature. This has led to the definition and reporting of key milestones during candidature. In turn, these milestones have generated a range of training programs to support Higher Degree Research (HDR) students to meet these milestones in a timely fashion. Each milestone focuses on a specific set of skills blended with supporting the development of different parts of the doctoral thesis. Data on student progress and completion has provided evidence in highlighting the role that the milestones and training are playing in supporting timely completion. A university-wide reporting cycle generated data on the range of workshops and training provided to Higher Degree Research students and supervisors. The report provided details of thesis topic and format, as well as participation in research training events and participant evaluation of those events. Analysis of the data led to recommendations and comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the current research training program. Discussion considered strategies and drivers for enhancements into the future. In particular, the paper reflects on the significant potential role of centrally curated knowledge systems to support HDR student and supervisor access, and engagement and success. The research training program was developed using blended learning as a model. It covered face-to-face workshops as well as online modules. These were supplemented by web portals that offered a range of services to inform and educate students and supervisors and included opportunities for students to interact with each other. Topics ranged from the research life cycle, writing and publication, ethics, managing research data, managing copyright, and project management to use of software and the University’s Code of Conduct for Research. The challenges discussed included: How to reach off campus students and those studying in external modes? How best to promote events to potential participants? How long and what format is best for face-to-face sessions? What online resources best supplement face-to-face offerings? Is there a place for peer-based learning and what form should this take? These questions are raised by a relatively young university seeking to build and sustain a vibrant research culture. The rapid growth in enrolments in recent years has challenged previous one-to-one models of support. This review of research training is timely in seeking strategies to address changing research training support capacity and student needs. Part of the discussion will focus on supervisory training, noting that good supervision is the one remaining place where one-to-one support is provided. Ensuring that supervisors are appropriately equipped to address student expectations is considered in the context of the research training provisions. The paper concludes with reflection on the challenges faced, and recommended ways forward as the number of research students grows into the future.
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Gasson, Susan
Winter, Abigail
Bradbury, Stephanie
Borchert, Martin
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Conference Paper
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UNSW Faculty