22 SES 02 C, Teaching and Supervision
The aim of this study is to identify and explore the supervisors’ attitudes and practices inintercultural supervision. Thesis supervision is a university pedagogy which is considered to be a complex and unstable process but above all an interpersonal relationship (Grant, 2003, 2005). The present study focuses on intercultural supervision in the Finnish university context since in the last years Finland has been one of the leading providers of English-medium programs in the European context (Wächter & Maiworm, 2014). Evidently, 12% of all master’s degree students in Finnish higher education are international students (OECD, 2018). The most common nationalities of international degree students in Finnish higher education are Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Nepalese, Indian, Estonian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and German (Finnish National Agency for Education, 2017). Recently the population of international degree students represented 151 different nationalities (Finnish National Agency for Education, 2018). In this culturally diverse environment it is important to recognize the multiple diversities regarding students’ experiences and expectations of their studies and master’s thesis (Filippou, Kallo & Mikkilä-Erdmann, 2017; Stier, 2003).
In the international master’s degree programmes the master’s thesis includes the conduction of a small research, development and academic writing of the master’s thesis, and application of research methods (Ylijoki, 2001). The thesis process includes thesis seminars and face-to-face supervision. Due to the length and workload the thesis process usually constitutes one third of a study programme (40 ECTS). A previous study on students’ expectations of the thesis process and relationship in the international master’s degree programmes (Filippou et al., 2017) indicated that more than 50% of the participants already had a master’s degree and even a few had a PhD degree. Additionally, the aforementioned research showed that students and supervisors do not engage in discussions regarding studying cultural practices but also that the students had high expectations of their supervisors and their responsibilities. In addition, students highly valued the interpersonal aspects and relationship with their supervisors (Filippou et al., 2017).
It has to be noted that students and supervisors can have different cultural assumptions regarding the pedagogy of supervision in intercultural supervision (Manathunga, 2007). One important practice in supervision is clarifying expectations (Wisker, 2009) since different expectations between the student and the supervisor can lead to misunderstandings (Woolhouse, 2002). In addition, another significant practice is adjusting supervision based on the individual case of each student (de Kleijn, Meijer, Brekelmans & Pilor, 2015).
Considering the aforementioned research results, the length and importance of the master’s thesis process and relationship this study seeks to conceptualize the supervisors’ perspectives on the thesis process and relationship in the context of thesis models, but also to investigate if they initiate discussions on students’ prior writing experiences and expectations of the thesis process. This study builds upon Dysthe’s study (2002) and the three models of supervision; the teaching model, the apprenticeship model and the partnership model.
The main research questions of this paper are:
1. Which supervision models do the supervisors’ apply during supervision?
2. What attitudes do the supervisors have regarding initiating discussions regarding students’ prior writing experiences and expectations of the thesis process?
Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 20 thesis supervisors from five Finnish universities. The supervisors were currently supervisors in the international master’s programmes and were contacted directly via an email invitation which informed them about the research scope and voluntary participation. Five supervisors were in the field of business, three from the field of humanities, 3 from the field of I.T., two from the field of natural sciences, five from the field of social sciences, and two from the field of technical sciences. Fourteen interviews were conducted face-to-face and the rest were conducted through Skype. The interviews were audio-recorded digitally. All details identifying the supervisors were removed during the records transcription. Theory-driven content analysis was conducted for the first research question. For the second research question content analysis was conducted.
Based on the supervisors’ descriptions of the thesis process and relationship, it was shown that most of the supervisors apply Dysthe’s teaching model (2002). In details, fifteen supervisors were applying the teaching model, four the partnership model and one the apprenticeship model. The teaching model supports the students’ dependency on their supervisor which relies on power asymmetry and monologism. For the second research question, two main attitudes were identified regarding supervisors’ considering the students’ prior writing experiences and expectations of the thesis process. These attitudes were categorized as diagnosing and adjusting supervision, and resisting and relying on students initiatives. The combination of these findings indicates that the majority of supervisors focus on the practical aspect of supervision than on the interpersonal relationship which is in contrast with the students’ expectations. Furthermore, the lack of consideration of the students’ expectations and prior experiences which have previously been indicated as important practices in intercultural supervision (Wisker, 2012) highlight the need for more discussions, research and workshops on supervisors’ intercultural awareness and effective intercultural supervision. This study has been conducted in the context of English-medium international master’s degree programmes in Finnish universities. However, it is possible to recognise similar results in similar contexts such as in other non-English speaking countries and within English-medium programmes (cf Urbanovic, Wilking, & Huisman, 2016).
Dysthe, O. (2002). Professors as mediators of academic text cultures: An interview study with advisors and master’s degree students in three disciplines in a Norwegian university. Written Communication, 19(4), 493-544. Filippou, K., Kallo, J. & Mikkilä-Erdmann, M. (2017). Students’ views on thesis supervision in international master’s degree pograms in Finnish universities. Intercultural Education, 28(3), 334–352. Finnish National Agency for Education (2017). The 15 most common nationalities of international degree students in Finland 2017. Retrieved from http://www.cimo.fi/instancedata/prime_product_julkaisu/cimo/embeds/cimowwwstructure/166484_ENG_yleisimmat_kansalaisuudet_2017.pdf Finnish National Agency for Education (2018e). Nationalities of international degree students in Finland 2011-2017. Retrieved from http://www.cimo.fi/instancedata/prime_product_julkaisu/cimo/embeds/cimowwwstructure/166485_ENG_kansalaisuudet_lahtomaittain_2011-2017.pdf Grant, B. M. (2003). Mapping the pleasures and risks of supervision. Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 24(2), 175-190. Grant, B. M. (2005). Fighting for space in supervision: Fantasies, fairytales, fictions and fallacies. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 18(3), 337-354 de Kleijn, R. A., Meijer, P. C., Brekelmans, M., & Pilot, A. (2015). Adaptive research supervision: exploring expert thesis supervisors' practical knowledge. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(1), 117-130. Manathunga, C. (2007). Intercultural postgraduate supervision: Ethnographic journeys of identity and power. In Learning and teaching across cultures in higher education (pp. 93-113). Palgrave Macmillan, London. OECD (2018). Education at a Glance 2018: OECD Indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing. Stier, J. (2003) Internationalisation, ethnic diversity and the acquisition of intercultural competencies. Intercultural Education, 14(1), 77–91. Urbanovič, J., Wilkins, S., & Huisman, J. (2016). Issues and challenges for small countries in attracting and hosting international students: the case of Lithuania. Studies in Higher Education, 41(3), 491–507Wisker, G. (2012). The good supervisor (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan Woolhouse, M. (2002). Supervising dissertation projects: expectations of supervisors and students. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 39(2), 137-144. Wächter, B., and F. Maiworm. (Eds.) 2014. English-Taught Programmes in European Higher Education: The State of Play 2014. Bonn: Lemmens. Ylijoki, O-H. (2001) Master’s thesis writing from a narrative approach, Studies in Higher Education, 26(1), 21–34.
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