This post enlivens some contributions to the SupervisingPhDs Tweet chat lead by @kayguccione at the University of Glasgow in April 2022. The #superUofG tweet chat connected supervisors at all levels of experience from across disciplines and from multiple institutions to share their insights on supervision and to engage with colleagues. At the end of this post is a link to the Auditorium blog where you can access great posts on supervision.

Hello from @dmichelej a Professor Learning Sciences @UCalgary and Supervisor in Educational Research for 24 years. Gratitude to my 1postdoc 23 doctoral & 10 masters thesis graduates and service on 100+ examining committees #SupervisingPhDs #superUofG #QGSMOOC2022 My graduate supervision practice is sharply focused on developing relational trust in relationships with students (Jacobsen, Friesen & Becker, 2021) and sponsoring student success as researchers and teachers.

I learn how to strengthen my supervision from my students, mentors, and colleagues; I was privileged to have been mentored by excellent supervisors for my MSc PhD and PostDoc & work and aim to model their exceptional practice. As I develop my practice, I listen and learn a great deal from each of my diverse graduate students and their unique pathways; it is a privilege to work alongside new researchers and to listen carefully for what they need from me.  I expand my supervision practice via engagement with faculty and graduate students beyond my specialization and serving on supervisory and examination committees. I also learn from my collaborative research on MOOCs for development of quality supervision.

Reflecting on whether I am a good supervisor, I am an experienced supervisor who is constantly learning how to shape and improve my practice; I attend to my own scholarship and reading to expand my knowledge and expertise for supervision; I aim to be responsive, flexible & engaged in my students’ research, and get to know about their unique interests, lives and passions beyond grad school. Serving as a supervisor, mentor and guide for the learning and development of talented new scholars in my discipline and profession is the most satisfying part of being a professor in education.

There have been some memorable moments that defined my approach as a supervisor. My supervisors demonstrated good supervision and I wanted to become a supervisor like them. For example, it was a transformative experience when I was valued as a research assistant on my supervisor’s research team. My doctoral & postdoc supervisors invited me to collaborate on their research, co-author papers, and co-present at conferences, which helped forge my identity as a scholar. Having my work recognized & valued by my doctoral & postdoc supervisors, both of whom encouraged me to apply for grants, count myself in for awards, and to disseminate my research, was pivotal for believing in myself and my abilities as a scholar. As a professor, and then associate dean graduate programs, I have realized that most of my colleagues care deeply about becoming an excellent supervisor.  My colleagues’ struggles with the demands and complexities of supervision motivated me to create seminars and peer mentoring opportunities for my colleagues, and to collaborate on the development of the Quality Supervision MOOC to support faculty in enhancing their supervisory skills and practices in an online community of practice.

Supervisors will make mistakes, and so will students. It is important to think about how you will address mistakes and missteps as a supervisor.  I have to admit that my own mistakes have offered many valued learning opportunities! My first response is to take ownership of the mistake, apologize to the person(s) I have affected, and both ask them how I can best address the problem, or I will suggest the actions I believe need to be taken, and I commit to them and myself to learn from this experience. I work hard to ensure that graduate students don’t pay the price for my mistakes or missteps, I take full responsibility for fixing the problem, and collaborating on solutions, and I take every step to protect my students and colleagues from any errors that I make by advocating for solutions at the personal, program, or institutional level. I am leading online professional development for supervisors and an online community of practice aimed at improving the quality of graduate supervision and practice and helping my colleagues to anticipate and address conflict before it arises.

Reflecting on advice I might offer to new supervisors is to avoid learning how to supervise on the job versus through active and intentional inquiry, mentoring and instruction. Supervision is a pedagogy that takes intentional effort, sustained practice, and commitment to do well. My advice is to form relationships with trusted peers who are strong supervisors and talk to them about supervision; Go to online and in-person supervision seminars & workshops offered by your department, faculty and institution; Engage in the plethora of online communities focused on quality supervision; Read books, blogs and research about quality supervision and immerse in learning the many topics, trends and issues that are relevant for every supervisor to know. Connect & learn with colleagues who are effective supervisors and who care deeply about student progress and wellness; seek academic peer mentors who you trust both within and beyond your own discipline.  Join networks of support, such as IDERN, and create learning alliances across disciplines and institutions to embrace, value and cultivate effective supervision practice.

The full conversation can be accessed at the Auditorium Blog.

This Supervision Blog is part of the Quality Graduate Supervision project website.