Enhancing feedback practices within PhD supervision

Enhancing feedback practices within PhD supervision


This new article by DER member Prof Michael Henderson reveals some of the productive as well as challenging practices surrounding PhD supervision feedback.

PhD candidates, like all students, learn through engaging with feedback. However, there is limited understanding of how feedback strategies support doctoral candidates. This qualitative framework synthesis of 86 papers analysed rich qualitative data about feedback within PhD supervision. Our synthesis, informed by sociomateriality and a dialogic, sense-making view of feedback, underscores the critical role that feedback plays in doctoral supervision. Supervisors, through their engagement or disengagement with feedback, controlled candidates’ access to tacit and explicit standards. The ephemeral and generative nature of verbal feedback dialogues contrasted with concrete textual comments. While many supervisors aimed for candidates to become less reliant on feedback over time, this did not necessarily translate to practice. Our findings suggest that balancing power dynamics might be achieved through focussing on feedback materials and practices rather than supervisor-candidate relationships.

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Citation: Bearman,M., Joanna, T., Henderson, M., Esterhazy, R., Mahoney, P., Molloy, E. (2024). Enhancing feedback practices within PhD supervision: a qualitative framework synthesis of the literature. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher EducationDOI: 10.1080/02602938.2024.2307332