Co-supervision in postgraduate training: Ensuring the right hand knows what the left hand is doing
Keywords:research higher degrees, novice supervision, cross-discipline, health science, contracts
South Africa is experiencing a steep rise in postgraduate candidature and a backlog in research training and supervision. Co-supervision is a means to address such challenges. This study investigated how co-supervision could effectively and efficiently be implemented within a Faculty of Health Sciences. Supervisors and postgraduates brainstormed co-supervisory practice to identify: (1) the reasons for co-supervision, (2) what co-supervisors should discuss to facilitate their interactions and (3) how best to initiate the novice supervisor into supervisory practice. Co-supervisors are formally appointed for different reasons and all co-supervisory activities should be directed towards meeting the purpose of that appointment. Points to consider in facilitating a co-supervisor memorandum of understanding and novice supervisor training were discussed. Our findings provide suggestions to develop accountable co-supervisory practices, enhance novice supervisor training and to design discipline-specific best practice policy at institutional level to enable a common understanding of co-supervisory roles and responsibilities. Threats to effective co-supervision identified were the implications of co-supervision in staff promotion, inequitable workload recognition and no official acknowledgement of informal supervisory activities. Unless these issues are addressed, the full potential of co-supervision will remain unrealised. Supervision pedagogy and research teaching is a sophisticated skill worthy of professionalisation.
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