Are you sometimes worried about the progress of your research students and what happens with them?
Hugh Kearns, a Sligo-born research coach from Australia, ran two courses on this topic in the last week of January in Dublin: Building research leaders and Research supervisor support& development workshop. Hugh gave us best-practice tips, some of which I bring in this post.
|Figure 1. The long road to project completion|
- Supervisor vs advisor
Language matters. While both of the above terms imply a person who ‘sees’ more than the other person, nobody’s view is really super-ior in science. A more experienced researcher can provide an add-itional perspective on student’s work only.
- PhD students never die; they just fade away
Proper supervision perfects students. Busy advisors often overlook this simple truth. A PhD research project is a long-distance run that requires a lot of motivation and support. The former can be instilled by the latter. Think about your time before you take on a research student.
- Give them small victories
Midway through the project, many students fade away simply because of the time that it takes to complete it. Breaking the bigger task into smaller steps creates opportunities for instilling a sense of mastery when students complete a smaller step, for example, a paper on a related subject.
- That’s enough – stop now
The advisor’s perspective and experience is most valuable here. Data collection can go on forever. The literature review can reveal new and interesting studies all the time. This way, the research project won’t end. The golden rule applies to this problem perfectly: Less is more.
- GYO PhDs…
Mentoring relationship and quality of the mentor are the most important factors of a successful student project. If the student and mentor have a chance to work together on a smaller project first, they can better decide whether they want to continue working on a PhD. A great way to start growing your own PhDs is to advertise your research topics on your website or notice board: “Here are the topics that I’m interested in supervising”
- Listen to your tummy
Our research intuition is often the best indicator when deciding about a new student or when the progress is slow. If your tummy tells you something’s wrong, step back and take a moment to think about what caused it.
- Meetings build structure into a relationship
Each mentoring meeting should have an agenda. Ask to student to take the ownership of agendas and meeting minutes, e.g., send in advance, remind me of what I’m supposed to do? Where’s the agenda?
If your speech takes too much of the meeting airtime, the student might not learn anything. Good questions for prompting students are:
Tell me what you’ve been doing? Tell me what you think we’ve agreed? Tell me what you’re going to do next.
- Quick sneak peek at your results
Some students might find it intimidating to send whole chapters for review by their mentor. To make it easier for them, you could ask then to send you an outline, a draft or bring a copy to the meeting. The key is to instill hope that the review won’t be shredded their work into pieces.
- Grains of sand on the beach
Some PhD projects lead to Nobel prizes, but most don’t. Most graduate students understand the impact they can make on the world, but it’s no harm to emphasize that however small, their work counts.
On Wednesday, 20 November 2013, I’ve attended this conference in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin, Ireland. The conference was organized by alcohol action Ireland. What were the fears that the presenters encouraged us to face? Read about them below
Dr Bobby Smyth started his talk with a brief intro into the ways by which culture and language shape attitudes about drinking – a cultural learning to drink. He saw teens as apprentice adults, learning by observation. The age when they start to drink has gradually lowered during the Irish boom. Who’s fault is that? The alcohol industry and crazy sports sponsorships play a role. Also, “our culture encourages us to drink to overcome low mood”.
Teens learn to wipe on the shoulder of vodka. If they continue to “bathe” their brain in alcohol soup, they are rolling the dice – can we stop it rolling or roll it safely? Dr Smyth provided their book as a guide for dealing with some of these issues (see Fig 1).
One of the key drinking motives is the social motive – alcohol is a social lubricant. This is reflected in the language too. Eskimos are surrounded by snow all year round and have 100 words for it. There are 120 words for the state of alcohol intoxication in Ireland. People have stopped having fun sober. Moral language of industry-sponsored sites is often substituted for more effective strategies. Slogans like drink sensibly can hardly foster behavior change.
Prof Ella Arensman spoke about the focused on health& women, especially on the seasonal patterns of self-harm and public holidays.
Dr Conor Farren addressed the relationship between alcohol and mental health issues, including depression. He also showcased his book (see Fig 2).
Dr Philip McGarry spoke about alcohol’s impact on mental health in Northern Ireland.
After lunch, the delegates came back for a panel discussion featuring Dr Claire Hayes, John Higgins and Fr Pat Seaver.
Watch the speakers’ presentations here
What drives you at your research work?
If goals are too distant, and are obstructed by too many obstacles, they can get out of site. Continuous re-connection with personal motivated and awareness of own goals keep us driven. Enthusiasm can improve professional performance.
Although I disagreed with him, I fully endorsed his conclusion that the disliked subjects are likely to attract less practice time, followed by academic failure, provided that students’ talents do not compensate for lack of practice. At the same time, I think that students need not to excel in every subject. Each day has only 24 hours and no one can do everything – some things have to be neglected. Students need to prioritize their activities. The decisions about preferences shape their lives and future careers. Natural interests are likely to draw students closer to themselves, leading to better self-understanding. Natural interests should be supported.
Gerald Graff (2003). Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003, 320 pages
Culture shock is defined by Wikipedia as the “difficulty people have adjusting to a new culture that differs markedly from their own. A reverse culture shock a.k.a. “re-entry shock” or “own culture shock” is a state when returning to one’s home culture after growing accustomed to a new one produces the same effects.
the screening and treatment processes should be more systematic and proactive in all problem drug users, especially in those with concurrent chronic illnesses or psychiatric co-morbidity,
lower thresholds should be applied for both identification and intervention of problem alcohol use and referral to specialist services,
special skills and specialist supervision is required if managing persistent/dependent alcohol use in primary care.