Course Title: Supervision of Higher Degrees by Research

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Supervision of Higher Degrees by Research

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


360H Education


Sem 2 2010,
Sem 2 2011,
Sem 2 2012,
Sem 2 2013

Course Coordinator: Dr Robyn Barnacle

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 8303

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: School of Graduate Research

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

There are no pre-requisites for this course

Course Description

This course provides prospective and novice supervisors with practical knowledge regarding HDR supervision that can be used to inform and enhance supervisory practice.
The course approach is practical, with a focus on what supervisors do and what you need to know in order to supervise well.
The course adopts an issues based approach with a focus on how to promote a good HDR learning experience as well as identify, anticipate and address problems. Assessment tasks provide you with an opportunity to critically evaluate what you are learning, investigate and document good practice, and, if applicable, apply and test new ideas within your own supervisory practice.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

At the conclusion of this course you will have capability to:
• Lead and manage own work and other team members or individuals within tertiary teaching and HDR supervision contexts.
• Design effective learning outcomes, learning activities and assessment in tertiary teaching and for HDR supervision.
• Apply analytical decision making techniques to enhance student engagement and learning.
• Apply logical and critical thinking in resolving learning, teaching and supervisory issues in tertiary education contexts.
• Collaborate with others in teaching and supervisory teams.
• Operate ethically and sensitively in international and intercultural educational contexts.
• Critically research, analyse and evaluate theoretical knowledge about approaches to learning responsive to diversity of learners.

At the end of this course you will be able to:
• Develop and apply a supervisory work-plan based on an understanding of the role and responsibilities of an HDR supervisor, including key features of effective supervisory practice.
• Provide effective support to HDR candidates in the production of the research thesis or exegesis, including how to manage the literature review, design research questions, develop appropriate methods, and address writing problems.
• Manage the HDR candidate journey through an understanding of its key stages, how to support the research process, and anticipate and address obstacles.
• Identify potential barriers to effective supervisor – candidate relationships, such as interpersonal issues, and formulate strategies for addressing those within their supervisory practice.
• Identify and apply understanding of ethical issues applicable to supervisory practice. This includes how to identify and address ethical issues that arise within research projects as well as how to develop a duty of care approach to supervisory practice.
• Identify and apply understanding of the ways in which cultural or gender differences may arise as an issue and develop supervisory approaches to address them.
• Address the particular issues that may arise in the supervision of project-based research and develop supervisory approaches to address them.
• Prepare candidates for examination through an understanding of the examination process at RMIT, relevant assessment criteria, and issues regarding examiner expectations and selection.

Overview of Learning Activities

Workshops, led by experienced supervisors and research educators, will provide a forum for key issues regarding supervisory practice to be explored through group exercises and discussion.
Online forums will provide an opportunity for group discussion of set readings and to share written and other work prepared during the course.

Overview of Learning Resources

References, web resources and reading material are provided in Part B of the course guide.

Overview of Assessment

Assessment tasks are practical, drawing on the course material, ones own experience, and investigations of supervisory practice or the HDR candidate experience.

These tasks may include:

  • Participation in collegiate discussions and debates and sharing of work in progress within face-to-face workshops and online spaces, such as discussion forums, blogs and wikis.
  • Investigative or reflective assignments, such as:
    1. A critical investigation of the supervisory practice of an experienced colleague using techniques such as interviews or ethnographic observation.
    2. Analysis and evaluation of ones own supervisory practice or experience drawing on the learning materials provided in this course and other relevant sources with the aim of enhancing future practice.
    3. A case-study analysing the significant factors related to the supervision of HDR candidates within a particular discipline.

Assessments are not graded.