Specific pedagogies – a review of the Carolyn Baker Memorial lecture

When the research supervision literature talks about research supervision as pedagogy it tends to use this as a general term, rather than nominating specific pedagogies. From reading this blog it may have become evident to you that I have a preference for the specifics of pedagogy, as it enables a research supervisor or advisor to review their own repertoire of practice and either refine or add to it, to improve the overall research candidature.

You can imagine the delight I experienced when attending the Carolyn Baker Memorial lecture at Women’s College at University of Queensland, when the speaker, Professor Jane Kenway, elaborated on specifics of research supervision pedagogy. Her insights evolved from a study she had undertaken with Johanna Fahey, based on conversations with several iconic educators. The study was intended to illuminate the cross over between imagination and research, and Kenway’s presentation at the Carolyn Baker Memorial lecture was presented to motivate current educational researchers and their supervisors into embracing the imaginative in their research.
She summed up her presentation referring to several pedagogies of research supervision which she believed helped research students to embrace the creative. She discerned these pedagogies from one particular chapter in her book describing Imagining research otherwise.

  1. Encourage uncomfortable thought. Challenge the taken for granted assumptions. This particular pedagogy on the surface relates to the value of students physically travelling and thus broadening their understanding of how research is done in different parts of the world. When they don’t travel, they can still be encouraged to travel from the point at which their research started with its history and biography to where it ends up – somewhere different. In some ways this involves identifying a student’s comfort zone and encouraging them to think outside their box.
  2. Examine the unexamined. Look at how and where you have framed a particular question and whether there are other ways to frame that question. This encourages the researcher to push beyond the identified boundaries of their discipline. For the supervisor I imagine that this would involve constantly helping the student to reflect on how they have framed their question rather than on the actual question itself.
  3. Question the question. This is a related pedagogy to examining the unexamined. Recognise that every question has inbuilt sensibilities. Look for how the question is framed and whether this reveals certain assumptions about the issues you are investigating. This appears to be a form of facilitating critical reflection or reflexivity for the researcher.
  4. Go digging not surfing. Broadening one’s focus to look for what lies beyond the self-evident. As I listened to this suggestion it reminded me of looking more broadly than in the obvious journals. I know in my own research some of the valuable insights have come from journals in different disciplines. Research is very much cross disciplinary.
  5. Strive for complexity. Becoming and imagining beyond what you have become as a researcher. This pedagogy speaks to the rigour of the research that it is intended that a topic will be studied at a much more complex level than everyday conversation, but there is still the challenge to communicate this in ways that intelligent people can understand you.
  6. Discover the intellectual excitement in the problem. Kenway suggested, with reference to one of the people she had interviewed in the book, that imagination is the door to amazement, and that this recognising something amazing was where lay the excitement, what some call the passion of research.

I found that these ideas inspired me as a research supervisor and I hope this summary does the same for you.

Kenway, J and ; Fahey, J. (2009) Globalizing the Research Imagination Taylor and Francis


About the (research) supervisor's friend

I work at a university helping university academics who are supervising research students. I am a research supervisor myself and also work as a research coach for people undertaking their research I was originally in a Management Faculty and when I completed my doctoral studies on 'doing a doctorate' I started working with research supervisors to help them improve their practice.
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