Provisioning the research environment for creativity – a research supervision pedagogy.

derelict playground

Photograph of Meadowview by Mimi Martini taken August 23rd 2009 downloaded from March 6th 2015

Pedagogy in research supervision is a relatively recent agenda. It is one of the many facets of the broader topic of pedagogy in Higher Education, and also a recent agenda. Research supervision has been described as a practice “traditionally conducted behind the closed door” (McWilliam, and Palmer, 1995, 32) or in “a private space” (Manatunga, 2005). Both descriptions allude to the lack of explicitness of pedagogy at this level of education and so it is not surprising that there is a shortage of names for this pedagogy. Some of those names have been documented. Kenway and Fahey (2009) make an important start of naming the (pedagogical) names for research supervision. These names include:

  1. Encourage uncomfortable thought.
  2. Examine the unexamined.
  3. Question the question.
  4. Go digging not surfing.
  5. Strive for complexity.
  6. Discover the intellectual excitement in the problem.
    ( )

To this list I propose to add the pedagogy of provisioning the environment, and in the themes of recent blogs, to take that one step further to suggest

provisioning an environment for creativity.

Provisioning the environment is a pedagogy most commonly encountered in Early Childhood. Where play is the essence of the curriculum, the tools for play that are made available in an environment become a most important choice for the teacher. For example, in awareness that without gross motor, children’s muscles do not develop sufficiently to enable them to sit at desks for periods of time; and mindful of the dearth of Gross Motor opportunities provided for children as they head into these higher grades, a teacher needs to consider what equipment is provided for children on and with which they can climb, hang, skip and jump. Something as simple as an item to climb upon provisions the opportunity for climbing and thus has the potential for not only gross motor development but development of self-esteem as the child overcomes their concerns about height.
In research supervision we often provision the environment by making sure that a research student has a dedicated desk, access to IT and particularly the internet. We sometimes provision that environment further by inviting speakers to present workshops on various approaches to research and inquiry and research students can be motivated by these speakers. Indeed, there seems an endless caravan of speakers extolling the values of writing for publication to ensure that one’s research can join the hallowed ranks of the ‘A’ journals.
Creativity, as has been mentioned before in this blog, is an uncommon visitor to the research student curriculum. Even though definitions of the PhD link it to a contribution to knowledge, sometimes the traditions of research seem to work to stifle rather than excite creativity. Despite these nullifying cultures, I am seeing emergent agendas for nurturing creativity in higher degree research:

  1. Science PhDs looking for ways to adopt more exciting and user friendly publications of their scientific discoveries.
  2. The ‘Bright club’ extolling the virtues of more creative lecturing.

In my own small research world I have also ventured out with pedagogy to provision for a creative PhD environment by:

  1. Developing a micro-skills workshop for PhD students to nurture creativity in research publication. This workshop exposes PhD students to several simple creative strategies to mobilise into their research publications. Strategies such as animation and ballad writing, as well as more adventurous choreography skills for contemplating the ‘danced’ dissertation.
  2. Reading student’s dissertations in a mode that encourages difference and creativity as well as awareness that such variations from hegemony need to be well scaffolded by arguments for their inclusion/presence in a dissertation.
  3. Providing publishing opportunities for PhD students to exhibit and publish their creative works and writing related to research.
  4. Acting as a role model for creativity by seeking out opportunities to publish my own research in my preferred creative mode of cabaret.

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

Manatunga, C. (2005) The development of research supervision: ‘turning the light on a private space’ International Journal for Academic Development, 10(1), 17-30.

McWilliam, E. and Palmer, P. (1995) Teaching Tech(no)bodies: Open Learning and Postgraduate Pedagogy. Australian Universities Review, 2, 32-34.


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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One Response to Provisioning the research environment for creativity – a research supervision pedagogy.

  1. Pingback: Provisioning the research environment for creativity – a research supervision pedagogy. | CSPACE BCU

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