Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Supporting a Humanizing Pedagogy in the Supervision Relationship and Process: A Reflection in a Developing Country

Academic journal article International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Supporting a Humanizing Pedagogy in the Supervision Relationship and Process: A Reflection in a Developing Country

Article excerpt

Introduction

Supervision can be seen as a form of teaching. I never really saw it that way and actually viewed it as a separate practice to the normal teaching we do in the classroom. However, I was wrong. One is actually teaching a student to become a researcher or scholar at different levels; that is, at master and doctorate level. At doctorate level, we teach students to surpass our own ability or knowledge as researchers, and teach them to discover their own niche as researchers within the discipline or, at times, across disciplines. The factors that I take into consideration when supervising a student are almost similar to what I would apply when teaching in the classroom. Friere (2005) defines a humanizing pedagogy as an approach where the teacher is a revolutionary leader in establishing a permanent relationship of dialogue with her/his students in an effort to build confidence in students who may be alienated or feel alienated from the process of supervision or research development. He describes it as a method that "ceases to be an instrument by which the teachers (in this instance, the revolutionary leadership) can manipulate the students (in this instance, the oppressed), because it expresses the consciousness of the students themselves" (Friere, 2005, p. 69). A humanizing pedagogy, as I have come to understand, is an approach that attempts to be centred on the student; something that Biggs (1999) calls, a student-focused approach. Of course this does not mean that we as academics succumb to believing the student is always right, and there is just something wrong with the way we supervise. Rather, a student-focused approach moves us away from a traditional teacher-focused approach of transmitting knowledge from expert supervisor to inexpert student, where the focus on strategies is on 'what the supervisor does'. Traditionally, the focus is on the procedures and rules of conduct for a supervisor to meet management criteria, regardless of the essential desired outcome, which is meant to be a good quality student with quality (not quantity) output. This is where the concept of a humanizing pedagogy is vital, where the conscientious supervisor actually needs to become sensitive to the student they are supervising, and guide them into conversing in the language of research and practicing the skill of research in the discipline (Northedge, 2003a).

I relate humanizing pedagogy in research supervision to now practicing supervision that is sensitive to 'what the student does' (Biggs, 1999), where the supervisor guides the student into engaging in learning activities or tasks that support their learning process to become researchers. I have come to notice my students all struggle at the beginning of a research degree, mainly because of a fear of the unknown, but also a fear to develop and operate in a new learning environment. This has an influence on their confidence (feeling oppressed) in conducting research in the field, as well as their ability to write. As a supervisor, I have seen my role as a facilitator in transforming the scholarly research identity of my students, so that they can realise their potential. Understanding their challenges, and how these result in self-exclusion and alienation, played a big role in determining how I relate to my students.

The context I work in, that is, my university, which is located in a developing country, has a significant influence on how I supervise. This is an influence that academics from other developing countries may also relate to. My views in this paper are therefore not isolated from my context. Hence it would make sense to briefly discuss the vision and mission of my university in relation to the development of researchers in South Africa. Rhodes University holds values that they believe should be incorporated into the supervisory process and relationship in support of a humanizing pedagogy. These values can be found in their Vision and Mission statement (http://www. …

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