Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Supervision on Supervision

Subject: The Master’s degree programme in Philosophy of Education. Course: Educational Anthropology and Educational Sociology. Study level: Master's degree. Class size: 50-100.

Motivation for the activity

We wanted to make the framework for the academic supervision clearer. A study by the Department of Education in 2009 showed that many teachers and students were not aware of the guidelines for supervision.

The aim of the activity

The overall objective is to contribute to the dissemination of knowledge among the students about the formal and informal frameworks of the supervision.

The ambition for the student activities is to get the students to make full use of the opportunities for supervision and to lessen their uncertainty about what supervision actually consists of. In a larger perspective, the aim is to reduce the drop-out rate and to create more competent students. Our assessment is that good supervision helps do this.

See the contribution Supervision seminar for lecturers.

Description of the activity

We have produced a film about supervision based on two focus group interviews with students and supervisors. The film shows that there are different expectations of supervision, different practices in the supervision situation, and that different views of self-development exist between lecturers and students. The film forms the basis for the discussion.

In addition, we have

  • designed and printed the brochure Guidelines on supervision which describes all the written rules and guidelines on supervision
  • drawn-up a list of good advice to students, which can be used for the student activities described below.

Guidelines on supervision

  • Prior to the students' first supervision period, all of the students are invited to "guidelines on supervision." It is a good idea to hold this during the lessons, so you signal that it is important, as in our experience otherwise many people will not show up. You must therefore allow for extra time already in the teaching plan. It is important that the presentation is not made by a supervisor, because the students ask questions more freely when it is not a person who will later assess them. Someone from the student counselling office or student representatives from the degree programme committee are ideal candidates for the task.
  • The presenter briefly presents the formal guidelines for supervision, e.g. how much time is allocated and the modules in the degree programme where you can get supervision.
  • Then the film on supervision is shown. You can either choose to show the entire film or show it one section at a time.
  • The film’s themes are discussed with the students. The presenter tells of the more or less unwritten rules for supervision and how you should deal with them, e.g. barriers you can meet in your supervision process and how you should tackle them. There may also be myths that can be disproved, such as supervisors not having time for the students, or that there is a rule stating that you can only receive supervision if you have sent something in writing to the supervisor.
  • In conclusion the Guidelines on supervision brochure is distributed. It is first handed out at the end so as not to provide a distraction.

Outcome of the activity

The students who were present were generally very satisfied that they had the frameworks in place and told us that some of the negative myths which they had heard about supervision had been laid to rest, such as supervisors not having time to supervise.

There were a few students who were not present. Particularly on the degree programme in which they first received supervision in the spring and therefore did not find the timing relevant. The students who showed up highlighted the fact that they did so because they had completed their first supervision period and had therefore experienced a lack of clarification of the framework.

Supervision without film

You can quite easily carry out the activity without showing a film. If you wish to use film in the same way as described in the activity, I would recommend that you make a film with your own lecturers and students, as there is a big difference between the degree programmes, supervision culture and the types of student.



Tilde Mette Juul, Center for Ungdomsforskning, Department of Learning and Philosophy, University of Aalborg