Anglia Ruskin University

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The roles, expectations and experiences of masters degree dissertation supervisors

conference contribution
posted on 2023-07-26, 12:49 authored by Andrew M. D. Armitage
The supervision of postgraduate master’s degree dissertations has attracted little attention in the academic literature and is an under researched area of supervisory activity. This study, which adopted the psychological contract as its guiding conceptual framework, therefore set out to investigate the roles and expectations of supervisors in their supervision and management of dissertations on taught part-time master’s programmes in order to add to the dearth of professional knowledge and praxis in this area of academic life. Thus the origin for this research was the need to generate new knowledge concerning the praxis of supervisors who supervise master’s degree dissertations in the Ashcroft International Business School at Anglia Polytechnic University within the area of Continual Professional Development (CPD). As such this study sets out to gain insights and generate new knowledge into the strategies and approaches that supervisors use to deal with a diverse range of students and subject specialisms. The literature and previous studies regarding this issue is limited with the exception of Harrow and Loewenthal, Hetrick and Trafford, Bennett and Mansell and Woodhouse and it is anticipated that the findings that emerged from this study will be useful to both dissertation supervisors, and others within the higher education sector who are engaged in the facilitation of one-to-one counselling scenarios during the educational process. It envisaged that the findings will also serve as the means to inform policy, practitioner-based knowledge and practice in an under researched area of academic activity. As such an insider practice-based ethnographic research methodology was used to study the praxis of fourteen master’s degree dissertation supervisors located in the Continuing Professional Development curriculum area of the Ashcroft International Business School at Anglia Polytechnic University. The fieldwork for this study consisted of semi-structured interviews and seven sets of case note evidence covering thirty eight supervisor-student dissertation meetings over a 3 year period. The research evidence of the study indicates that supervisors work within subject and methodological silos when supervising their students. However the findings also show that supervisors give both academic and pastoral support to their students during the process of supervising dissertations. The findings revealed that the supervisory process can be conceptualised as a three stage process and that three types of student can also be identified that shows the different approaches they adopt when undertaking the dissertation stage of their postgraduate studies. The conclusions of the study advocate the need for supervisors to exchange ideas and best practice more readily regarding their professional praxis of the supervision process. They also identify that supervisors need to be aware of the different types of students who present themselves to the dissertation process in terms of their individual learning styles and pastoral needs. These evidence-based outcomes are reflected within two new models of supervisor-student relationships that contain the potential to influence practitioner-based practice and development. Thus this research contributes to knowledge in this area of professional practice.



Oxford Brookes University

Place of publication

Oxford, UK



Conference proceeding

Improving Student Learning Through Assessment

Name of event

13th Improving Student Learning Symposium


London, UK

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Chris Rust


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Legacy Faculty/School/Department

ARCHIVED Lord Ashcroft International Business School (until September 2018)

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