Supervising African Doctoral Students
Dr Stephanie Doyle, Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington.
International students provide significant economic, cultural and social benefits for universities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
While there has been a great deal of research documenting the experiences including the difficulties and hurdles faced by international students undertaking research studies (Andrade, 2006), very few studies have specifically focused on the experiences of African international research students.
In 2013 6,668 doctoral students were enrolled in New Zealand universities, of whom 2,953 were international students (Ministry of Education, 2014). Although only 113 of these international doctoral students came from African countries, this number had steadily grown from 27 in 2006, in keeping with an international growth trend for African students studying abroad (British Council, 2014).
The research team argue for the need for insights from research into the cultural context, expectations and experiences of African research students and their supervisors. Along with being a growing market, the lack of previous research suggests the possibility of new and different perspectives on supervision practice in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
- Research report - Supervising African Doctoral Students: Enhancing Intercultural Supervision in Aotearoa New Zealand
- Sitting Together: a Supervision Resource for Doctoral Supervisors and Students
This research interviewed supervisors and African students at two Aotearoa/New Zealand universities, Victoria University of Wellington and Massey University, with the view to generating New Zealand-based research evidence. The emphasis of this project was on identifying ways of enhancing intercultural communication and understanding within supervision practice for all students.
The specific objectives included:
- To enhance understanding of intercultural communication within the supervision relationship and how this may shape learning.
- To identify which supervisory processes (both teaching and learning) are most appropriate in moving African students to successful completion.
- To document culturally effective supervision practices in work with African students.
To develop a set of web-based and print resources for supervisors that will improve the learning outcomes of African research students and enhance intercultural communication within supervision generally.
A literature review was conducted of the existing international research on the supervision of African students. The review was linked with literature with broader investigations of experiences of intercultural supervision for culturally and linguistically diverse students and indigenous students both globally and in the Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australian contexts. Those understandings shaped the research methods and theoretical framing and guided the interview questions. In particular, the team focused on the following research questions:
- How is teaching and learning affected by the supervisory relationship between African doctoral students and their supervisors including the challenges of intercultural communication, relationship management, learning needs and differing expectations?
- How might the findings of this project be relevant for improving the supervision of all research students (especially those from diverse cultural backgrounds such as international students and Māori and Pasifika students)?
A thematic analysis of the interview data revealed the emergence of five major themes which gave rise to recommendations for the effective supervision of African students were developed from these findings.