Exploring Cultures of Doctoral Supervision: Narrative Perspectives from the International Islamic University Malaysia

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Rafidah Sahar

Abstract

This thesis reports on my narratively-framed PhD study in which I explored doctoral supervision using a small cultures approach (Holliday, 1999); thus, I viewed the doctoral supervision in question as dynamic emerging small cultures developing within a wider set of shaping influences. Specifically, the study sought to understand the experiences of doctoral supervision as narrated to me by some recently completed doctoral students and experienced supervisors from a public university in Malaysia, namely the International Islamic University Malaysia (hereafter known as the IIUM). My motivation for this study originated in my professional curiosity - as set against the IIUM strategic ambitions regarding internationalisation of higher education and Islamisation of Knowledge - about the development of doctoral supervision at the IIUM where I have been a member of academic staff for more than ten years and where, upon the completion of my doctoral education, I will be assuming a supervisory role. As stimulated through face-to-face, one-to-one encounters, in English and/or Bahasa Malaysia, I generated narratives of supervisory experiences from six recent graduates and three experienced supervisors. These narratives were then restoried in English and analysed using holistic-content approach (Lieblich et al., 1998) to reveal the global impression and key themes of supervisory experiences of the individual participants. Findings from the narrative analysis were first interpreted through the small cultures lens (Holliday, 1999). From the interpretation, I proposed that the emerging small cultures of doctoral supervision are characterised by the following features: the students' learning process; the supervisory styles; the supervisory roles; the supervisory relationships; and the expectation of students and supervisors. I then interpreted the narrative findings using a host culture complex model (Holliday, 1994) and identified eight cultural influences that may shape the construction of the emerging small cultures of doctoral supervision, namely: the student culture; the supervisor culture; the host university culture; the postgraduate culture; the wider learning community culture; the national host culture; the internationalisation of higher education culture; and the Islamisation of Knowledge culture. My study makes a number of contributions. In terms of cultures of supervision, it provides a detailed exploration of the emergent aspects of supervision as it develops amid a wider complex of shaping influences, and these emergent aspects and shaping influences extend the current literature regarding supervision. There are implications in these insights for supervisors and their students but also for university managers. Conceptually, the extension of the small cultures approach and host culture complex heuristic, from internationally - oriented English language education to internationally - oriented doctoral supervision, demonstrates the usefulness of this approach for practitioners in their particular contexts of practice as informed by a deeper understanding of the complexities involved rather than relying on large culture a priori characterisation. Methodologically, my study also demonstrates the feasibility and value of coupling narrative (rather than ethnographic) methods to the small cultures approach. Whilst not focused directly on internationalisation of higher education and Islamisation of Knowledge, the study does add to debates in this area with regard to the shaping influences these interlinked strategic objectives may have on doctoral supervision. Finally, my study adds a Malaysian non-Western perspective to the often Western-oriented literature on doctoral supervision.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2019