@ Pineapple, I think you are doing a good job in thinking about the wider implications of why your supervisors are sticking with you, and the whole issue about it being your decision. I believe developing this sort of awareness and insight is far more crucial for you in the long run than people saying "Oh, dont worry about it" (trivialising) or just giving you sympathy (which feels good at the time but doesnt last long).
Kudos to you for that, and taking the balance between where your supervisor are falling short, and what you bring to the table. Its a hard thing to admit where you may have gone wrong, but its a good sign of maturity and wisdom.
@ Olivia you are absolutely right, the problematic students are the 21-22 year olds rather than the more mature ones. They also tend to be the ones that drifted into it, so don't have the motivation that someone who has been outside and decided it is what they really want to do. That said there are some staight from BSc's (I was myself) who know what they want and go all out for it, so not to tar them all with the same brush.
Yeah, its a shame that personal circumstances are not taken into consideration, but that is the reality of our work. Scholarships usually don't give you a few more years funding if there is a family death or you divorce, grants and awards don't respect that you may have suffered from a mental illness.
The sad truth is that we are judged on our "professionalism" at work. Mind you it cuts both ways, if someones supervisor comes onto a student, the excuse that "I was feeling lonely" isnt going to cut it. Most of us wouldnt like it if supervision was always delayed or put off because the supervisors kids needed picking up from school.
Throughout the forum we always complain about them not behaving professionally, all I am doing is pointing out the corollary.
I think that you misunderstood me. With: 'I think that it's matter of reciprocal respect not to judge a student/ supervisor on the basis of her private life/ problems', I meant exactly what you said. I certainly don't look for excuses if my work is not good. I am capable of taking responsibility for what I do or don't do. I do get quite a lot of excuses from the other side though.
I just think that sometimes, some supervisors mask their 'big ego' behind their criticism. They maybe want you to pass your viva (a feather in their cap!), but they make their best to prevent you from building up anything that can help you in your future career. As I am a woman, that implies that I would be better to stay home and bake cakes!
As Smilodon, I used to be a teacher, and the standard of our teaching was constantly monitored. Here, although there are regulations in place, no one seem to care about what supervisors do. All I got was: 'Did you meet regularly?' at the last research assessment and in front of my supervisor, who replied before I did. I let you guess the answer.
BHC it is really interesting to hear a supervisor's point of view on this, because I have been wondering what on earth could have been motivating the behaviour of my suprvisor over the previous six months. To be fair, and frank, I don't see how giving exclusively negative criticism can be constructive for either party unless you are trying to get rid of a student, or if a supervisor is trying to eleviate some of their own personal stress. There must be something positive about the work they're producing and anyone who has completed teacher training will tell you that ignoring those aspects is destructive for all the reasons given in the above comments, and because a student will be left not knowing what they did well and are therefore less likely to recognise it.
BHC Wouldn't it be better to speak to the student and tell them you think they are not working hard enough, or whatever the problem is, instead of trying to communicate this via some coded behaviours which only supervisors seem to know about? If students don't know why this is happening they won't know what they are doing wrong and will become confused, blocked and demoralised hence even less productive.
I am a part time PhD student and have been told I am on the right track for the stage of my PhD I am at, but also only receive negative feedback from my supervisor, and publicly at that. After forgetting an essential piece of equipment that had been promised for a piece of assessed work my supervisor publicly criticised me and my work for about forty five minutes. As a self funded PhD student, the idea that I am paying someone to teach me badly and hinder my progress in this way is infuriating and I will leave as soon as I can.
Before I answer let me re-iterate that I (and most supervisors) are not trained teachers, we don't go on a special supervisor's course and as a post-dog I have management and financial duties (none of which I have been trained for) in addition to my own research.
You are right, there is an element of displacing stress downwards in academia. My boss gets crap, he passes it to me, it gets passed down the chain. Not an excuse but the reason it happens is because there is no other way to displace it. We can't go on expensive holidays like the city-boys. We can't pretend its for a higher purpose like a soldier fighting for his country, or a clergyman doing it for God. Research by its very nature is unknown, and we are too well aware that what we do may never see the light of day.
There is no curriculum, and everything is self guided. There is no PhD recipe that says A+B=C. I can only really step in if something goes wrong, (which usually takes some form of negative criticism).
I am often provide feedback, but really the positive stuff has little to do with me. At this stage the PhD student knows more of the field than I do (as it should be), so its hard for me to say "That was amazing". Its the fact you passed your viva with no corrections, that your first 4 papers appeared in high impact journals, that you have been awarded that grant is the positive feedback.
Your comment about you "paying someone to teach me badly and hinder your progress" outlines a common misunderstanding. When you are doing a PhD, you are not a normal student in that you are "taught" and are entitled to a certain degree of formal instruction. You are embarking on an apprenticeship, where your work is carried out under the auspices of your supervisor. You are not paying to be taught but to be in a position to learn from the environment. The same as a blacksmith in the 18th century.
Hopefully this will change, but I am not sure. Maybe it will go the American way with formal exam components and quantifiable transferable skills. Then again there is an element of harsh negative feedback integral throughout research. A rejected paper is a rejected paper, a missed grant means you may have to find a new job. I dont think we can take that away.
BHC the word 'taught' as I am sure you know, has a pretty broad range of meaning and it is appropriate for an apprentice to say they were taught alot of skills by their mentor. I do expect my supervisor to guide me about generic skills such as writing, presentation and structure and if he/she were an expert in the field I would expect some guidance in the subject matter at the early stages (where I am). Otherwise, what on earth is a PhD supervisor for? I don't need contacts, I already have plenty of those. I am very clear about what I should expect from supervision and am not confusing PhD work with taught courses.
To justify behaviour which in other professions would be termed bullying as the only way supervisors can manage stress because they can't afford the same quality of holiday as banker really is silly. There are all sorts of working environments which are stressful and it is up to the professional to find ways of managing that. Most industries recognise the inertia and lack of respect such behaviour induces in all concerned. Believe me, you can afford a much better holiday than I (this year my 'holiday' constitutes spending a day at a conference at which I am presenting)and look on the bright side, if you holiday in the UK you will avoind the stress of foreign travel.
BHC - a great deal of the problem is in the lack of training and accountability for supervisors and there is real reluctance to change this. I would be beyound furious if I were paying for this with my own money - I can think of NOTHING that I have got from my dept or supervisor toward my project. Not.one.single.thing. No help of ANY kind. And I am not alone.
There is training but it's not compulsory and performance is not monitored. I read some new uni guidleines which basically boiled down to: you are totally responsible for the quality of your supervision. Where else would you find that attitude? In business, the buck stops at the top, not the bottom.
BHC, yes, I understand that most supervisors don't have any teacher training, but there are things called common sense and professionalism which should also act as a guide. I also understand you have alot of other concerns in your role but we are not your whipping boys. Where you say the large part of the feedback you give is to intervene if someting goes wrong, well it is still advisable make that sort of criticism in a constructive way, the sandwich method really does work and you might find your students less demoralised and more productive as a result. This could and should be a win win situation.
Whoa folks, you seem to have targetted me as a representative of all supervisors.
All I am doing is proposing a hypothesis based on my observations of WHY a certain situation occurs, not to be held to account for it. If you are able to put forward a better model (other than "all supervisors are evil") I would be glad to hear it.
Bear in mind, expectations are different for everyone. Someone may expect to be instructed at PhD level in writing, whereas others will see this as the job of an undergraduate education. If you seriously feel you are getting NOTHING from a supervisor, its equally incumbent on you to either get a new one, or do something about it.
Funnily enough, I don't have problems with my own students. From the gossip I hear I have the rep of "Firm but fair". A few even quite like me after the whole Katie/ Sabrina incident.
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