How to supervise and teach students?


Hi everyone,

I've finished my PhD few months ago and now I have returned to my home country, working in a university. In my country, we can directly become lecturers without having to do several post-docs. I have to teach classes, conduct research, apply for grants and supervise student research (so far undergraduate final year projects).

I'm not so sure how to supervise student’s research even it is at undergraduate level. Whether to just let them plan and do the research on their own or should I provide the plan. So far I let them to come out with their own proposal on what to do and how. But there are few things that I think they should do more, for example what they propose actually has been done by someone else. So I ask them to add more. I notice that when I interfere more they become demotivated. But if I don't interfere most probably they won't meet the university standard. Then sometimes, I myself don't know about the things that I suggested them to do. With the classes going on and having to revise the subjects before teaching (the last time I studied the subject was 10 years ago), I have no time to check before suggesting something. I don’t want to misguide them or waste their time. I also don’t want to be like my PhD supervisor- he didn’t give much input (more stories are in my previous posts) and I was bound to be lost a lot time during my PhD. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my students. I feel that my PhD experience was traumatic and it is traumatic to guide student’s research now. What stressed me more is their examiners are my lecturers who taught me during my undergraduate studies. Somehow I feel like that I am the one who is being evaluated.


***Sorry - have to continue here due to word limit***

I tried my best to prepare for the classes. I have forgotten a lot of things and it takes a long time to prepare each time. I have classes every day (Mon-Thu) and almost no time for my personal life. Many times that I can see the students look bored, don’t understand and don’t pay much attention in the class. I’ve lost my joking skills during PhD to make the class to be more interesting. I feel that I work hard but the outcome is not that good. When I was an undergraduate student, I sometimes complained about the way that my lecturers conducted the class- they were not well prepared, etc. Now, I find that I am doing those things they did that I hated too. Lesson to learn: do not complain about your lecturers!

On top of this, all lecturers in the same level as me (assistant prof.) are chasing to become associate prof, fighting for grants and to get postgraduate students. I find that it is overwhelming to work in academic. I can’t sleep at night and funny that I still feel suicidal even after PhD (6.5 monts after PhD to be exact).

Sorry if my post sounds more like a rant.

Anyone care to share their experience and opinion in supervising student research, teaching them and how to build an excellent academic career without becoming crazy?



My experience of supervising undergrads is that you have to have the idea of the projects and the possible outcomes in mind. You will need to know how to do the techniques so you can suggest to them where they are going wrong. It doesn't matter if the project has already been done previously, just put a new twist on it whether it's species, medium, temperature... it doesn't matter how basic the difference is.

I would give the students key papers to read, give them an idea of what you want them to achieve and then let them make the plan. Be prepared to severely revise this plan once they have completed it.

The amount of supervision you need to give will depend on the students. Some will have experience and be independent, others won't have a clue what they are doing and you will need to go through everything with them step by step. You will have to gauge their abilities by asking direction questions and assessing not just their answers, but associated body language.

You will need to learn to encourage them every step of the way. Look up how to give honest, constructive feedback so that the recipient gets the truth and feels empowered and motivated to apply it simultaneously.

Also, talk to your colleagues that have more recently been in your situation and see where new staff members can go for guidance.

I wish you luck!