Stellenbosch University
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DLTE TLA Seminar 14 March 2024
Author: Dr Karin Cattell-Holden
Published: 27/02/2024

Speaker: Prof. Susan van Schalkwyk (Director: Centre for Health Professions Education (CHPE), Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences) (SU Teaching Fellow)

Topic: Models of doctoral supervision in health professions education: process and power


Summary of seminar

Doctoral studies are about pushing the boundaries of what is known with the intention of making a knowledge contribution to the field within which such studies are undertaken. Knowledge that is seen to be valued by those who are held in high regard in the field is inherently powerful, directing the science and informing the canon. The pursuit of such knowledge is central to doctoral endeavour characterized by a process of 'being and becoming' as the student transitions into a chosen disciplinary community—a community that is defined by a set of norms and values that have been developed over time and by what constitutes knowledge within it. The notion of border crossing provides a lens through which the transition can be explored. Doctoral writing, for example, represents a specific border that students must negotiate as they seek to inscribe the body of work emerging from their academic endeavours, and ultimately become powerful writers (Van Schalkwyk & Jacobs, 2021). The process of supervision is central to the doctoral journey and seeks to facilitate this negotiation, while still maintaining the integrity of the disciplinary canon. This raises questions about the nature of that supervision, the way it is organised, and how it is practiced. ​

Biography of speaker

Prof. Van Schalkwyk described insights gleaned from her work on doctoral supervision, which, amongst others, explored the experience of being supervised, or supervising others, during a series of interviews (some online) with 23 doctoral candidates and 10 supervisors across 10 countries. She shared the ever-evolving nature of the supervisory relationship, including drivers for new models and approaches. This work has implications for opening up conversations about doctoral supervision, revisiting the approaches we adopt, and critically engaging with notions of knowledge and power.

Prof. Van Schalkwyk's presentation represented the findings of her Teaching Fellowship research project.



  • McKenna, S; Van Schalkwyk, S. (2023). A scoping review of the changing landscape of doctoral education. COMPARE.
  • Van Schalkwyk, S; Jacobs, C. (2021). Borders and tensions in Doctoral Writing. In: Badenhorst C; Amell and B & Burford J. (eds). Re-imagining doctoral writing. WAC Clearing House: Colorado. ​

Please refer to the presentation slides for further references or contact Prof. Van Schalkwyk directly.