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Valuable insight in doctoral supervision shared by Australian researcher
Author: E Els
Published: 26/04/2023

​​Experienced educator and researcher Prof Elke Stracke from the University of Canberra in Australia presented two research seminars at the Faculty of Education in April. “Feedback lies at the heart of any learning experience, and giving and receiving feedback is an important and integral part of postgraduate supervision practice" Stracke said.  

In the first seminar, 'Feedback as dialogue in doctoral supervision' she discussed what feedback is as well as the use of language by supervisors and candidates' reactions. The Feedback Expectation Tool (FET) was explained as well as strategies to provide and receive effective and dialogic feedback.

Delecia Davids, lecturer in the Department of Curriculum Studies at the Faculty of Education said that she found Prof Stracke's description of the different types of feedback quite useful, and it made her reflect on the ways she gives feedback to the students she teaches. “It allowed me to identify the default type of feedback that I give and to keep that in mind for the future. The feedback expectation tool was also quite useful, and in the workshop, it allowed me to see what my views and preferences are in relation to feedback. This was valuable as I am now empowered to ask my supervisor for specific kinds of feedback, throughout my doctoral journey. The most important piece was to view feedback as a co-constructed dialogue between student and supervisor, something that has been modelled to me by my supervisor, and that I will surely try to emulate in the future."

Prof Rule, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum Studies, found the seminar valuable not only in sharing the Feedback Expectation Tool but also for the reminder that feedback is about helping students to move from their current level of performance to the required level – to facilitate their learning and development. “Feedback also involves students' feelings and sense of self-worth – one should consider this in what kind of feedback we give and how we give it" Prof Rule said.

Dr Feldman, a lecturer in Education Policy Studies, said that a key take-away for her was to be reminded that feedback in postgraduate studies should be aimed at 'closing the gap between the current and desired feedback'.

The second seminar, 'Learning from failure in doctoral learning' explored failure in academia and the creative field. Stracke said that failure in doctoral learning do happen and that such failure is a major challenge for supervisors and candidates. There is a need to develop strategies for successful communication around failure. Participants shared about their academic failures and how it made them feel. Stracke shared about an article she struggled to get published years ago. She had to work on it for quite some time before she eventually got it published. Experiences like this can create a feeling of failure while in the process, but years later might be viewed as a learning process. “Normalising failure can promote personal growth" Stracke said. Prof Frick, vice-dean research at the Faculty of Education added that when failure is communicated, it is about the work, but the person involved is also affected.

Professor Stracke is engaged in researcher development across all stages of the research career at the University of Canberra. She is the President of the Australian Linguistics Association of Australia (ALAA), providing leadership in applied linguistics and supporting the development of teaching, learning, and research in the field.  She is an applied linguist who brings her expertise to solving language-related problems in contexts such as postgraduate supervision and assessment practice, language education, and cross-cultural curriculum development.

Photo: Prof Liezel Frick (Vice Dean Research, Faculty of Education) and Prof Elke Stracke.