Student projects: investigating the psychological factors of students and supervisors that impact on student success and development

Friel, Niamh (2014) Student projects: investigating the psychological factors of students and supervisors that impact on student success and development. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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A key aspect of the student learning experience in higher education takes place through student research projects. Existing research suggests that the supervisor plays a central role in the success of these projects (e.g. Devos, 2007). Current literature concentrates on the qualities of an effective supervisor and much focus is given to setting out guidance on what academics should do in order to become good supervisors (e.g. Lovitts, 2001). Independently, research suggests that students’ characteristics and approaches to learning can have an impact on success (e.g. Busato et al, 2000). Conventionally, the qualities of a “good” supervisor and the qualities of a “good” student are studied separately. No research bridges the gap between these aspects. However, it is proposed that the qualities of the supervisory relationship, and hence the student’s learning experience and the outcomes of the dissertation, depends on a complex interaction between the characteristics, personalities and expectations of both the student and the supervisor. This concept of a ‘match’/‘mismatch’ in terms of psychological factors is novel but has significant implications for higher education.
With reference to the central importance of student projects for learning and development the research reported in this thesis concentrates firstly on the student, then on the supervisor and finally on the relationship between them. The thesis is divided into 4 research themes, with the aim of investigating if any psychological factors, of both the student and the supervisor, can predict student success and development during a final year and masters project. The first theme looks at the difference between undergraduate and masters students; the second addresses the characteristics of a “good” student; the third “good” supervision; and finally the 4th theme looks at the interaction between the student and supervisor and investigates the significance of “match” or “mismatch” of psychological factors in supervisor-student partnerships. This final theme considers the qualities of students and supervisors together.
Utilising a mixed-methods approach, combining questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, this research investigated pairs of students and supervisors. Data collection occurred in two phases: Student data pre-project and student and supervisor data post project. A total of 580 students and 60 supervisors were surveyed. This was complemented by interviews with 20 students and 10 supervisors.

On the basis of the findings it is concluded that there are qualitative differences between undergraduate and masters students in their approaches and attitudes to doing a project; in line with the findings of other research there are characteristics of students which are important for success; and there are some core characteristics of good supervisor; and finally, uniquely this research found that match and mismatch between student and supervisor is important in terms of students’ perceptions of their success and development. It was clear that both the magnitude of difference and direction of the difference, between students and supervisors, had an impact and it seems that certain types of mismatch result in the highest perceptions of success for students. The implications for this research are discussed with a particular focus on higher education.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: supervision, match, psychological characteristics, dissertation.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Supervisor's Name: Morrow, Dr. Lorna
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Miss Niamh Friel
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5853
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2014 12:18
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2017 11:22

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