Scaffolding Graduate Research Supervision in a Higher Education Caribbean Context
Keywords:scaffolding, graduate research supervision, convergent parallel mixed methods
Many graduate students experience lags in completing their final research projects/theses for reasons that include insufficient support or scaffolding in graduate research supervision. Thus, the use of scaffolding in the graduate research supervisor-supervisee relationship is critical for guiding the research project or thesis to a successful and timely completion. Such scaffolding or guided support has a Vygotskian orientation in which the expert (more knowledgeable on topic) like a research supervisor provides guided support to a novice (less knowledgeable on topic) such as a research supervisee. An opportunity for providing this guided support is found in graduate research seminars, which are mandatory for supervisees completing their research projects/theses at a Caribbean University’s School of Education. Research supervisors and supervisees can provide face-to-face or online feedback on students’ graduate research seminar presentations for improving their research proposals before proceeding with conducting their research in the field. Although much research has been done on scaffolding in higher education, the scholarly Caribbean literature is limited on the use of scaffolding in graduate research supervision. This paper describes the guided support or scaffolding provided to both research supervisors and their supervisees in graduate research seminars in a Caribbean context. The study is guided by the following overarching question: “How has scaffolding been used in graduate research supervision to provide guidance and support in Master’s level research seminars for both supervisors and supervisees in a Caribbean context?” and two sub-questions: (1) “What does the use of scaffolding in graduate research supervision reveal to research supervisors and their supervisees in Master’s level research seminars in a Caribbean context?” and (2) “What are graduate supervisors’ reactions to the use of scaffolding in providing written feedback for Master’s level research seminars in a Caribbean context?”
The researchers used a convergent parallel mixed-methods approach in quantitising the qualitative feedback given in emails to graduate students’ research supervisors on their supervisees’ research proposal presentations and a qualitative thematic analysis for supervisors’ reactions to this feedback in integrating these findings. The results of this study showed that the guided support or scaffolding provided on graduate students’ research proposals presented at their research seminars was helpful for orienting their research theses/projects to a successful completion. The implications of the study results for practitioners, researchers, and policy makers as key stakeholders in graduate research supervision are discussed.