The face of the UK doctorate is changing and it is no longer primarily training for a career in academia (Park 2007). Nationally, of 47% of PGRs who initially undertake a career in Science (widely defined), 30% remain in Higher Education in Early Career positions, with only 3.5% obtaining permanent research posts, and only 0.45% eventually becoming Professors (Royal Society 2010).
Today’s doctoral researchers need to be prepared for the knowledge economy. The demand to hire people with the ability to work in multidisciplinary and professional teams responding to real-world problems, and who co-produce knowledge with people drawn from a range of interested stakeholders, outstrips the demand to hire people who are able to work within strict disciplinary boundaries producing knowledge individually within a single academic discipline.
To address this, PhD students in the UK are now normally required to undertake skills training to enhance their research and employability. At the University of Sheffield, this is provided under the heading of the Doctoral Development Programme and since this is a condition of the award of the degree, a portfolio must be presented evidencing skills acquired.
We use PebblePad as a supporting tool for students to compile an e-portfolio of training and experiences. An electronic Training Needs Analysis (TNA) is also maintained throughout the student’s PhD. This will soon be aligned to the Researcher Development Framework attributes defined in the ‘getting started in research’ and ‘employability’ lenses (Vitae 2010). The use of this nationally and internationally recognised framework is important for employer recognition and portability during career progression within both the academic and corporate environments. PebblePad’s reporting tools enable the supervisory team to more readily identify from the submitted TNA’s both individual training requirements and those that might be beneficial across the peer group.
Effective supervision and monitoring of student’s progress is crucial for timely completion. PebblePad is also used to record key events in the student’s progression such as supervisory meetings, allowing supervisors and other staff an easy way to provide feedback and oversee the student experience. This ability to monitor the student / supervisor interaction ensures an end to the ‘secret garden’ model of supervision (Park 2006) where student and supervisor worked closely without significant external scrutiny or accountability.
Our presentation will describe how we have introduced PebblePad to support the doctoral training environment and how, going forward, we hope to utilise new personal tutoring functionality of Pebble Flourish to further improve the respective student and supervisor experiences.
Hancock S., Walsh E., (2014) Beyond knowledge and skills: Rethinking the development of professional identity during the STEM doctorate, Studies in Higher Education, 9 June 2014
Park, C.C. (2006) The end of the secret garden: reframing postgraduate supervision.
Park, C. (2007), Redefining the Doctorate, York: The Higher Education Academy
Royal Society Report. (2010), The Scientific Century: Securing our future prosperity, London: The Royal Society p14.
Vitae. (2010), Researcher Development Framework. www.vitae.ac.uk/policy-practice/303831/Resources.html