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Managing expectations

This text deals with how to manage expectations in a PhD supervisory context.
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© schaeffler via Pixabay

In the first week of this course, we have already mentioned that explicitly discussing mutual expectations is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of cooperation within the supervisory team and with the PhD candidate throughout the trajectory.

At the start of the PhD trajectory, supervisors and PhD candidates have the best intentions. Yet each comes with their own assumptions and expectations on how the project will develop and on how they will work together. These expectations are not always matching, especially when supervisors and students come from different (academic) cultures. The PhD and supervisor might have different expectations on the degree of independence or close guidance that the supervisor will provide, on the ownership of the project, on the preferred modality of the feedback, just to name a few.

If expectations are not openly discussed, misunderstandings, disappointment, and delays will likely result. Most importantly, having an open conversation with the PhD candidate to clarify and align expectations early and throughout the trajectory can reinforce the relationship of trust that is the basis for the learning, and is very important if you want to support the need for autonomy, relatedness and competence of the PhD candidate.

But how can you do it?

There is no established way to discuss expectations with your PhD candidate. It depends on your preference and style, on the academic system and culture you are part of, but also on the PhD candidate’s inclination and needs, on the specificity of the project and on the phase and moment of the trajectory.

What we can do is indicate the general areas where such mutual expectations can (or should) be discussed, and suggest a simple and effective method with which you can structure these conversations.

In the next step we share the input from a few experienced University of Groningen PhD supervisors. After that we will introduce a form that many supervisors at the University of Groningen have successfully adopted.

© University of Groningen
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