Developing professional researchers: research students’ graduate attributes

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Chinese University of Hong Kong]On: 20 December 2014, At: 04:48Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Studies in Continuing EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:</p><p>Developing professional researchers:research students graduate attributesCatherine Manathunga a , Paul Lant a &amp; George Mellick aa University of Queensland , AustraliaPublished online: 20 Feb 2007.</p><p>To cite this article: Catherine Manathunga , Paul Lant &amp; George Mellick (2007) Developingprofessional researchers: research students graduate attributes, Studies in Continuing Education,29:1, 19-36, DOI: 10.1080/01580370601146270</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Developing professional researchers:</p><p>research students graduate attributes</p><p>Catherine Manathunga*, Paul Lant and George MellickUniversity of Queensland, Australia</p><p>The impetus to broaden the scope of research education is not new. Since the 1970s, concern has</p><p>been expressed about the suitability of research education as preparation for a research career</p><p>outside academe. Universities have been criticized for producing over-specialized research</p><p>graduates, who struggle to apply their expertise to new workplace problems and agendas. These</p><p>concerns have been heightened by the demands of the knowledge economy. One approach that</p><p>may begin to address these concerns is to design a systematic program to develop research</p><p>students graduate attributes. While much attention has focused on developing undergraduate</p><p>generic attributes, it is only recently that universities and governments have sought to identify and</p><p>develop research higher degree students graduate attributes. This article seeks to explore the</p><p>development of a research student portfolio process (called RSVP), which was originally developed</p><p>in the Advanced Wastewater Management Centre (AWMC), and subsequently modified and</p><p>applied across an Australian research-intensive university.</p><p>Research higher degree programs, particularly doctoral degrees, seek to transform</p><p>students into highly proficient, independent researchers, capable of adapting to a</p><p>range of employment destinations and taking up leadership positions in academe,</p><p>industry and the professions. Increasingly, these research graduates need a variety of</p><p>interdisciplinary knowledges, skills and attitudes to thrive in the twenty-first-century</p><p>knowledge economy (Gibbons, 1998; Nowotny et al ., 2001). While it is a contested</p><p>concept, the knowledge economy notion argues that post-modern economic growth</p><p>depends upon highly skilled workers who are able to synthesize and apply their</p><p>interdisciplinary knowledge and skills to create innovation and quality improvement</p><p>in a context of continuous and rapid change (Brown &amp; Hesketh, 2004). Many</p><p>commentators argue that traditional Ph.D. programs are too narrow, lacking broad</p><p>professional development opportunities and producing overly specialized graduates</p><p>who struggle to adapt to the post-modern workplace (Stranks, 1984; Sekhon, 1989;</p><p>Clark, 1996; Kemp 1999a,b). Many doctoral graduates also experience difficulty in</p><p>articulating the range of knowledges and attributes they have developed when they</p><p>are responding to selection criteria for employment (Cryer, 1998).</p><p>*Corresponding author. Teaching &amp; Education Development Institute (TEDI)/Graduate School,</p><p>University of Queensland, Q 4072, Australia. Email:</p><p>ISSN 0158-037X (print)/ISSN 1470-126X (online)/07/010019-18</p><p># 2007 Taylor &amp; FrancisDOI: 10.1080/01580370601146270</p><p>Studies in Continuing Education</p><p>Vol. 29, No. 1, March 2007, pp. 1936</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Chi</p><p>nese</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f H</p><p>ong </p><p>Kon</p><p>g] a</p><p>t 04:</p><p>48 2</p><p>0 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>While there has been significant educational research conducted into the</p><p>identification, mapping and development of graduate attributes for undergraduate</p><p>students (Bowden et al ., 2000; Barrie, 2004; Bath et al ., 2004; Leggett et al ., 2004;</p><p>Sumsion &amp; Goodfellow, 2004), developing research students graduate attributes is a</p><p>more recent concern. This article seeks to explore the development and broad</p><p>implementation of a research student portfolio process (called the Research Student</p><p>Virtual Portfolio*/RSVP1) developed in a small research centre at an Australianresearch-intensive university and then extended to diverse disciplinary and inter-</p><p>disciplinary settings within the same institution.</p><p>Producing professional researchers</p><p>Explorations of doctoral pedagogy are relatively recent and highly contested.</p><p>Only a few scholars (Pearson &amp; Brew, 2002; Manathunga, 2005) have explicitly</p><p>sought to draw upon pedagogical theories about cognitive apprenticeship (Collins</p><p>et al ., 1989) and legitimate peripheral participation (Lave &amp; Wenger, 1991) to</p><p>investigate teaching and learning in research studies. In countries where the</p><p>traditional British model of Ph.D. by thesis or creative work is used, research</p><p>higher degree programs operate with a nebulous, implicit curriculum (Delamont</p><p>et al ., 2000; Acker, 2001), tailored to individual students learning needs. This</p><p>perhaps goes part of the way towards explaining why students appear to have</p><p>such difficulty in articulating and reflecting upon their attributes as professional</p><p>researchers (Cryer, 1998; Delamont et al ., 2000). Very often research graduates</p><p>are more likely to rely on disciplinary descriptions of their professional identity</p><p>and to point to their thesis or creative work as evidence of their knowledge and</p><p>skill as professional researchers. These strategies create difficulties for research</p><p>graduates when they are seeking employment outside academe. Even within</p><p>academe, selection criteria require graduates to describe not only their knowl-</p><p>edge and expertise but also their communication and team-working skills</p><p>(Osborn, cited in McWilliam et al ., 2002).</p><p>Research indicates that employers are fundamentally interested in graduates</p><p>abilities to formulate and solve problems, to communicate and to manage and</p><p>lead projects (Sekhon, 1989; Clark, 1996; Bowden et al ., 2000; Bath et al .,</p><p>2004; Leggett et al ., 2004; Sumsion &amp; Goodfellow, 2004). They are seeking</p><p>graduates who are able to apply their disciplinary-based research expertise</p><p>flexibly to other contexts and problems (Holdaway, 1996; Cryer, 1998; Pearson</p><p>&amp; Brew, 2002; Usher, 2002; Borthwick &amp; Wissler, 2003). Increasingly, employ-</p><p>ers are also seeking graduates who can understand and apply a range of</p><p>international and interdisciplinary perspectives (Klein, 1996; Gibbons, 1998;</p><p>Barnett, 2000; Bruhn, 2000; Somerville &amp; Rapport, 2000; Brainard, 2002;</p><p>Evans, 2002; Usher, 2002).</p><p>20 C. Manathunga et al.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Chi</p><p>nese</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f H</p><p>ong </p><p>Kon</p><p>g] a</p><p>t 04:</p><p>48 2</p><p>0 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>Research students graduate attributes*/tensions and dilemmas</p><p>A growing number of scholars have begun investigating how we can produce research</p><p>graduates able to demonstrate and articulate the skills that employers desire</p><p>(Holdaway, 1996; Cryer, 1998; Pearson &amp; Brew, 2002; Borthwick &amp; Wissler,</p><p>2003; Gilbert et al ., 2004; Kiley et al ., 2004; United Kingdom GRAD programme,</p><p>2004). These scholars adopt varying approaches to research graduate attribute</p><p>development that will be explored below. In designing RSVP, we have sought to</p><p>wrestle with some of these inherent difficulties and tensions. These problems include</p><p>philosophical dilemmas, problems in identifying and individualizing graduate</p><p>attributes and implementation issues.</p><p>Firstly, there is a debate about whether articulating separate attributes is overly</p><p>reductionist and instrumental. Some supervisors argue that graduate attributes</p><p>homogenise [students] and remove creativity and individuality (Biology supervisor</p><p>cited in Gilbert et al ., 2004, p. 375). Others argue that the graduate attribute agenda</p><p>can restrict the development of a holistic picture of graduates as accomplished</p><p>researchers (Sandberg, 2000; Gilbert et al ., 2004). Gilbert et al . (2004) point to the</p><p>irony of arguing that research graduates should develop a set of common skills when</p><p>the fundamental goal of research degree programs is that students make an original</p><p>contribution to knowledge.</p><p>There is no doubt that strong government and employer support for the graduate</p><p>attributes agenda is situated within neoliberal, utilitarian approaches to research</p><p>training. These perspectives tend to support dated notions of professional</p><p>education as involving step-wise, cumulative knowledge and skill in ways that are</p><p>largely decontextualized from practice (Ericsson &amp; Smith, 1991; Hoffman, 1992;</p><p>Sternberg et al ., 2000; Sternberg &amp; Ben-Zeev, 2001). They represent a rationalistic</p><p>view of education, where the focus on acquiring measurable attributes results in</p><p>simplistic understandings of professional expertise (Sandberg, 2000; Gilbert et al .,</p><p>2004).</p><p>On the other hand, research into student perceptions (Borthwick &amp; Wissler, 2003)</p><p>and evidence collected as part of this project indicates the depth of support students</p><p>and graduates have for the graduate attributes agenda. For example, one student</p><p>commented that he believed these g[raduate]a[ttributes]s are things that would</p><p>make me more employable (AWMC email, 5 March 2003). After all, research</p><p>students fundamental goal is to achieve stable, challenging employment or</p><p>advancement in their careers. So too, research in Australia and the UK has</p><p>established the importance of assisting research graduates to enhance their knowl-</p><p>edge of and ability to articulate the particular general attributes they have developed</p><p>during their research studies (Cryer, 1998; Borthwick &amp; Wissler, 2003).</p><p>This is not to argue that research education should be reduced to simplistic</p><p>attempts to quantify the development of generalized skills to service a rapacious</p><p>knowledge economy. The creative and embodied production of qualified resear-</p><p>chers can continue to occur through students intensive enculturation into the</p><p>practices and discourses of their disciplines (Delamont et al ., 2000). Through</p><p>Developing professional researchers 21</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Chi</p><p>nese</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f H</p><p>ong </p><p>Kon</p><p>g] a</p><p>t 04:</p><p>48 2</p><p>0 D</p><p>ecem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>a process of intense engagement with their supervisors and the broader research</p><p>culture, research students usually adopt disciplinary ways of knowing, thinking,</p><p>acting and being. While these remain fundamentally significant aspects of research</p><p>education, they do not necessarily enable students to adopt the discourses of</p><p>employers. While it may be controversial to suggest that students should, when</p><p>appropriate, engage in the discourses used by employers, they generally require a</p><p>certain level of familiarity with this kind of language if they are to respond</p><p>successfully to job selection criteria and obtain meaningful employment.</p><p>We have attempted to retain the individuality of each research students</p><p>developmental journey by designing the RSVP process as a tailored developmental</p><p>plan where students and their supervisors collectively identify students existing</p><p>strengths and areas for improvement and their own unique career goals. This also</p><p>goes some way towards addressing Gilbert et al .s (2004) concern about which</p><p>attributes represent minimum requirements and which could be considered optional.</p><p>While most researchers have argued against bolt-on short courses (e.g. United</p><p>Kingdom GRAD programme) for developing students graduate attributes, many</p><p>still struggle with how this development might be effectively embedded within</p><p>students research projects (Cryer, 1998; Pearson &amp; Brew, 2002; Borthwick &amp;</p><p>Wissler, 2003; Gilbert et al ., 2004). RSVP has been designed to engage students and</p><p>supervisors in a dialogue and planning process about how each of the graduate</p><p>attributes that have been translated into local, disciplinary dialects can be achieved</p><p>through the students engagement in the research process. Many other researchers</p><p>leave the collection of evidence of students graduate attributes to students</p><p>themselves. This has generally not served research students well, as they continue</p><p>to struggle to articulate how the writing of a thesis or the production of creative work</p><p>enables them to demonstrate the specific, transferable research skills and attributes</p><p>referred to in employment application processes.</p><p>Research context and methodology</p><p>The RSVP process has been progressively developed, refined and adapted across a</p><p>number of disciplines at an Australian research-intensive university. This article will</p><p>explore its original development, trial, evaluation and revision in the Advanced</p><p>Wastewater Management Centre (AWMC) (Manathunga, 2003). It will then</p><p>examine briefly how it was modified and implemented in Animal Studies and</p><p>several Health Science fields. It will also show how RSVP preceded and then</p><p>informed the development of the universitys recent policy on research students</p><p>graduate attributes (;pid/25141).</p><p>RSVP was originally designed and implemented in a small, interdisciplinary</p><p>research centre, the AWMC. The AWMC is a small, innovative research centre</p><p>where researchers and research students work to develop effective, sustainable</p><p>solutions to the management of wastewater using the interdisciplinary skills of</p><p>22 C. Manathunga et al.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Chi</p><p>n...</p></li></ul>