The Postgraduate Supervision Space: From formal meetings to late-night calls



Design Education Strategy


  • postgraduate supervision space, supervision strategy


Undergraduate studies in design disciplines focus the design student’s attention on solving problems through designing projects in purpose-built studios or workshops while having regular face-to-face contact with design lecturers. Postgraduate research requires students to shift their focus from a practically orientated physical space to a theoretical-orientated mind space. The design research requires the student to engage with the solitary deep independent thinking supervision space in which contact and reflection occur. This paper will focus on the supervision space, which is described as both space and place in which the supervision interaction between student and supervisor takes place.

The paper aims to understand how students manage their supervision space though understanding the contact, communication and interaction they have with their supervisors. A reflection of current relevant literature is included, which presents the perspectives of the supervisor to understand the changing nature of the supervision space. The perspective of the students is obtained by incorporating open-ended interviews with two groups of participants. They are students that were on campus during their studies and students that were located either in another province or abroad. The participant groups comprise students that were registered in the Interior Design programme at the University of Johannesburg. Although the main aim of the paper will be to reflect on the student experience, the impression of the supervisor will be included to describe and understand the supervision style that informs the supervision context and space.

The paper concludes with a discussion of the findings that reflects on the changing nature of the postgraduate supervision environment, with a particular shift from the traditional supervisory models to the development of closer mentoring models. The findings will incorporate the impact of digital technology and communication applications (apps) on the supervision space and conclude with recommendations that can assist in design education, postgraduate students and supervisors.


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