Being a doctoral research student is the first step to becoming a successful researcher, although not all doctoral research students wish to or are able to remain in research. For both outcomes, it is important, that students develop an extensive range of skills to be competitive in the employment market and so careful and strategic planning is required.
The University has released a Research Student Proposition which reflects the philosophy of the Doctoral Development Programme (DDP) by ensuring that our “Doctoral Researchers graduate with the qualities that are important intellectually, societally and economically: including the confidence to lead, the willingness to challenge ways of thinking, a lasting refusal to accept the ordinary and a commitment to applying their research for the public good”.
|How will relevant training be planned within the DDP?
Since the experiences that students have gained prior to starting their postgraduate studies vary considerably, the University has introduced a Training Needs Analysis which should allow formulation of a Training/Development Plan. These are designed to provide the tools to examine where the student’s development needs are and to help them address these. This should be a dynamic process that continues for the whole of the student’s time at the University. A supervisory Team’s check list has been devised to help with this.
|How is training organised?
The DDP is student specific so not prescriptive in its content. The training undertaken should be designed to fill the gaps in their skills and knowledge according to the ‘domains’ laid out in the Research Development Framework (RDF). The RDF is made up of four domains/areas encompassing the knowledge, intellectual abilities, techniques and professional standards to do research, as well as the personal qualities, knowledge and skills to work with others and ensure the wider impact of research. Many of these suggested activities are things that the researcher will naturally do in their course of their research project, while others may require them to actively take part in training or new activities. Within these domains, departments may have identified compulsory training for their students, while information and sign up on all modules can be obtained from the DDP Portal. It should be stressed that experiential learning outside of the formal DDP modules is also valuable and contributes to personal development.
|How is training recorded?
There is no longer a requirement for students to complete a specified number of credits, since experiential learning is part of training, as are non-DDP taught modules and these cannot be accounted for centrally. However, a record does need to be kept both for the student’s reference and for validation purposes. This is most conveniently done as an ePortfolio.
|Why do students need to create an ePortfolio?
The University needs to know what learning and development has been achieved during a student’s studies. Since the training does not rely solely on taught modules, students are required to record their learning and experiences and to identify what they have learned through reflection. Because of this, the University regulations for the PhD state:-
“In the case of a candidate for the Degree of PhD, PhD with Integrated Studies, MD, DDSc, EngD, EdD or DSpecMed a candidate may not be permitted to transfer to that status from candidacy for a Master’s degree, (in the case of a candidate commencing the programme of study and research before 1 August 2012), or to pass the Confirmation Review (in the case of a candidate commencing the programme of study and research on or after 1 August 2012), unless the candidate has presented a portfolio demonstrating that they have undertaken the agreed programme of training and skills development and have achieved an appropriate level of competency as agreed by the supervisory team.”
|Does the portfolio have any benefits other than demonstrating conformation to the University's Regulations?
A number of studies have identified the general benefits of a portfolio e.g.
“The overarching purpose of portfolios is to create a sense of personal ownership over one’s accomplishments, because ownership engenders feelings of pride, responsibility, and dedication.” Paris & Ayres.(1994)
“The e-portfolio is the central and common point for the student experience. It is a reflection of the student as a person undergoing continuous personal development, not just a store of evidence.”.. (Geoff Rebbeck, e-Learning Coordinator, Thanet College, quoted in JISC, 2008)
Portfolios can be given to prospective employers. In selecting candidates, employers will look for evidence of skills that makes them stand out from the crowd and an e-portfolio is more impressive and comprehensive than a paper-based CV. Employers comment that:-
“Candidates should recognise their transferable skills e.g. give evidence of communication skills.” (Esso-Exxon)
“Take any opportunities to develop yourself outwith academia and demonstrate that you look for such opportunities.” (Andersen Consulting)
“Prove that they have given thought to the differences between the academic and corporate environment.” (Wellcome Trust)
“Don’t over rely on academic achievement. Stress transferable skills such as teamworking, report writing and leadership.” (SEPA)
“Stress transferable skills and be aware that your particular area of research is not always of prime importance.” (Cadence Design Systems)
“Focus on skills and competencies and relate them to the commercial environment if possible.” (Smith & Nephew plc)
“Emphasise the more rounded individual rather than the researcher”. (Andersen Consulting)
“Try to demonstrate something that makes you stand out from the other candidates and makes you potential for future development.” (BMSP)
The University has adopted the e-portfolio software tool called PebblePad to help students demonstrate their skills, experiences and what they have learned through gaining these. This can also be used for the Training Needs Analysis and the Training/ Development Plan. It is web-based and so easily accessible from anywhere.
To receive work from your students, it helps if supervisors can log into PebblePad using your standard University login details. This registers you on the system. When work is sent to you, you will receive an email, with a link to the work.