Role of Supervisor & (Supervisory Team) in the DDP

Research training is a fundamental part of the doctoral research student experience. Doctoral students should be encouraged to reflect on how the skills they develop during their doctoral programme can be applied to different situations and to a variety of problems. The University of Sheffield is committed to providing its doctoral students with all relevant and appropriate opportunities to develop in both specialist and generic research skills via the Doctoral Development Programme (DDP).

Fulfilment of DDP requirements is necessary for successful completion of the student´s research degree. Student engagement with the DDP will be assessed at particular stages, with supervisors´ reports presented as part of formal monitoring processes. In addition, it is expected that discussion of the student´s skill needs will form part of regular supervisory discussion. Although the primary responsibility for completion of DDP requirements rests with the student (and it is clearly in their best interests to participate fully), supervisors are expected to review the Training Needs Analysis with the student every 6 months, and create a new Development plan annually.

DDP and Evidencing Development Summary Guidance for Supervisors

DDP Guidance for Supervisors

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.

Changes to the DDP

In 2019, Senate agreed that all PGR students should be able to demonstrate the following eight Core Competencies upon successful completion:

  • Communication, networking and collaboration.
  • Personal skills (time management, resilience, problem-solving, critical thinking).
  • Professional skills (academic defence, academic writing, project/resource management).
  • Leadership
  • Ownership and understanding of the scope for career development options.
  • Understanding the importance of impact and translation (public engagement, enterprise and IP).
  • Responsible Research and Innovation, ethics and data management.
  • Qualitative skills and/or quantitative and digital skills depending on discipline.

How does this impact students and supervisors?

To embed the eight Core Competencies, an updated Training Needs Analysis (TNA), Development Plan and Evidencing Development summary will be introduced for new students from September 2020. Continuing students may choose to opt in to the new system or continue with the existing TNA summary and ePortfolio summary. You can read further guidance on the DDP changes web page. 

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?

During your first meeting with your doctoral student you will talk through the training and development that would be most beneficial to them during their research as well as the purpose and requirements of the DDP. 

All new doctoral researchers will automatically get registered on the appropriate compulsory training for their programme. The University offers a range of optional training and development opportunities which 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 Evidencing Development Summary. 

The Purpose of the Evidencing Development Summary

The Evidencing Development Summary will be the principal means by which the progress on the DDP is monitored. The purpose of the summary is to provide a record of personal development for each of the core competencies required for a Sheffield doctoral award. The summary is designed to assist students to get the most from their postgraduate research experience. Helping them to plan and reflect upon their research and how it will relate to future aspirations. By engaging with appropriate training and development, the student will gain and enhance the skills needed to successfully complete their research project, and to demonstrate the eight Core Competencies. Since each student has a unique academic and professional background, and is undertaking a specific project, training and development need to be individualised to them.

Does the Evidencing Development Summary have any benefits other than demonstrating conformation to the University's Regulations?

A number of studies have identified the general benefits of a development summary e.g.

“The development summary 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)

“Candidates should recognise their transferable skills e.g. give evidence of communication skills.” (Esso-Exxon)
“Take any opportunities to develop yourself out with 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 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 Summary. 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.

Annual Responsibility Cycle

Annual Responsibility Cycle

At the beginning of their studies

  • Assess the initial training needs analysis performed by the student at which the student and supervisory team agree on the level of competency and skills that the student already has
  • Agree on the level of competency and skills to be acquired by the student by the time of their upgrade 
  • Devise and agree a development plan to address the training needs identified

As part of a successful Training Needs Analysis students should be encouraged to think not just about their research degree but also about their longer term career goals. Where do they want to be in 5 or 10 years time? A student’s aspirations may change over the course of their research degree but each TNA will benefit from being considered against a backdrop where they hope to be going.

Ongoing Assessment of Student Development

When the student presents for the confirmation review, a submitted research report is required and a viva, but in addition the Development Plan is assessed as part of the confirmation review process. This is performed by the nominated examiners as per specific departmental procedures and may include the second supervisor/personal tutor. The student would not be allowed to pass the confirmation review until agreed development needs have been achieved and there is a clear and credible plan for the succeeding 2/3 years.

The Second Supervisor/Personal Tutor will comment on the student´s development plan during formal supervisory meetings. In addition, they will formally report on progress through the development plan annually by inclusion of a section in the Annual Progress Report. The latter report will also be signed by the student.

Annual responsibility cycle