Situational Leadership for Quality Graduate Research in Higher Education

Situational Leadership for Quality Graduate Research in Higher Education

Hylton James Villet (Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1017-9.ch008

Abstract

Quality postgraduate supervision is key in ensuring that postgraduate programs at institutions of higher learning produce quality graduates and in turn play an appropriate role in building a knowledge economy. In essence, the role of the supervisor is to support the postgraduate student to successfully complete specific tasks in line with the research process. Supervisors adopt a variety of styles to supervise students. Adopting an exploratory research approach the chapter deliberates the supervisor-student dyad through the lens of the situational leadership model.
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Introduction

Sundać and Krmpotić (2011) state that there is continuing discussion in both academia and the business sector, advancing that an ideas-driven, global knowledge economy (KE) constitutes a promising scenario for the future. In this regard, institutions of higher learning and business alike should revisit their mandates. They state that institutions of higher learning are compelled to adopt strategies that will foster innovation and creativity. According to Hughes and Kitson (2012), universities and research centers constitute strategic factors in the Knowledge Economy, as a better-skilled population is needed in order to create new knowledge and transform research outcomes into innovative products. If universities and research centers are key in a Knowledge Economy, then quality postgraduate supervision is key in ensuring that postgraduate programs at institutions of higher learning produce quality graduates and in turn play its role in the Knowledge Economy (Cloete, et al., 2013). Universities are known as knowledge producers and, the centrality of research as a key function in the triad of teaching, research and community service cannot be overemphasized (Zhao, 2001). According to Chireshe (2012), postgraduate students' research is a vital component of a university's research output.

Several definitions of postgraduate supervision exist and the description of the postgraduate supervisor is varied. Kimani (2014) describes the postgraduate supervisor as a coach, a facilitator, or a coordinator. In essence, the role of the postgraduate supervisor is to assist the postgraduate student to successfully complete specific tasks in line with the research process. This process requires the postgraduate supervisor to provide leadership and guidance to the student, as well as to manage properly the research process (Sambrook, 2008). Supervisors also adopt a variety of styles and ways of providing supervision. Postgraduate supervisors, in general, will have preferred styles of interactions with students. Supervisors could adopt a master-apprentice role (Zeegers and Barron, 2012), offering structure to the relationship or, have a laissez-faire relationship with the student (Sambrook, 2008). The variations of supervisory styles coupled, with the number of students under supervision the variation in student developmental capacity and, the complexity of thematic areas students may research creates a challenge for both postgraduate supervisor and student. Sambrook (2008) advances that this diversity of student capacity and interest, the supervisors’ areas of interest and research focus areas of both student and supervisors have the potential for mismatches in expectations between the supervisor and student. Despite this diversity, Sambrook (2008) asserts that there is consensus internationally that postgraduate supervision focusses on two key dimensions, i.e., the provision of technical and social support, which in turn, influence supervisory styles.

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