The Practice of Academic Advising: an Inquiry of Supervisors’ Perception of Graduate Writing

 Academic writing is one of the most important tools in human history and it is the backbone of cumulative knowledge. The status of academic writing in Turkey is a problematic area, in this respect, there are meaningful improvement points in terms of uniqueness . Even though the quantity of works increases through the years, the lack of quality is still an issue. The reason behind it, is the problematic relationship that constructs with writing itself. This concern isn’t only related to the Guidance and Psychological Counseling department, but all fields.

Actors of writing can vary and some of them are masters and Ph.D. students. These graduate students have a unique role in ensuring continuity of academia with their graduate writings. In that sense, supervisors of graduate students have an important part in this process. Understanding the attitude and thought of supervisors can be a significant contribution to the solution of the problem. The aim of this study is to understand the viewpoints, thoughts, and experiences of supervisors towards the graduate writing process.

Literature Review

In the field, there are different methods of teaching writing. Also there are certain debates and various researches about the academic environment. Because of that in this literature review first I mention the teaching writing methods and the genre, then I will continue with some researches about academic environments.

On Teaching Writing and Genre

In analyzes the effect of process and product writing in Malaysian schools. As they tell, the product approach, most used approach among others. In their work teachers mention, they do not prefer the process approach because of its workload. Also they mentioned that merging both of them is useful for students’ skill levels .

At the work of Chunling & Guoping (2009) they use a process approach in both minimal and maximal control of the teacher, in the use of teaching writing. While both groups have significant improvement, the control group shows less improvement.

Badger and White (2000), explains the product, process, and genre-based approaches in the teaching of writing. They emphasize that a product-oriented approach based on knowledge, the form of language also heavily relies on the teachers’ materials. The student basically copies the teacher. When it comes to the process approach, it is based on lingual skills and writing skills. Also it can ignore the context. Lastly, the genre approach, it has product approach resemblances. In the genre approach, we see that, even though learning by imitation occurs, also understanding for executing the regulations is important as well .

When it comes to the matter of genre, Carolyn R. Miller (1984) argues “I will be arguing that a rhetorically sound definition of the genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish.” . Furthermore, she gives genre as “typified rhetorical actions based in recurrent situations”. Also she naturally emphasizes the social side of the genre like she says “number of genres currently in any society is indeterminate and depends upon the complexity and diversity of the society.”

Rhetoric as a subject and the relation to writing is not a new topic for academia. According to Zerba argues in her work about Aristotle’ Rhetoric, “Thus Aristotle’s explicit endorsement of the model in the introductory chapters of his Rhetoric is expected: he claims that the aim of rhetoric is to show the facts, ‘what is or is not, what has or has not happened.’ ” 

In Dewitt’s study, she criticizes, tying up the genre to the product base concept that is more relevant to reading than writing. Dewitt tries to bring a new view to the genre and she found the old view problematic. Old view limits the author in terms of sameness and obliged the authentic authors to cross the line. In her new view, the genre is dynamic rather than static, in her words:

In sum, genre is a dynamic response to and construction of recurring situation, one that changes historically and in different social groups, that adapts and grows as the social context changes. This new conception of genre has managed to overcome several dichotomies in our understanding of language use and writing.

In Research Environments

McAlpine and Amundsen (2011) ”Regardless of your country of origin, you have likely heard concerns being expressed about doctoral education”. It seems Motta-Roth as an academician who has similar problems with her students and she finds the solution by opening an academic writing course . In her course, students look for context, text, the relation between them, genre and they start to create . In the implications section, she argues “Novice writers can be educated to develop an academic identity by helping them to decide what to write, to whom, and for what purpose.” .

In the interviews, McAlpine and Amundsen made, with doctoral supervisor and they argue that:

Traditionally, the focus of doctoral programs has been to prepare researchers and, in North America, often to prepare them to teach undergraduates. However, we see no evidence of preparing individuals for supervision or for academic career development more generally. While addressing the present needs of pre-tenure academics is essential, rethinking doctoral pedagogies would also appear important. 

Paré emphasizes the deprivation of knowledge about the rules of academic writing itself (p.66). Also, he argues that most of the supervisors have no proper preparation for this specific duty . Also Paré, Starke-Meyerring, and McAlpine draw attention to the Ph.D. period, people can not experience a clear process, instead they learn by making mistakes without directions.

Methods

This is qualitative research. To understand the phenomenon of graduate writing I did an in-depth interview with one of the main actors in graduate writing. During the process ? use a semi-structured interview form and record them.

Participants

The academicians come from different departments of education with different years in the field, respectively. Thus some of the academicians have a few advising experiences to graduate level, while some of them are much older in this regard. I made 10 interviews with academicians of faculties of education. In a total of interviews, I visited 2 universities in ?stanbul about related issues of this study. The supervisors in this research are from the following departments: 1 Guidance and Psychological Counseling, 1 Special Education, 1 Elementary Teacher Education, 1 Turkish Language Teaching, 1 Social Studies Teacher Education, 3 Mathematics Teacher Education, 1 Science Teacher Education, and 1 Chemistry Education.

Instrumentation and Procedure

I use semi-structured interview forms from Ziya Toprak’s research “Academic Writing and The Experiences of Graduate Students and Supervisors/Advisors: The Case of Educational Studies” for conducting in-depth interviews. Academicians who accept interviews also sign “Information Consent Form” for confidentiality and their consent. I made interviews with volunteer supervisors who accepted my interview proposal. Interviews are face to face and recorded with a voice recorder app. After I made the interviews, I formed the transcriptions, I used content analysis by creating codes for labeling the contents in transcription and finding mutual themes. Analyzes made in MAXQDA 2020.

There are 19 questions in the form and these are their department, study of the field, academic area of interests, how much of their work is with graduate-level students, and the approximate number of thesis they supervised. After that, there are questions about students “How do they decide on students?” and “Do they take any part of the subject selection and how?”. Then, how do they define their own supervision practice?”.What do they take heed of when they give feedback? Are they reading all of the thesis and what kind of feedback do they give and which frequency? 

Afterward 2 questions about the mechanism of the process. What is the function of the Thesis monitoring committee? What do they think about bureaucratic necessities? The remaining questions are about writing. Do their programs give courses about academic writing? In that sense, the courses in their program are effective in terms of academic writing? Lastly we talk about their viewpoint toward academic graduate writing. I asked about what are the characteristics of graduate writing and what their definition is. Are writing and research related topics? What is the connection? Where do you put the writing in the thesis process? Lastly, what do you wish to change in academic writing and academy?

Results

This study aims to understand the supervisors’ thoughts and attitudes toward graduate writing. For this purpose, the qualitative structure is used with the methods that are seen in phenomenological researches. Study results in this section gathered by reading the prepared transcriptions repeatedly for showing the common themes in interviews.

I asked the supervisors “Do students have a course about academic writing?”. Except for one interview, I see that they don’t have a special course about that. Also when I asked them “Is there a relationship between writing and making research?” the majority of them give positive answers.

In conclusion, at the research I conduct, I made in-debt interviews with various academicians who supervised graduate students in master and doctoral level. They are from different departments of education faculties. Their advising styles vary from supervisor to supervisor. According to my in-debt interviews Even though most supervisors emphasize the relation between making research and writing, it seems that in graduate programs of education faculties have suffered the absence of academic writing programs. In addition, it looks like the majority of feedback is far from the writing of the graduate students, in terms of relevance.

According to in-debt interviews I conducted, as a result, we see that:

The majority of the supervisors who worked with graduate students emphasize the relation between writing and making research. Still, the majority of the programs don’t have a course for academic writing. In total, the majority of the feedback given by supervisors is more relevant to the structure of the thesis than the writing of graduate students.

Discussion

We see that lack of academic writing in educational faculties is a widespread problem. Contradictory most of the academicians accept the inevitable relation between writing and research. Lastly and unfortunately, the majority of supervisors focus on the form of the thesis rather than the writing itself.

In line with this research lack of education about academic writing and quality of theses in Turkey, show consistency together. Also according to feedback types of supervisors, we can say the product-based approach more adopted by the supervisors of today. Even so, we can see the academicians internalize the importance of writing and see the problem.

Product-oriented feedback without process based teaching is not helping the graduate students in terms of gaining identity as an author. This situation just teaches them the limitations of their creativity. Graduate students of today are the supervisors of tomorrows. Because of that, the problems of today are carrying bigger concerns. So the solutions to these problems are the biggest necessity.

In that sense, unique academic writing courses that carry the needs of departments specifically are the most important requirement. Expecting quality to the people who do not take specific education is a contradictory situation. Number of master and doctoral students who have to learn like trial and error might decrease in that way. Also this can be able to fasten the feedback process. For the students, that kind of academic course also has the potential to understand the academic environment. They would be more conscious around them. Thus their academic identity developed as an academic writer and they will have higher chance to create more authentic works

Last but not least, the relation between writing and making a research is an important topic for understanding the role of the author, because even though literature is for reading we shouldn’t forget literature is authors’ works. Agreement between reader and author can be changed according to time, culture, and context. Because of that, these rules are for these 2 subjects, not for bookshelves. For that reason the identity of the authors and their ability to write, matters. So feedback should be more related to writing rather than form of the text. In addition to that authors should understand the context they are in, but they shouldn’t be restricted by them.

Throughout research I was curious about the reactions of academicians towards deficiency of academic writing courses. For further research, the coping methods of academicians can be valuable for research. What are they doing specifically for enhance the writing of students in other courses? Also as a limitation, this research can be expanded through other faculties. In addition to that comparison between young and old academicians would be valuable in terms of seeing any possible change in methods.

At last, this research was made for understanding the phenomenon of graduate writing. For this purpose I made interviews with supervisors to understand their perspective. Result of it I observe consistency between the situation in Turkey and possible reasons for it. So according to problems I see, I also realize possible solutions.

References

  • Ayd?n, G., & Baysan, S. (2018). Perceptions of postgraduate students on academic writing skills: a metaphor analysis study. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 14(2), 212-239.
  • Badger, Richard & White, Goodith. (2000). A process genre approach to teaching writing. ELT Journal. 54. 10.1093/elt/54.2.153.
  • Chunling, Sun & Guoping, Feng. (2009). Process Approach to Teaching Writing Applied in Different Teaching Models. English Language Teaching. 2. 10.5539/elt.v2n1p150.
  • Devitt, Amy J. (1993) Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept. College Composition and Communication, 44:4, 573-586.
  • McAlpine, L., & Amundsen, C. (2011b). To Be or Not to Be? The Challenges of Learning Academic Work. In L. McAlpine & C. Amundsen (Authors), Doctoral education: Research-based strategies for doctoral students, supervisors and administrators (p. 2). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
  • McAlpine, L., & Amundsen, C. (2011a). New Academics as Supervisors: A Steep Learning Curve with Challenges, Tensions. In L. McAlpine & C. Amundsen (Eds), Doctoral education: Research-based strategies for doctoral students, supervisors and administrators (p. 52). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
  • Miller, Carolyn. (1984). Genre as Social Action. Quarterly Journal of Speech 70. 151-167. 10.1080/00335638409383686.
  • Motta-Roth, D. (2010). The Role of Context in Academic Text Production and Writing Pedagogy. In C. Bazerman, A. Bonini, & D. Figueiredo (Eds), Genre in a changing world (pp. 317-318). West Lafayette, IN, Colorado: Parlor Press and the WAC Clearinghouse.
  • Paré, A. (2011). Speaking of writing: Supervisory feedback and the dissertation. In L. McAlpine & C. Amundsen (Eds.), Doctoral education: Research-based strategies for doctoral students, supervisors and administrators (pp. 66-71). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
  • Starke-Meyerring, D., Paré, A., Artemeva, N., Horne, M., Yousoubova, L., Paré, A., … McAlpine, L. (2011). Knowledge and Identity Work in the Supervision of Doctoral Student Writing: Shaping Rhetorical Subjects. In Writing in Knowledge Societies (p. 217). Fort Collins, CO: WAC Clearinghouse. Retrieved from https://wac.colostate.edu/docs/books/winks/winks.pdf
  • Thulasi, Sarala & Hj Salam, Abdul Rahim & Ismail, Fauziah. (2014). Comparative Analysis of Process Versus Product Approach of Teaching Writing in Malaysian Schools: Review of Literature. Middle East Journal of Scientific Research. 22. 789-795. 10.5829/idosi.mejsr.2014.22.06.21943.
  • TOPRAK, Z. (2017). Türkiye’de Akademik Yaz?: ?ntihal ve Özgünlük. Bo?aziçi Üniversitesi E?itim Dergisi, 34 (2), 1-12. Retrieved from http://dergipark.org.tr/en/pub/buje/issue/37026/424743
  • Zerba, M. L. (1990). Aristotle’s Rhetoric: Theory, Truth, and Metarhetoric. UC Berkeley: Department of Classics. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3mt6v449 
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The Practice of Academic Advising: An Inquiry of Supervisors' Perception of Graduate Writing. (2021, Oct 13). Retrieved October 26, 2021 , from
https://studydriver.com/the-practice-of-academic-advising-an-inquiry-of-supervisors-perception-of-graduate-writing/

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