Learning to be a Postgraduate Supervisor: A Revised Professional Learning Framework

Author Faculty (Discipline)


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) 2021 Annual Conference.

Embargo Period



3903 Education systems

Avondale Research Centre

Centre for Advancement of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Reportable Items (HERDC/ERA)


Peer Review

Before publication


Introduction. Supervisors of Higher Research Degree (HDR) candidates often supervise the way in which they were supervised themselves. However, much recent research has deepened our understanding of “the pedagogy of supervision” and delineates this form of student-teacher interaction as distinct from other forms of teaching. Such research can be harnessed to inform the design of professional learning (PL) programs for HDR supervisors, along with threshold concept theory which highlights the key points experienced by supervisors in their professional learning.

Format of the round table. This roundtable session provides opportunities for participants to a) gain an understanding of views of supervision as presented in recent literature; b) to share their own views of effective postgraduate supervision; and c) to offer feedback about a proposed PL framework, based on threshold concept theory, that may be used to inform future PL programs and activities for developing the capacities of postgraduate supervisors in higher education contexts. Key inquiry questions will be provided to initiate discussion.

Topic for discussion. Discussion topics will include the recommended approaches to designing effective PL programs and activities for Higher Research Degree (HDR) supervisors, and the theoretical principles that inform the development of such programs and activities. Areas of focus will include: key attributes of effective supervisors, effective PL design for supervisors, learning thresholds of HDR supervisors.

Context/background. Researchers have already identified the threshold concepts of postgraduate students, especially the learning thresholds associated with those candidates engaged with higher degrees by research. However, less research has been reported on the threshold concepts of HDR supervisors as they develop from novice to experienced supervisor. This roundtable discussion aims to collate the wisdom of recently reported research about supervisor development with the emerging field of threshold concept theory to develop a research-informed practical framework to designing PL for HDR supervisors. This discussion may interest those engaged in HDR supervision, scholars of threshold concept theory and/or designers of professional learning programs, especially supervisor training.

Intended outcome. It is anticipated that participants in the roundtable discussion will extend their knowledge of HDR supervision and will also contribute to a newly proposed design approach of professional learning (PL) for HDR supervisors. Opportunities will also be provided for participants to reflect on their own views and experiences of HDR supervision, and to compare these to the views reported by fellow-participants and scholars in the field.


Used by permission: the author(s).

Associated Research Project