Standardization of the Doctoral Learning Process
Magazine article, 1998
There is a large variation between different doctoral students’ development processes and results; both in terms of graduation or termination, and in case of graduation of the time to complete the dissertation. This of course depends on many factors, including the individual student and his/her abilities and life situation, but it also can depend on the lack of working relationships between the supervisor and the doctoral students (Frischer & Larsson, 1997). Hence, they suggested that the doctoral process needs to be structured and the goals and conditions for working relationships must be clearly expressed.
This paper addresses the application of explicit procedures, forms and standards in the doctoral process and discusses when and to what extent standardization of work processes is applicable or not. The standardization of the doctoral process at the Department of Industrial Dynamics at Chalmers University of Technology is described as a case illustration.
The result from our empirical study shows that standardization in connection with the doctoral process can be applied in a number of ways, and it can help introducing improved work processes where variation is lowered, while at the same time facilitating the creation of variation and innovation.
First, in terms of creating a routine for the contracting and review process by providing documented goals and strategies for the development of the Ph.D. student and a process for regular reviews of these goals and strategies. The main effect is a more even and hopefully higher quality of the doctoral learning process. In addition, if the goals and strategies are carefully designed, they can also aid in creating variety in output.
Second, a standardized review process focusing on the supervisor performance and on the relationship between the supervisor and the student can help both in improving the working relationship and in limiting the effects of variations in supervisor experience and capabilities.
Third, a regular use (standardization of procedure) of a broader group for supervision, such as the semi formal arena ‘close group’, provides an increased variety in perspectives and opens up opportunities for more learning cycles.
This lead us to conclude that the introduction of routines and standards for the doctoral learning process does not inherently limit variation and innovation. While routines provide stability for a process it all depends on what has been standardized, which means that it is possible to introduce variation through such standardizations as the Goals and Strategies Document, the Supervisor Performance Evaluation and the Close Group Arena. The potential negative effects of reducing variation in terms of a limitation of creativity seems mainly to be an issue of balance between a Ph.D. student’s dependence and his/her growth and maturation.
standardized review process