Supervision in an alternative paradigm

M. Biggs, D. Buchler

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In this paper we express our framing of supervision as preparation and training for professional practice as a researcher, rather than the culmination of tertiary education. Instead of discussing the supervisory activity, performance and best practice, we focus on the uniqueness of practice as a researcher in the creative arts as being constituted by an emerging and novel research paradigm. We develop the theoretical framework of Guba and Lincoln, contrasting their use of the term ‘paradigm’ with that of Kuhn. We identify research in the creative arts as being a so-called ‘alternative paradigm’ but having its own unique characteristics. However, we claim that these characteristics are not discretionary but related to generic characteristics of research. By developing Guba and Lincoln’s model, we argue that the characteristics of research in the creative arts cannot simply be translated or inferred from the characteristics of research in cognate disciplines, but must be derived from the worldview and values of the arts community. This involves identifying both generic and discipline-specific characteristics. We claim that the discipline-specific characteristics reflect the values that are found in professional practice, and the generic characteristics reflect the values that are found in academic research across disciplines. As a result of establishing criteria for the evaluation of activities as research in a novel paradigm such as the creative arts, we present a critical framework for thesis production that facilitates the inclusion of the researcher’s own creative work in the doctoral study. A number of issues arising from the experience of the authors as supervisors and examiners are discussed. Finally, a template for a seven-chapter thesis in the creative arts is proposed, which addresses common problems such as weaknesses in the single-case study approach and researcher bias in participant-observation studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTEXT: The Journal of Writers and Writing Courses
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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