The DProf advisor/candidate relationship: a coaching model? Evidence from two DProf programmes

Conference paper

Fillery-Travis, A. and Robinson, L. 2011. The DProf advisor/candidate relationship: a coaching model? Evidence from two DProf programmes. 2nd International Conference on Professional Doctorates. Edinburgh 20 - 21 Apr 2011
TypeConference paper
TitleThe DProf advisor/candidate relationship: a coaching model? Evidence from two DProf programmes
AuthorsFillery-Travis, A. and Robinson, L.

The Professional Doctorate at Middlesex University has developed over the last fifteen years with over 180 current and past candidates. It is a generic, individually negotiated programme where the primary resource for the candidate is the one to one support of the academic adviser. In contrast the Professional Doctorate in Practical Theology at the University of Chester is a subject-specific programme based on cohorts who meet regularly within a residential format. One author on this paper is a lead faculty member of the Middlesex programme and consultant to the second author who is a candidate on the Chester programme. We both come from a professional background in coaching and the candidate’s DProf research focus is the advisor-advisee relationship. This research explores the nature and practice of academic supervision of professional doctorates through the observation and interpretation of lived experience of supervisory relationships in the context of a generic and a practical theology programme. This positioning allows us to compare our experience of advising from multiple perspectives in two very different programme designs.
Specifically our previous work (Armsby and Fillery-Travis 2009) had confirmed the pivotal role of the academic advisor to the delivery of the programme. We had identified that in practice this role goes beyond that of tutor/assessor and is principally one of facilitator/coach. It is unlike the traditional research supervisory role as the leadership of the research is shifted from the professional researchers and scholars to the candidate. It places the research professionals and scholars at the service of the candidate’s research agenda. The candidate approaches the research activity as the expert in the context and goal of the research – the work environment and the requirements of the research– and the advisor approaches as an expert in the process of research and inquiry.
Clearly the power distribution between advisor and candidate is a delicate balance of allowing the expertise of the practitioner not to be overshadowed by the advisor or vice versa; that the advisor be overawed by the seniority or eminence of the candidate within their particular professional sphere. The candidate through the development of their research question seeks to produce actionable knowledge (Antonacopoulou, E. 2009) and the advisor through their holding of a learning framework and relational interaction facilitates that creation. This places significant emphasis on the mode of interaction between advisor and candidate and preferences a coaching engagement. It identifies the need for cognitive and affective ‘I-thou’ relationships, integrating being and doing (Buber 1958).
Coaching is, however, not a one-size-fits-all intervention. It is a complex practice that draws from the range of disciplines which inform the facilitation of professional learning for the individual or team (Jarvis, Lane and Fillery-Travis, 2004). There are a multitude of coaching models available but they are generally developed to aid practice within a commercial environment and do not consider the requirements identified here. The complexity of the interaction between adviser and candidate highlights the need for an explicit model of coaching practice between them. Once developed such a model can be used to train and supervise advisors in the future providing a cornerstone for development of best practice in the field. As identified by Schon (1987) ‘In a reflective practicum...the question is not how much you know, but rather how effectively you can help others to learn’.
In this contribution we consider a framework approach that can be used by advisors to explore the purpose of their work, the perspectives underpinning it and the process by which it occurs. It takes as a starting point the premise that the advisor is acting as a learning peer (or coach) to the candidate; using their expertise as a learning and development professional but recognising and honouring the expertise of the candidate in their own professional sphere. Using the framework the advisor can develop their own model of practice that embraces their own habitus whilst maintaining coherence to their programme outcomes and deliverables. We explore how the paper can address the evolution of the relationship within the timeframe of the programme and the shift in perspective required by the advisor as their candidate’s self efficacy increases. We will hope to engage out audience in an interactive consideration of such a model and its application in the facilitation of learning of advanced practitioners.

Research GroupWork and Learning Research Centre
Conference2nd International Conference on Professional Doctorates
Publication dates
Print01 Apr 2011
Publication process dates
Deposited10 Aug 2011
Accepted01 Apr 2011
Output statusPublished
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