Knowing that the other knows: using experience and reflection to enhance communication in cross-cultural postgraduate supervisory relationships

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Learning for an Unknown Future Vol. 26

July, 2003, 692 pages
Published by
Helen Mathews and Rod McKay
ISBN
0 90 8557 55 8
Abstract 

International postgraduate research students and their supervisors sail into an unknown future when they embark on their supervisory relationships. Difficulties may arise when their beliefs and expectations about the relationship are not complementary. Differences may derive from expectations based on past learning experiences, understandings about the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved, and beliefs about appropriate communicative behaviours and politeness strategies. Communication may be further hampered by either party’s lack of awareness of his/her own communicative behaviour and how it influences the other’s responses. As a result, without ways to enhance communication and clarify issues, international students and their supervisors can spend a good deal of time and energy miscommunicating, especially early in the relationship. Occasionally these difficulties become entrenched and may threaten the student’s candidature. This paper describes a workshop for commencing international postgraduate research students and their supervisors that aims to address these concerns. Structured around a pyramid discussion format, the workshop engages participants in a process of critiquing viewpoints and negotiating consensus in a cross-cultural environment. Participants also reflect on their own communicative behaviours as well as those of others. The workshop encourages students and supervisors to consider the way they communicate their points of view in group settings and how this is relevant to their interactions in supervisory meetings. Observation and participant feedback indicate that students and supervisors gain valuable insights into the way they communicate with each other, and that the shared experience of the workshop process— knowing that the other knows—provides a supportive background for future communication.

Keywords: cross-cultural communication, research supervision, international postgraduate students

Knowing that the other knows: using experience and reflection to enhance communication in cross-cultural postgraduate supervisory relationships

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Adams, K. & Cargill, M.