Whose Authorship? Negotiating the Boundary between Guidance and Imposition

By Nelleke Bak.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In supervising the theses of graduate students, academic advisors are faced with ethical issues when giving guidance on conceptual frameworks, content, structure, as well as tone and style. In particular, in areas where the written text forms a substantive part of the research, permeable boundaries have developed between the authorship of the student and the implemented suggestions of the supervisor. But how can we as supervisors know when we have crossed these boundaries? When is it legitimate to intervene, and when not? When does academic guidance become imposition? Because theses are primarily about conveying information and demonstrating knowledge, my central claim is that different kinds of knowledge warrant different levels of intervention. I argue that strong intervention is appropriate in propositional knowledge (e.g. in reporting research facts and empirical evidence), that clear guidance and structured exercises are appropriate for procedural knowledge (e.g. how to structure sound arguments, construct substantiated interpretations and write varied and interesting sentences), but that in practical wisdom, there is space only for gentle suggestions and prodding questions

Keywords: Supervision, Assessment, Ethics, Authorship

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp.93-98. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 566.480KB).

Prof. Nelleke Bak

Director of Graduate Fellowships, Fellowships Advisory Program, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

My academic training and interests combine ethics, environmental philosophy and education. For 15 years I taught Philosophy of Education at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, and headed up the university's academic support systems for post-graduate students and their supervisors. After developing the university's post-graduate educational and training programme, I left South Africa in 2003 and took up a position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA where I currently teach courses in the Philosophy Department on "Ethics of the Built Environment" and "Contemporary Moral Issues". In addition to teaching, I advise students on their applications for international and prestigious scholarships, and develop the resources for the Fellowships Advisory office. Keeping my links with South Africa, I am at present developing a teacher's manual on responsible gambling, as part of the Life Orientation Learning Area for high school students.

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