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When the student dies

When the student dies

Patterson, Jennifer ORCID: 0000-0002-8254-7602 and Lawler, Christine (2021) When the student dies. In: Twinley, Rebecca (Bex) and Letherby, Gayle, (eds.) The Doctoral Journey as an Emotional, Embodied, Political Experience: Stories from the Field. Education, Health and Social Care, Social Sciences . Routledge, London, and Abingdon, Oxon, pp. 68-80. ISBN 978-0367352851; 978-0429330384 (doi:

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For me, supervising doctoral students has been an enlightening process of companionship, compassion, and transformation. Engaging in transformational learning necessitates awareness, experienced guiding, and rituals. I find accompanying a student becoming a researcher to be a passionate investment in an emancipatory process. I have found – as I did with Christine – supervision starts with asking difficult questions, seeking clarification, while gradually building trust and support. Christine’s work was situated around the absence of the lecturer’s voice in higher education. Equally, there is an absence of supervisor accounts, voicing what happens when a student dies. Christine’s writing explains who she was and why this research was important to her; my aim here is to voice this through speaking of her death. Considering Christine’s story, I argue that rather than the metaphor of an epic journey of existential heroics and trophies, a metaphor of transition is less discursively power-laden and holds a more relational and democratic approach for modern doctoral studies. Students on professional doctorates can be equally or more experienced than the supervisor. Not all journeys are transitions and not all end well. I consider the ways in which the relationship between supervisor and supervisee can be voiced when the student dies.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: doctoral supervision; postgraduate student motivation; postgraduate student death; embodied supervision; supervisor grief
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Human Sciences (HUM)
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Centre for Applied Sociology Research (CASR)
Last Modified: 18 May 2022 16:17

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