Things to keep in mind when supervising

Start the tutorial by talking about expectations of each other. This facilitates communication and counteracts the risk of misunderstandings or irritation over unfulfilled expectations. Ask the student about previous supervision experiences, and issues which the student especially thinks they need support in.

If you are to be able to supervise well, you need to understand what your student does not understand or misunderstand. Then you must a) let your student talk enough, and b) ask (open) questions that will allow your students to show how her/ his reasoning. Of course, you also need to explain a lot of things - but don't forget that it is the student's processing of information that leads to learning.

Different students have different needs when it comes to establishing a good working climate and a good relationship. Remember to also show that you care about the wellbeing of your student and her/ his emotions in relation to their thesis/ project work.

Take the opportunity about halfway through the work and find out if the supervision the student receives meets the needs the student has of supervision, ie talk about the supervision.

Make sure that you have understood the assessment criteria for the dissertation, so that the student does not subsequently discover that you have a different view of what is sufficient / good quality than what the examiner has. It is good to have regular contact and discussion with the examiner and other supervisors at the department in a supervisory community or group.


Supervision in groups

Supervision can be advantageous in groups, as students learn from not only their own mistakes and ambiguities, but also from each other. In addition, they can ask each other questions and find answers at a level that is sometimes easier for students to absorb.



Feedback is not always easy. Here is a structure, the feedback ladder, that facilitates balanced feedback:

  1. Clarify: Ask clarifying questions, which help the student clarify things that are unclear so that you are sure you understand what the student wants to say. Avoid asking questions that are badly hidden criticism.
  2. Evaluate: Express what you think is good about the student's work, eg regarding the student's effort, experiments, ideas, ways to solve different problems, etc. Try not to give 'good, but..' advice or quickly get past what is good for the benefit of providing criticism.
  3. Concerns: Talk about your concerns regarding the student's work and what you are unsure about. Avoid absolute statements like "What is wrong is ..." instead use quality-enhancing expressions "I wonder if ..." "It seems like ...". Avoid criticizing the character of the text, and above all avoid criticizing the person (there is a great risk that the student will interpret criticism personally anyway if they are inexperienced when it comes to receiving criticism). Focus on ideas, results and specific parts.
  4. Suggest: Offer suggestions for improvement. This step can be alternated with step 3. Talk about what worries you and what you would suggest for different alternative paths ahead.

This 'feedback ladder' can abe used in many different contexts, from giving feedback on assignments, student and doctoral texts, and to review articles for journals.

Finally, a strong recommendation is to identify one or more colleagues- they don’t need to be in your own discipline or subject – to regularly discuss supervision with, for instance over lunch or coffee, as this will develop your supervisory competence.